Recommending the Practice of Zazen to All People

Dōgen Zenji

The essential way flows everywhere; how could it require practice or enlightenment? The essential teaching is fully available; how could effort be necessary? Furthermore, the entire mirror is free of dust; why take steps to polish it? Nothing is separate from this very place; why journey away?

And yet, if you miss the mark even by a strand of hair, you are as far apart from it as heaven from earth. If the slightest discrimination occurs, you will be lost in confusion. You may be proud of your understanding and have abundant realisation, or you may have acquired outstanding wisdom and attained the way by clarifying the mind. However, even with high aspirations, if you wander about and get an initial glimpse of understanding, you may still lack the vital path that allows you to leap free of the body.

Observe the example of Shakyamuni Buddha at the Jeta Grove, who practiced upright sitting for six years even though he was gifted with intrinsic wisdom. Still celebrated is the Master Bodhidharma of Shaolin Temple, who sat facing the wall for nine years, although he had already received the mind seal. Ancient sages were like this; who nowadays does not need to practise as they did?

Stop searching for phrases and chasing after words. Take the backward step and turn the light inward. Your body and mind of themselves will drop away and your original face will appear. If you want to attain just this, immediately practise just this.

For zazen a quiet room is appropriate. Drink and eat in moderation. Let go of all involvement and let myriad things rest. Do not think good or bad. Do not judge right or wrong. Stop conscious endeavour and analytic introspection. Do not try to become a buddha. How could being a buddha be limited to sitting or not sitting? …

Sit straight up without leaning to the right or left and without bending forward or backward. The ears should be in line with the shoulders and the nose in line with the navel. Rest the tongue against the roof of the mouth, with lips and teeth closed. Keep the eyes open and breathe gently through the nose. Having adjusted your body in this manner, take a breath and exhale fully, then sway your body to left and right. Now sit steadfastly and think not thinking. How do you think not thinking? Non-thinking. This is the essential art of zazen

The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the dharma gate of enjoyment and ease. It is the practice-realisation of complete enlightenment. Realise the fundamental point free from the binding of nets and baskets. Once you experience it, you are like a dragon swimming in the water or a tiger reposing in the mountains. Know that the true dharma emerges of itself, clearing away hindrances and distractions.

When you stand up from sitting, move your body slowly and rise calmly, without haste. We understand from the past that going beyond the ordinary and sacred, where sitting and standing are effortless and boundless, depends solely on the power of zazen…

Thus do not be concerned with who is wise and who is foolish. Do not discriminate the sharp from the dull. To practise wholeheartedly is the true endeavour of the way. Practice-realisation is not defiled, not special. It is a matter for every day…

Honoured practitioners of the way, do not grope for the elephant or doubt the true dragon. Endeavour on the immediate and straightforward way. Revere the mind that goes beyond study with effortless effort and surpasses all doing. Experience the enlightenment of the buddhas and correctly inherit the samadhi of the ancestors. Practise thusness continuously, and you will be thus. The treasury will open of itself for you to use as you wish.