Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shushō ichinyo - ‘practice and satori are one’

One of the most perplexing phrases my zen teacher taught me was ‘shushō ichinyo’. 「修証一如」 if you want the Japanese. Shushō ichinyo says ‘practice and satori are one’. (Satori = enlightenment.)

Most people practice zazen beacause they see themselves in a state of delusion and want to move to a state of satori. Dogen says this is mistaken: a single instance of authentic practice is satori itself.

So what’s authentic practice?

For Dogen, an example of authentic practice is doing zazen with no goal in mind.

"I'm practicing zazen in order to obtain satori" is mistaken because it implies you have boxed-up your reality. As soon as you box-up your reality you lose authenticity in your practice. I.e.:

1. I am in a state of delusion (boxing yourself as not enlightened);
2. I want to obtain a state of satori (boxing satori as a goal outside you); therefore
3. I am doing zazen to obtian satori (boxing zazen as a means to an end).

So one part of authentic practice is practice with no conceptual separation ('boxing' above).

Sincere effort is the other.

Sincere effort is implied in the Japanese word for practice used here: 'shugyo'. The 'shu' in 'shugyo' is the same 'shu' in 'shusho ichinyo'.

Sincere effort = concerted effort free of thought for a particular reward. There's no dangling carrot as the stimulus for your effort; just sincere effort absorbing you in the moment and bringing fulfilment.

Picture of Dogen by Andre Sollier

Authentic practice in daily life

People can't do zazen every moment of their lives. I wondered how satori could be part of our lives.

Before I could go back to my teacher with this question, I found my answer in daily sado practice.

I practice sado every day, be it a simple tea ceremony (hirademae), charcoal-firing ceremony (sumi-demae) or something more intricate like a ceremony using Chinese eqipage (karamono).

Sado practice requires the same sincere effort that Dogen talks about for zazen.

When I'm absorbed in the moment, practicing without thought about my level and the ideal I want to reach (boxing my reality), I move in profound silence.

It clicked.

The sincere effort I put into sado is going into a mundane, everyday activity: the act of making tea . . . . . . . . sado combines satori and everyday life.

Anything else besides green tea?

Sado made me see how shusho ichinyo runs thorugh daily life; how practice and satori are one. but there's nothing saying the Buddhist buck stops there.

When vacuuming the house, shusho ichinyo is simply vacuuming; not to please guests; not to silence a visiting Mum. Sure pleasing guests and silencing Mum can be parts of my motivation to vacuum. But while actually vacuuming my sustained motivation comes from my sincere heart and concerted effort just to vacuum as part of life.

Or at work I might be writing the weekly status report. I'm not doing it to showcase my writing skills, or to cause a stir with management by reporting project risks. I'm writing the report as my task, ridding all the brain fog and pouring pure, concerted effort into it - shusho ichinyo.

A shucho ichinyo day planner by chance

Steve Sammartino has got it. His post oozes the spirit of shusho ichinyo. He says: "There's just life. And to have a balanced life all things in it must be planned and equally valued."

Equally valuing motivators to action and going about your day with sincere effort is shusho ichinyo.

Sincere effort = fulfilment

Shyusho ichinyo in everyday life is engaging in your activities with a sincere heart and effort. Fulfilment comes from 1. being content with your effort and 2. not judging the 'you' here and now against some ideal self you haven't obtained yet.

There's just life. By going about everyday actio
ns with sincere effort, you will move towards and become your ideals in due course.

Sado was the bridge from zen to everyday live
d life for me. In reverse, like Steve Sammartino, approaching all the activities in your day as 'just life' and going about them in earnest can be a bridge from everyday life to zen.

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