Why I like Zen (Part 4), by Wayne Honda Roshi


Zen archery student, Alan Riesman said Zen is a good antidote for mental diarrhea or ‘MD’. That term stuck with me since anyone who does Zazen has experienced MD, and any form of diarrhea is not our friend.

A single thought is usually the start of MD and it goes downhill from there, but not all thoughts are MD—only unnecessary ones. Zen works as an antidote because the body and the mind are united by means of the breath. 

Shin Ki Roku Ichi is the principle here, and zazen provides ideal conditions to deal with MD. But for this principle to work, it takes sincere persistent effort because results are not instantaneous. It takes years to learn and a lifetime to master because the supply of MD is endless.

Zazen is not enough to cure it since the time doing it is a small fraction of our daily life. We need more and the constant training contained in the concept of shugyo starts making sense.

Tanouye Roshi asked Omori Roshi for five years of his life to create Chozen-ji to teach the way of shugyo. One way to practice shugyo is simple and includes three things: 

  1. Feel your entire body, especially your feet on the ground,

  2. Keep your vision 180 degrees, and 

  3. Breathe slowly with long exhalations.

Sounds easy but to constantly practice this is very difficult and you will experience failure when you experience MD or become upset. Those are reminders that we forgot our shugyo. But each failure is an opportunity to recover and eventually learn that to do shugyo is the best possible way to live.

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