Chapter 5: Meditation Does Not Need God
Let me explain to you what zazen is. Zazen is a deep unoccupiedness - not doing anything outwardly, not doing anything inwardly. It is not even meditation because when you meditate you are making some sort of effort, you are trying to do something: chanting a mantra, remembering God, or even remembering yourself. But these efforts create ripples, these efforts create vibrations and your sitting becomes corrupted. Then your sitting is not innocent. Zazen means: sit, and just sit, nothing else. There is no doing on the part of the body, no doing on the part of the mind. It’s a state of non-doing. That does not mean that you are fast asleep, because sleep is a doing. That does not mean that you are dead, because if you are dead you cannot just sit. That simply means that you are tremendously alive, intensely alive, a fire of being, but not moving anywhere - a reservoir of energy in a deep awaiting. You are just waiting for something to happen, not even expecting, because expectation will again create a ripple of thought and the mind will start functioning. Everything is suspended. You breathe, and that’s all that you do. But that is not a doing, because breathing goes on its own accord. You have not to do anything but just sit silently.
It is said about Bodhidharma that he sat for nine years facing the wall of his cave. The story says that his legs withered away. Nine years sitting silently, not doing anything: he was not chanting a mantra, he was not remembering any God, he was not doing any prayer. He was just sitting, facing a wall. His legs withered away. It is very significant, because legs are symbolic of activity, of movement. All movement disappeared. Whether his legs actually withered away or not is not the point. The point is that all movement disappeared. The consciousness became an unmoving reservoir of energy, just pure energy not going anywhere.
Then came his first disciple, because he would not accept any disciple unless he showed a tremendous intensity to follow. Hui Kujo came. It is said that he cut off his hand and offered it to Bodhidharma, and said, “Turn towards me, otherwise I will cut off my head.”
Bodhidharma had to turn. That was the first movement he had made in nine years. He said, “Wait - so the man has come to whom I can deliver my message.”
Again it may or it may not be that the disciple offered his hand. Again, it is a symbol: hands mean activity. Legs mean movement, hands mean activity. With activity offered, only then is being revealed. Bodhidharma gave his message, his all, to this man who had symbolically shown that he was ready to lose activity.
When Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit ye here,” he meant zazen: that, “You simply sit and wait, because a tremendous event is on the way. Something is going to happen that will never be repeated again in the whole history of man. Something unrepeatable, something unique is on the way. You wait, sit, and watch. Don’t make any movement, because even a slight movement of thought, emotion, body, and you may miss the point. The son of man is going to be delivered to God. The son of man is going to disappear, and the son of God is going to appear. The greatest event ever is going to happen: sit ye here.”
And the word here is also very, very meaningful. “Sitting” shows: don’t move in space, and “here” shows: don’t move in time. Just be here, now - no movement in space, no movement in time. It would have been easier for the disciples - because it was late and they were tired of the whole day’s celebration, activities, and they would have liked to fall asleep - it would have been easier if they had been allowed to walk around. They would have kept awake. But Jesus said, “Sit. Sit here, don’t walk around. Don’t move in space and don’t move in time.”
The body moves in space; mind moves in time. Body is part of space, mind is part of time. Jesus says, “Sit - here.” By sitting, you stop the movement in space; by being here, just being here, you stop the movement of mind. This is the whole meaning of zazen. If it can be rightly interpreted, Jesus said to his disciples: Do zazen.