No cushion; no Zen. No cushion; zen.

People come to Buddhism for all types of reasons, and apply the teachings in just as many ways. For some it serves a religious purpose, for some a “way of life”, others a philosophy and so on. Whatever it may be for you, it seems as if it would be quite useless if its only benefits were found in one location, one posture, one turn of a phrase. I too often see people talking about how “just sitting” is the path to enlightenment. Or that only the full lotus posture will do when sitting in zazen, or more importantly that zazen happens on a cushion.

While inching toward a full lotus posture and regular meditation schedule are invaluable tools on this crooked path of Zen, they will leave us out naked in the cold if we leave our practice there with them. I have no desire to take up a path that isn’t able to be carried everywhere I go. Zazen must be the manifestation of whole-hearted inquiry into that mind-stuff of Buddha nature, and Buddha nature is not trapped on my pillow.

I’ve mentioned that recently my life schedule has become more than full. As such, my practice must evolve if it is to survive. I have no wish to take up the path of Zen for the label alone, nor do I wish to take it up just for those 20 minutes I could sit on a pillow and stare at my bookcase. So right now what Adam’s Zen looks like is reading a sūtra a day, practicing the paramitas, and throwing myself into polynomial factoring-zazen.

I haven’t the time to meditate. It isn’t there. And even if I were to attempt it, I guarantee I would just fall asleep 30 seconds into it anyway. So I practice my zazen in Math class. I found that I was making silly, elementary mistakes with some of the problems that were coming up because I was rushing or not checking my work  or some other mindless reason. Now I make sure and breathe the problems in, and breathe the problems out. It is helping my studies, and further more it is helping me glimpse at my monkey mind and find the cause of its monkey-nature. It is something quite unexpected.

This is something new for me, being able to see my self for the monkey that it is. In the past I’ve found it is easy to let that monkey turn into a stubborn ape, and when that happens it can seem as though hope is lost. That you’ll never be able to penetrate deep inside the luminous cavern of Buddha nature as long as that damn dirty ape stands in the way. But I’m seeing that ape less and less these days.

So this is where I will take Zen, and where Zen will take me for now. Off to math class I go.



Filed under Buddhism, Personal

4 responses to “No cushion; no Zen. No cushion; zen.

  1. nathan

    One thing I try to remember when things are really busy is the natural pauses that occur between activities. They are there, even though we often blur them out with “busy mind.” These are opportunities to bring a phrase from a sutra to mind, or a short mantra – I’m fond of the Jizo mantra. Or to just do the 3 breath meditation.

    A lot of us converts are attached to the cushion. And to particular forms as being “the way.” I started breaking that up three or four years ago, and it’s been interesting to see how people react. But regardless, it sounds like you’re following the rhythm of your life, and that makes the most sense to me.

  2. Everything is Math.
    Math is Form.
    Math is Emptiness.
    Satori without meditation is in reach !
    (Hey Adam — hang in there dude!)

    • Ha! Good call. It’s such a fabrication, yet a very workable, applicable fabrication. You know, I still don’t know why I’m pursuing this degree. All the grunt classes are math, chemistry, and biology. I’ve historically never been any good at the coursework in these subjects. We’ll see….

  3. rob

    hey dude ….

    good blog! just found it …

    i hate lotus position. maybe i’m becoming an old fart, but it’s so uncomfortable that my sits just become distracting battles. i use a seiza bench. you can make a folding one with scraps from home depot and a few hinges for about $10. but i also like the excuse that as long as my back is straight, i’m not leaning on anything and my weight is on 3 points, i’m good. this works well on the bus.

    or, there’s always the story of hui-neng, the 6th patriarch of zen, who introduced the idea that monks should work and that mindfulness should be practiced at all times, not just when sitting. as a monk, he was assigned to the kitchen and was so busy he didn’t have time to sit — and he got there anyway. [the story is in the third chapter of “Zen Philosophy, Zen Practice” by Thich Thien-An].