He said, “I am showing you that you can act unconsciously, the way I acted, and you can act consciously. When you act consciously there is grace and there is beauty and there is you. When you act unconsciously, it is just acting in sleep.”
This small anecdote contains many significant points – not for the curious one, not for the knowledgeable one, but only for the seeker.
Dokin’s disciple, Dorin, became a monk at the age of nine, took the vows at twenty-one and studied the Kegon Sutra. Later in life he entered the dense pine forest of Mount Shimbo, and did zazen up a tree.
Zazen is simply sitting, doing nothing – not even thinking, just pure being. From my own experience I can say to you that sitting on a tree is the best place; you just have to be very friendly with the tree. The tree supports your silence; it is rooted deep in the earth. It has no mind, it does not chatter with you, but it surrounds. Its aura, its sensitivity helps you, in a synchronicity.
Gautam Buddha became awakened under the bodhi tree. The bodhi tree got its name bodhi because Gautama became Buddha under it. Scientists have been looking into the constituents of a bodhi tree – is there something special under it? And they have found that the same element that makes a man more intelligent than others, makes the bodhi tree more intelligent than other trees. It has a tremendous amount of intelligence. So it was not a coincidence that Buddha, sitting under the bodhi tree, became enlightened. He too owes his gratitude to the bodhi tree.
And he showed it. Before dying he told his disciples, “There is no need to make a statue of me. You will make temples, but in your temples make a statue of the bodhi tree. My gratitude is tremendous toward the bodhi tree.”
For three hundred years after Gautam Buddha the temples carried marble carved as a bodhi tree, in place of Buddha’s statue.
Zazen simply means not to think, not to dream, not to imagine. Become one – as the tree – sensitive, alert, dancing with the wind, rejoicing in the sun; surrounded by the fragrance of the tree, but with no activity on your part.
For this reason he was called Choka Zenji, meaning “Bird-nest Zenji,” and Jakuso Zenji, meaning “Magpie nest,” by his contemporaries because the birds and magpies built their nests beside him.
When the prefect of the district, called Hakurakuten, came to visit Dorin, he remarked, “You are in a very dangerous place!”