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Highlights from Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi's Talks

These teachings by Kobun Chino Roshi previously appeared in newsletters of Jikoji Zen Retreat Center in Los Gatos, California, and also were published in the Buddhadharma magazine, Winter 2002 issue.

Posture

Year after year our physical posture becomes polished. By repeated sitting our muscles become very refined, not pulling one way. When your muscles become very balanced you are able to feel almost nothing is there. Your intestines, your bones—all are in the same balance. When your body is able to take the right posture, when you sit as if no one is sitting there, you feel yourself. The way to find your best posture is to focus your attention on the feeling of your body. It's hard to say what it is, an inner eye, an inner sensation that is able to observe every part of your body.

When you are awake, you feel every part of your body—its surface, a little bit inside, deep inside, all parts. When you take the best posture you can possibly reach, at that time you are weightless and you aren't aware of your effort to keep that posture. The point is to have a stretched spine, with your neck straight along the spine. When you lean slightly right, or left, or backward, you can find which point is your straight posture. This is related to the incredible pull of gravity. A thousand million lines of gravity pull you down. You swing your body from left to right and finally you come to one point.

It doesn't continue that way. We again crumble down, so we have to build it up again. Maybe every twenty minutes or so we have to re-do it. It is a very natural position, but we have incredible habits that are hard to correct. Every time we correct our sitting position we always fall back into a more comfortable posture.

To have the foot soles facing upward is very important. To have your soles going upward, with your feet pressing down on your thighs, is not an accidental discovery but a polished discovery. They should be like that because then there is a very grounded sensation of being on the earth, not flowing, or flying purposelessly in the air.

The eyes should be kept open, and hopefully they'll see through everything, because your seeing is not "your" seeing—you should see through. It is very easy to mess up your posture just by rolling your eyeballs around. You don't have to stare. If you come back to keeping your eyes still then something opens up. All our sense organs are finely constructed awakenings. As you notice, all information from the sense organs comes together moment after moment, and the mind-eye is always functioning. Everyone has mind-eye; it does not newly open. Your sitting still is like a person who just shot an arrow: a moment later the result is there. What you know is the sense that the arrow is moving alright. It has left your realm but you sense it's running well. Stillness is like that. In the stillness you see intuitions are going alright; you sense every kind of intuition.

The form of the human body is a continuity of karmic force. Without parents you would not exist here; without you, your children and all future generations could not exist. So in this sense, to have a body on this earth has a very karmic reason and result. Without this karmic condition you cannot exist as the expression of ultimate force.

You can say there is a "right posture" for sitting. Many times during sesshin you hit that "right posture" and then swing away from it, then go back to it. You understand what right posture is for you. You can see it, perceive it—it relates with your mind-state at that time. Right posture in sitting creates the contents of sitting from all that you have been experiencing up to now. It requires detachment from your desire to do it; you let it happen by itself. So right posture is not that you are doing sitting; right posture itself is the sitting, and the system of your whole body is going into that posture.

The period of sitting is not your own sitting. Physically you feel that it is your sitting that you do. The inner view of one's sitting, which is utterly an external view too, includes your personal existence. It includes everything, from which your mind is continuously working. The arising memories of whatever you've experienced are always there; no matter whether you deny them or accept them, they are there.

Not only that, as time passes the contents change. So posture is how to keep going. As you notice, this physical condition of existence is a very dynamic thing, which you cannot stop. It goes by itself. Maybe all things go by themselves; you are that, and you are able to experience and feel it.

Sitting is always pointless, you know. When we touch sitting with this body, it feels like putting a thumb on paper: "This is it!" Touching time/space, or creating matter in time/space. That's how I feel when I sit. The more sitting becomes still, almost stopping, the more it feels like time stops and there is no more distinction between this body and all other things. Things feel as if they are extensions of the body. It's not a frozen kind of realization, but a very powerful presence of the sensation that you are really there, as what you are, what things are, without naming each thing that's there. Even not-what-you-are is also there. I mean, the thing which holds the phenomenal, the experiential phenomenon that is your own body, is also yourself. Phenomenon and noumenon are there together.

A slight move of mind causes lots of insights out of past experience and out of images that you have been making toward the future. This causes imaginings about the relationship of all people and situations in the present time, with no distinction between past, present, and future. Just the enormous dynamic of where you live, what's there, all existing as yourself.

This body is a very fine thing at such a time, continuously pressing this sitting spot. If your mudra is perfect yet you sit slanted, this is strange. It is the same as sitting while you imagine that you are dancing somewhere. No one can see it; only you yourself can feel it. But dance is dance and sitting is sitting, so when you sit you must sit, instead of thinking of some fantastic thing. But it is not necessary to develop consciousness of the self alone. You have to release that conscious self about yourself. Otherwise "sitting very well" will catch you.

The time of sitting is timeless actually. When you take the right position, you have nothing to think about anymore, nothing to bring up from any place, past or future. That which can be called the present moment (where you are and what you are) actually is there, and the physical posture you take in sitting is a part of whole posture, where it actually is. So when you meditate, many, many things are meditating because, essentially, everything meditates in that space.


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