Awaken to our Buddha- nature, that is our task
Zazen is a form of Deep Hearing

"Realization is ultimately the gift of Other Power."


                                                 --G.R. Lewis



Below are quotes from Zen & Shin teachers regarding the underlining compatibly between the two teachings. Both Zen & Shin arose in the Kamakura period of Japanese history. They became great religious reform movements aimed at restoring the intent and essence of the meditative and Pure Land teachings of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha founder of the Buddhist religion. The following is not a coherent philosophy but dynamic  ideas to stimulate the mind and interest concerning the integrated Zen/Shin approach to our practice.


In the book Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki says, the true purpose is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes.Zen practice is to open up our small mind. So concentration is just an aid to help you realize big mind, or the mind that is everything (Amida). If you want to discover the true meaning of Zen in your everyday life, you have to understand the meaning of keeping your mind on your breathing and your body in the right posture in zazen. You should follow the rules of practice in your study should become more subtle and careful. Only in this way can you experience the vital freedom of Zen.


In the famous contemporary Shin book, River of Fire, River of Water, Dr. Taitetsu Unno quotes the famous Zen instructor, Kosho Uchiyama. He "describes the goal of sitting meditation as the throwing away of the calculating ways of thinking which supposes that as long as there's an aim there must be a target. In our zazen, it is precisely at the point where our small, foolish self remains unsatisfied, or completely bewildered, that immeasurable natural life beyond the thoughts of that self functions. It is precisely at the point where we become completely lost that life operates and the power of Buddha is actualized."


Then Dr. Unno comments about "The relentless practice of just sitting  undertaken by the small self, the foolish self, sooner or later reaches its limits in self-power. When this occurs, then the awareness of a deeper immeasurable natural life comes alive. This is none other than the great compassion of Buddha that supports the sitting practice of the Zen student."


The Dharma teacher, G.R. Lewis is quoted as saying, "Dogen-zenji, the founder of Soto Zen was asked, why do we practice zazen? He responded, because it is in our nature to do so. This means that we do not practice zazen to get something or to get somewhere, which would be the manifestation of the calculating and foolish self (self-power). Simply, we sit just to sit. A does not go to B but remains in A thus automatically realizing B. This is precisely the process in Shin Buddhism. We need to take on this non-dualistic approach in our zazen and nembutsu practice. Therefore, by sitting and following the right posture and breathing techniques, we automatically manifest the Mind of Buddha. Zazen is the Enlightened Mind (Amida).


What is important is following the technique naturally and not desire to obtain something outside of yourself. Satori (enlightenment) as well as trusting faith (shinjin) can not be obtained by the calculating mind. It is precisely this calculating mind that gets us into trouble. It is the major cause of our suffering. We need to let go of it. The Enlightened Mind is already present in our hearts and minds. This realization is ultimately the gift of Other Power."


Both Zen and Shin stress experience rather than doctrine or dogma. Shin teacher Ichitaro Goroku said, "I've eaten rice three times a day for 60 years and yet I cant describe what it tastes like. Its the same with the Teaching. Namu-Amida-Butsu."


The 13th century Japanese reformer, Shinran Shonin, spoke often about losing the calculating mind and just let go of the ego and float of the river of eternity. He said "being grasped by Unhindered Light is felt, but is beyond conceptual understanding; to be free of any form of calculation is to have realized Other Power."


In Zen there is much said about emptiness. The Shin teacher Ryukyo Fujimoto in his book Shin Buddhism's Essence stated, "trusting faith (shinjin) is the emptying (Shunyata) of ourselves of our I-ness and Mine-ness."


Our essential nature or True Nature is Amida Buddha. Roshi Philip Kapleau in his monumental book, The Thee Pillars of Zen quotes the founder of Soto Zen, Dogen-zenji, "the zazen of even beginners manifest the whole of their Essential-nature." He goes on to write "the Way of Buddha suffuses your entire being and enters into the whole of your life. Although we are unaware of all this at first, as our practice progresses we gradually acquire understanding and insight, and finally, with enlightenment, wake up to the fact that zazen is the actualization of our inherently pure Buddha-nature, whether we are enlightened or not."


Similarly, the famous 19th century Shin practicer, Saichi, wrote about the flow of Other Power or non-calculating mind.


"There is no self-power

No other power

All is Other Power."


There are four types of Zen. The highest form is can saijojo Zen, the last of the five types and the highest vehicle, the summit of Zen Buddhism. It is saijojo Zen that we of the BFF & SBF congregations aspire to practice and realize. Roshi Philip Kapleau, in his famous The Pillars of Zen,  says "that this Zen was practiced by all of the Buddhas of the past namely Shakyamuni and Amida and is the expression of Absolute Life, life in its purest form. It is the zazen which Dogen-zenji chiefly advocated and it involves no struggle for satori (enlightenment or salvation) or any other object.  In this highest practice, means and end coalesce. In saijojo, when rightly practiced, you sit in the True-nature, and at the same time you sit in complete faith that the day will come when, exclaiming, oh, this is it! You will unmistakably realize this True-nature.  Therefore you need not self-consciously strive for enlightenment (Other Power)."


This practice and experience of no struggle corresponds to the Shin Buddhist notion of the negation of self-power as a vehicle to enlightenment and the opening of the heart and mind to Other Power of the Primal Vow as the means to liberation. Other Power is free of any manipulation and self-absorbed calculations to achieve kensho or enlightenment. Other Power is the silent working of the Buddha in our lives. It is the dynamism of Life itself awakening us to Reality-as-it-is (Amida). Shinran said, "in the nembutsu, no self-working is true working; it is beyond description, explanation and conceivability." Moreover, as the Shin Buddhist, Elson Snow said,


"I withdraw

Buddha approaches;

I come near

He runs away!"



Also, the Shin Buddhist, Zuiken said, "without practicing, practice Suchness (emptiness); this is the true practice." To clarify this even more, In the Shin book, River of Fire, River of Water Dr. T. Unno states, "when freed from egoistic design and calculations, life unfolds freely, in spite of the unavoidable difficulties. But a new kind of wisdom is bestowed on a person, so that he or she can negotiate through the labyrinth called life."


Finally regarding this particular topic, a quote from Dogen-zenji who said,


"To study the Buddha Dharma is

To study the self

To study the self is

To forget the self

To forget the self is

To be confirmed by ten thousand things (Other Power)."


Regarding our inherent Buddha-nature or Essential-nature, D.T. Suzuki said, "we don't go out of this world in order to be born into the Pure Land, but we carry the Pure Land. Being born in the Pure Land means discovering the Pure Land within ourselves."


My conclusion is that Amida is our inner-most Self and when that inner-most Self is found, we are born in the Pure Land."



What is Shin Buddhism?


Shin Buddhism is part of Pure Land Buddhism , which is a 2,500-year-old spiritual tradition based on the Teachings of the Buddha  Pure Land is the most popular and widespread form of Buddhism in the world today. Historically it is one of the most successful religious movements within Buddhism. Its popularity comes from its easy form of practice, which can be performed by all people (of any ethnic group, class or gender) under the rigors of daily life.


Copyright 2008. G.R. Lewis, All Rights Reserved

The author grants permission to copy this document for personal uses only.