Saturday, February 21, 2009

Zen and practice

This was Dōgen’s (dis)solution to the question that plagued him from his beginnings as a Tendai initiate:

“Why must we practice to obtain enlightenment, if we all are innately enlightened?”

Practice is not merely a means to the goal of enlightenment; when viewed correctly it is enlightenment. “Practice,” and hence “realization” along with it, should here be seen as referring to all of a Zen practitioner’s activities and not merely times of formal meditation. But in what sense are all of one’s activities practice? Surely not everyone’s activities count as practice—so what is the distinction? For Dōgen, the difference lay in the attitude of the Zen practitioner. Zen practice, which Dōgen referred to as “ceaseless practice” (“gyoji”), is primarily the continuous maintenance of a specific frame of mind.

Daniel Zelinski, Ph.D.


  1. this is about how we shape our life in karmic terms -- actions of body speech and mind -- we are always practicing something-- we are always going in a direction-- either purposfully or not -- what we do, what we say , what we think are all "practices" that are shaping our existence moment by moment -- dogen's dictate on mind revolves around raising the awakend mind, embodying the absolute, entering nirvana, then casting it all away ceaslessly and repeating the process with out end -- enlightenment not as object to achieved but as process that includes both experriential states (sudden) and stages (gradual)

  2. I once was a part of a certain organization, and I was well know at the time for staunch mental discipline along these lines. I couldn't walk through a mall or a different city without stranger seeking me out (because of the vibe, I guess). I was continually sought out by other organizations with similar agendas, and I traveled extensively. I purposely walked away from it and sought anonymity. This process took mental disciplined to unlearn but it too had it's rewards, but I still find myself missing the feeling of purpose, center, and clarity.