Confluence Zen Center STL

A St. Louis based Zen community dedicated to zazen

Vesak Day on 09 June

There will be no Sunday sitting on 09 June so that everyone may attend Vesak Day (see the flyer below).

Vesak is sacred and celebrated in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet, and Mongolia. It is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.

From Wikipedia:
On Vesak Day, Buddhists all over the world commemorate events of significance to Buddhists of all traditions: The birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Buddha Gautama. As Buddhism spread from India it was assimilated into many foreign cultures, and consequently Vesak is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. In India, Vaishakh Purnima day is also known as Buddha Jayanti day and has been traditionally accepted as Buddha’s birth day.

Please join us in the celebration as per the flyer below:

New Study Group Starting 02 May

Starting 02 May and running for five Thursdays, Daigaku will be leading a new study group going over his new translation of Inoue Gien Roshi’s Commentary of Keizan Zenji’s Record of the Transmission of Illumination.

The study group starts at 7:00PM and runs to 8:30PM, including 30 minutes of zazen. Suggested donation is $40 ($20 for members).

If you’re interested in joining the group, please let us know by emailing or calling 314.669.4465.

Book signing of Daigaku’s latest Translation

On November 19th, Confluence Zen Center had a book signing and talk around Daigaku’s latest translation effort, The Formless Record of the Transmission of Illumination, a commentary by Inoue Gien Roshi on Keizan Zenji’s Denkoroku.

The event was well attended and Dagaku gave a speech on the work, its relevance, why he chose this work for his next translation, and of course took questions.

Soon, we will post the entire lecture given by Daigaku at the event.


Japanese Buddhist Monk back view

Shikantaza is one of the central teachings of the Soto Zen sect, and the form of Zen that the Confluence Zen Center is associated with. Shikantaza is often translated into English as “just sitting” or sometimes we see this rendered as “only sitting.” Harada Roshi (my teacher) often explained that this is to sit in zazen leaving the six sense functions be completely open: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking. The function that gives us the most difficulty is thinking. Thoughts do come and go. We are taught that zazen isn’t to suppress thinking. At the same time, it isn’t to get lost in daydreams either. Harada Roshi often said in the simplest way that this is to sit in a dignified manner, still as a mountain, leaving thought as it is without interfering with it and without letting it disturb you. The Zen teaching is clear; it isn’t “me” who is creating these thoughts. After all, thoughts arise and disappear of themselves.

These days, many Zen teachers say that Shikantaza is to sit without having a goal. More specifically, this means that we mustn’t have the goal of awakening or enlightenment. They stress that this matter of “just sitting” is compromised if we hold onto a goal, something we hope to attain in the future. However, Harada Roshi often pointed out that the idea of not having a goal quickly becomes its own goal. In other words, a person who is taught there mustn’t be a goal in zazen begins from this premise, but this idea itself becomes a goal. Most people don’t realize that the idea “I’m going to sit without a goal” (“I’m just going to sit”) is a goal in itself.

Dogen Zenji said, “The zazen I teach is not step-by-step learning meditation. It is simply the Dharma gate of comfort and ease. It Is the culmination of totally realized enlightenment.” These are truly wonderful words. Here, I believe he is saying that zazen itself is the goal. To be one with zazen is awakening. This is to truly just sit, where there is no longer any idea of “just” sitting.

We inevitably begin with the sense that “I” am doing zazen. However, as long as “I” am doing zazen, there is a separation between you and zazen. As long as there is a separation, we tend to observe the condition of our zazen and begin to fiddle with it hoping to make it better when we think it’s not going well, and trying to hold on to it when we think it is going well. Dogen Zenji’s teaching was that “Zazen is zazen.” This is where zazen is both the means and the goal. In order for this to happen, we must forget the “I” that is doing zazen. We must eliminate this separation. This is the challenge of our practice, not only when we are sitting but in every activity of our life. The goal of Zen practice is to verify for ourselves the formless perfection of the moment “now.” This can only be done by grinding up Shikantaza (or shikan koan) by means of the thing itself. This is to be the thing itself without seeking a goal and finally realizing that this is the way it has always been.

These are subtle points. If you have questions about any of these, feel free to speak to me about them in Dokusan.

Daigaku Rummé, July 17, 2023

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