Posts Tagged ‘Francis Dojun Cook’

the 10 oxherding pictures Sakura Sakuragi

The way of Zen is a process—one that can take a life time.  It is not a quick fix for your relationships, jobs, or health.  It is a way of life.  It is providing the opportunity for you to have a meditation practice that moves through you throughout the day not just when you are sitting on the cushion.  It gives you the opportunity to live a life of peace, love, and compassion even in the most trying of situations knowing that this to shall pass. The ox herder learned this very well on his journey.

Francis Dojun Cook in his book How to Raise An Ox writes:

In Buddhism there is a vast difference between believing that all things are impermanent and realizing that they are; but before that belief becomes true knowledge, one must practice in the faith that it is so, and will eventually be proven to be so by one’s own experience (page 17).

Thus, sitting and reading and practicing the principles of Buddhism will give you the opportunity and the “true knowledge” you need to bolster your faith in all things being impermanent.  That impermanence makes life easier to deal with, that impermanence is why we have a saying “and this to shall pass.”  Every life is filled with things that come and go: a headache, a bad grade on a project at school, a failed job or relationship, a burnt dinner, or a cold.  They came and they went, they were impermanent.  They were not here to stay!

As students of Buddhism we work to realize that everyone and everything is the Buddha. We take the bodhisattva vow which consists “of selfless service on behalf of others [which] gradually diminishes self-serving, self-interested action (page 23).” [1]

Thus, the ox herder practiced and studied and believed and eventually realized his oneness with all things and no longer needed the ox. There was no quick fix, no magic pill or potion. Dojun continues with these words, “And this begins to happen when we completely abandon our own efforts and trust completely in our true nature, which is the Buddha.  Again, this is Buddhist faith (page 24).”

“To have faith in the Buddha is the same as forgetting the self (page 26)” –And remembering impermanence! To forget the self is to find the true self. Good luck with that!

[1] Cook, F. D. (2002) How to Raise an Ox Zen Practice as Taught in Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Boston: Wisdom Publications


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My dear teacher, Mitch Doshin Cantor, sent me another wonderful book about Dogen, How to Raise an Ox: Zen Practice as Taught in Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo by Francis Dojun Cook.  In the introduction he writes, “To sit upright with straight back, with mind and body unified, empty and unattached to internal and external events—this is itself Buddha wisdom; this is Buddha mind. Dogen teaches that, rather than do zazen for some purpose, one sits quietly, without expectation, in jijuyu Samadhi, simply to enjoy one’s own inherent nature, without question of means and ends (page 5).’”[1]

What a relief to know that we can sit for no reason at all.  That our time spent in meditation need not be something which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It need not be to find enlightenment, peace, joy, or decreased blood pressure.  It can simply be “because.”  Just “this.” It can be done with no expectations or preconceived notions or rules of sitting or posture or pain or no pain.  Just sitting.

And if that day the “sitting” is difficult or easy–so what.  You can make it fun, simple, hard, or awkward—you can label it whatever you want or label it nothing at all.  Simply sit with no expectations, or criticisms, or worries, or judgments.  If we sit to replicate the outcome of enlightenment that Shakyamuni Buddha had we have not learned that we are already Buddhahood. This is what he discovered under the Bodhi tree. Dojun says in his book, “Then why did he [Shakyamuni Buddha] continue to sit in jijuyu samadhi? Because he was just manifesting and enjoying his Buddhahood (page 5).”[2]

So why sit?  He goes on to say, “Buddhism is an experiential religion in which this real-making process actualizes Buddha nature as a concrete, lived reality.  Therefore, because practice is absolutely necessary for making our inherent Buddha nature a lived reality, practice never ends (page 7).[3]

So whether you are sitting on the cushion, on the chair in the kitchen eating a meal, or on the couch, or at your desk take time to just “sit” as Shakyamuni Buddha did under the bodhi tree before and after his enlightenment experience.  Hold no expectations just bask in the moment of quiet, peace, and eternity that lives within you every moment of every day.  Be free.

Dojun goes on to write, “This practice is very simple, but also very difficult.  It is our human nature to pick and choose, to desire and loathe, to form myriad attitudes and judgments toward the events of our lives.  This practice is difficult because it demands of us that we simply cease that picking and choosing, desiring and loathing. A contemporary Zen master has said that ‘Zen is picking up your coat from the floor and hanging it up.” Nothing could be simpler (page 8).”[4]

Try it I think you’ll like it.


Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day simply sitting wherever I am without expectations.

2.  I will remind myself that even Shakyamuni Buddha continued to sit.

3.  I will remember that “nothing could be simpler.”

4.  Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

[1] Cook, F.D., (2002) How to Raise an Ox: Zen Practice as Taught in Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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