Buddhism, and especially early Buddhism, is known for the “an?tman” (no-self) teaching. By any account, this teaching is central to both doctrine and practice from the beginning. Zen Buddhism, in contrast, is known for its teaching that the single most important thing in life is to discover the ‘true self’. Buddha Nature is one of the most important and inspirational foundation understandings in Mahayana Buddhism — possibly the most important. The idea of Buddha nature originated in a number of texts, some of which were originally Indian and some of which were originally Chinese, but the entire group of which was very important in the development of indigenous Chinese Buddhist thought. These texts were written decades ago.
According to Arai:
“More typical Zen monastic life as it has developed in Japan is a highly regulated lifestyle that aims to awaken one’s Buddha nature by placing a high priority on order and propriety inculcated through a pervasive hierarchical system and strict discipline” (Arai, 82)
At the simplest level, Buddha nature thought may be summed up in the phrase, ‘all sentient beings possess the Buddha nature’. This means that everyone has the potential to achieve Buddhahood or full enlightenment. There are many types training methods when realizing and/or materializing of Buddha nature in Zen practice. However, as the main focus of this essay I would like to use “Zazen” meditation to show how Zen monastic training make possible the realization and/or materialization of Buddha nature by basing my answer on a close reading of “Paula Arai” and “Dogen”.
How Zazen Meditation monastic training help make possible The Buddha Nature
Zen aims at being the best version of yourself. A perfection of personhood. Sitting meditation called “zazen” is employed as a foundational method of praxis across the different schools of this Buddha-Way. Zazen, has both outward and inward instructions on how to engage your awareness in the immediate, uninterrupted experience of the present moment. Zazen is being awake, but letting go, experiencing your present moment awareness without thought or story. As a central form of meditation in Zen Buddhism, zazen is usually coupled with study and teaching to help develop greater clarity in our practice. Zazen often includes a specific practice. Such as, the specific instructions in order, finding a quite space, give careful attention to your body and posture, the sitting position that works best for you will depend on your flexibility (comfort), Whatever position you choose, your back and head should be erect (attention), counting your breaths, and lastly Refrain from trying to stop your thinking—let it stop by itself (thought).
Discussing the reading 1: “Women living in Zen: Japanese S?t? Buddhist nuns” by Paula Kane Robinson Arai
This reading is based on both historical evidence and ethnographic data gathered by Paula Arai regarding gender biased against nuns to their counterpart (monks) in history in part due to androcentric bias in the translation of Japanese materials. (Arai, 4). Paula Arai demonstrates that nuns were the focal specialists in the establishment of Buddhism in Japan in the 6th century. They were dynamic members of the Soto Zen group, and have kept on adding to the progression of the sect to the present day. Drawing on her fieldwork among the Soto nuns, Arai exhibits that the lives of a significant number of these nuns encapsulate established Buddhist ideals. On average a nun has to spend training in monastic rituals is at least five years, less than their male counterparts. (Arai, 19) Furthermore, nuns share the same space with all the other nuns in the monastery to do their day to day activities and assign tasks. The daily rituals of the nus at the “Aichi Senmon Nisodo” a women’s monastery in Japan, where Arai did her research, are as follows, they wake up at predawn, they do Zazen, and they start their daily assigned tasks. (Arai, 4) Furthermore, they do Zazen before going to bed. Even though, the practice of Zazen is an integral part of realizing ones Buddha nature, the nuns do other daily activities such as sewing, dusting, scrubbing, eating, washing, walking, and etc. to keep up with the D?gen’s emphasis on practice in each aspect of life. (Arai, 91)
Discussing the reading 2: “selected writing” by D?gen
It was D?gen who first brought Soto Zen to Japan, thereby laying the foundation for the largest religious organization, which it is today. D?gen, born in a noble family, quickly learned the meaning of the Buddhist word “mujo” (impermanence). While still young, he lost both his parents. He decided then to become a Buddhist priest and search for the truth. D?gen taught shikan taza, “zazen only,” zazen signifying the Zen practice of meditation in the cross-legged (lotus) position. He stressed the identity of practice and enlightenment. (D?gen, 141)
“In order to present the scope of D?gen’s work, the selections here begin with his instructions for zazen, continue with teachings to monks at his temple,?and conclude with three of his most for-reaching essays from the Shobogenzo.” (D?gen, 141)
According to the second reading, Zazen is the most important monastic training ritual to realizing the Buddha nature. Mostly because Buddha Shakyamuni had to practice zazen for six years and even the Bodhidharma had to do zazen for nine years in order to transmit the Buddha-mind. (D?gen, 142) The zazen that Dogen recommended to everyone denies the difference between training and enlightenment. It emphasizes their non- duality. Zen Buddhism, of course, takes the basic form of cross-legged sitting.
In conclusion, Zen Buddhism is known for its teaching that the single most important thing in life is to discover the ‘true self’. Buddha Nature is one of the most important and inspirational foundation understandings in Mahayana Buddhism — possibly the most important. There are many types training methods when realizing and/or materializing of Buddha nature in Zen practice.