The Japanese word shikantaza has been tranlated on this forum by both
Japanese and Chinese speakers in great detail. You can go back into the
posts to see all the discussion on this, but the bottom line for me is
that the translation means 'only sit'. When I was instructed in this by
zen masters from both the Rienzi and Soto schools of Japanese Zen
Buddhism I was told shikantaza meant 'clear mind'. - which is for me the
same as 'only sit'.
Now 'only sit' means just that - Only Sit. What is doesn't mean is
counting breaths, chanting a mantra or visualizatons. It means Only
Sit. To do this you have to have an 'empty mind' or 'clear mind'. That
means you have to stop or pause your active discriminating mind - the
one that thinks about things, creates duality (especially the illusion
of self), makes valuations, catergorizes, plans, dreams, etc... This
activity has to stop!
Just how you get to the point of stopping the activity of this
discriminating mind is the crux of Japanese Zen Buddhism - in my
opinion. To get you to the point where your dicriminating mind stops
(or disappears) Japanese Zen Buddhism uses various kinds of techinques.
The one most often used goes like this:
1. First you learn to sit with a good upright posture which allows you
to breathe from your belly pushing up on your diaphram and not using
your shoulders to lift up on your diagphram. This is called
2. Then you start sitting by counting your breaths 1 - 10, counting 1 on
an exhale and 2 on an inhale. You focus all your concentration on the
counting: one, two, three, etc... You think of nothing else. If you
loose count or find yourself at 12 or 13, or catch your mind wandering -
like thinking about how good you are sitting today or what you're going
to do after you sit - you just start over at 1.
3. When you can do the above fairly well you change the counting to 1
on and exhale/inhale, 2 on the next exhale/inhale, etc..., to 10.
4. When you can do the above you change to following the breaths. This
is just being conscious and focussed on the exhale and inhale. You can
visualize or feel your breaths going out and in. No counting.
5. When you can do the above you follow (concentrate on) one entire
6. When you can do the above you drop the following - and then there is
nothing. Clear Mind. Only Sit. Shikantaza.
There are other Japanese Zen Buddhist techniques to get you to Clear
Mind. Some of them are chanting, bowing, formal walking (kinhin),
washing dishes, mopping the floor, painting a fence - and of course the
most famous of all - koans. Koans are used to give your discriminating
mind something to work on that it can't solve rationally. Eventually
your discriminating mind gets tired or bored or whatever and just gives
up - shuts down, and then you have Clear Mind!
Hope this helps. I enjoyed writing it anyway...Bill!
--- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "SteveW" <eugnostos2000@...> wrote:
> --- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "Bill!" BillSmart@ wrote:
> > Ed,
> > Yes. Counting or following the breath is not shikantaza. These are
techniques that are sometimes used to get you to shikantaza.
> > ...Bill!
> Hi Bill! I have heard of Shikantaza, and have read about it, but
really know nothing about it. I have been following my breath for over 3
decades now. I also follow the practice of chanting the name of the
Buddha of the Western Paradise. Can you tell me about Shikantaza?