Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Essential Method of Seated Meditation

Continuing our series of excerpts from the Zen Tea Record:

“Effort to discern your original nature through handling tea utensils is none other than a teaching of seated meditation. “Seated meditation,” however, is not still and silent sitting alone. Such practice is termed “seated meditation of dark realization,” and Tendai sages too have rejected it. The essential method of seated meditation lies in performing it whether leaving or arriving, whether sitting or standing. In chanoyu also, then, you should practice without indolence whatever you are doing.
            “It may be doubted that such activity in chanoyu can be [meditation]; ultimately, however, it depends on the person performing it. For practice of chanoyu is a matter of striving always—in the same way as when you enter a tearoom and serve or drink tea—to conduct yourself with all integrity, dedicating your whole mind, without any negligence whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining. If you act employing this attitude, without any lapse, in both the movement and stillness of daily life, then without any exertion of thought, all matters will be well disposed; the proper relationships of lord and vassal, parent and child, and person and person will spontaneously reach their ultimate fulfillment.
            “In the contemplative method of sitting meditation, a jumble of innumerable thoughts float up to torment you, but through profound exertion—in that exertion itself—they may be suppressed so that stray thoughts cease to arise. Nevertheless, since fundamentally one performs it without relying on any forms, the single thought of practice may become entangled with other thoughts so that one falls easily into the distress of confusion.
            “With the Way of Tea, however, you actively move your body and take up various articles, directing your awareness to them. Thus, you are not overwhelmed by these diverse thoughts and feelings, and your endeavor is easily fulfilled. It is the superlative Way that emerges from the wondrous wisdom of Zen master Ikkyu and indeed deserves our appreciation.”


I’ve heard people who practice both Zen and chanoyu say the same thing as above—that doing something while meditating makes it easier to focus your mind. But it’s something that’s hard to embrace when you’re actually preparing tea, because there are always so many things around you that need attention. If you’re focused on meditating, are you also paying attention to your guests? It is possible, but it’s not easy!