Johnny Dangerous wrote:Not to be impolitic but I did not understand what Zazen actually was supposed to be "doing" until being exposed to Mahamudra and Dzogchen instruction. There is a whole lot of exhortation to "just sit" out there and not enough guidance about how to do it, IME.
I'm not qualified to say how similar or different forms of meditation are, I just now that at some point reflecting on my Zen practice I had a lot of "oh, that's what that was for" type moments, whereas at the time it seems like there is not even a language in much of Western Zen for evaluating one's practice, maybe even it's that evaluation was shunned period.
Just as an aside here: shikantaza is just one practice used in zazen. There are many others. And Soto practice, including the common (and to my mind, commonly misused) exhortation to "just sit", is not the whole of Zen by a long shot.
There is a language and map in some Western Zen for evaluating one's practice (which in Rinzai Zen is not considered be genuinely "Zen" unless based upon the entrance gate of recognizing one's nature).
I've never practiced with a Soto teacher, so can't say much about shikantaza as taught in that tradition. Rinzai Zen doesn't use that term, and has instead the practices of hokkyo zanmai (jewel mirror samadhi) and sho hen ego zanmai (alternating samadhi of differentiation and sameness) - in other words, the fruition of unified samadhi-prajna, not different from Dogen's "oneness of practice and its confirmation". But again these are completely predicated on having first recognized one's nature through contact with the teacher, wato/koan, etc.
Because Soto Zen, or modern hybrid lineages like Sanbo Kyodan, are overwhelmingly the Zen majority in the West, it's often the case that Soto practice is just called "Zen", and shikantaza is just called "zazen". So wanted to remind that Zen is not one animal. In fact, I suspect that Rinzai Zen practice may, in some ways, have more in common with a few non-Zen traditions than with Soto practice as that tradition seems to be commonly understood in the West.