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Shobogenzo 58, ZAZENGI: Rules of Sitting-Zen

Zen practice is sitting-zen. For sitting-zen a quiet place is good. Lay out a thick sitting mat. Do not let wind and smoke get in, and do not let rain or dew seep through. Preserve an area big enough to contain the body. There are traces of ancients sitting on a diamond seat or sitting on a bed of rock, but they all spread out a thick carpet of grass and sat on that. The sitting place should be bright; it should not be dark, day or night. To be warm in winter and cool in summer is the way. Cast aside all involvements and cease the ten thousand things. Good is not considered. Bad is not considered. Mind, intention, consciousness, is not it. Awareness, thought, reflection, is not it. Do not have designs on becoming buddha. Drop off sitting down and lying down. Eat and drink sparingly, and guard time closely. Enjoy sitting-zen unreservedly -- as if putting a fire out, on your head. The fifth ancestor on Obai-zan mountain had no other occupation: he practised nothing but sitting-zen.

For sitting-zen wear a kasaya and use a round cushion. The cushion does not go under the whole of the crossed legs; it goes under the backside. So the underside of the folded legs is on the sitting mat, and the sitting bones are on the cushion. This, in the time of the sitting-zen of the buddhas and the ancestors, is THE Method of Sitting -- whether it is full lotus sitting or whether it is half lotus sitting. In full lotus sitting the right foot goes on the left thigh and the left foot goes on the right thigh, with the toes placed symmetrically on each thigh, not out of proportion. In half lotus sitting the left foot just goes on the right thigh. Let robe and gown hang loosely and keep them neat. The right hand goes over the left foot and the left hand goes over the right hand. The thumbs at their tips connect into each other. The hands, like this, are drawn in towards the body, and placed so that the tips of the thumbs meet opposite the navel. Letting the body right itself, practise upright sitting -- neither leaning left nor leaning right, neither slumping forward nor arching backward. Allow without fail the ears and the shoulders to be opposed and the nose and the navel to be opposed. Let the tongue rest against the roof of the mouth. Let the breath pass through the nose. Let the lips and teeth come together. Let the eyes be open -- not wide open and not half-closed. Having readied the body-mind like this, let there be one full out-breath. Sit totally still, thinking into that zone which is the negation of thinking. How is it possible to think into the zone that negates thinking? It is by non-thinking, which is the key to Sitting in sitting-zen. Sitting-zen is not the zen that is learned. It is the gate to the great and effortless ease of Sitting. It is untainted practice-and-experience.

Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting;
Rules of Sitting-Zen

Delivered to the assembly at Kippo temple in the Yoshida district of Esshu [Fukui prefecture], in the 11th lunar month, in the winter of the first year of Kangen [1243].



Translation last revised May 2008.

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