In Okuden Reiki II we have the symbol/mantra Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen 本者是正念 which translates as: My Original Nature is Right Mind. Let’s explore the concept of Shonen a little more from the viewpoint of the Zen teachings of Shonen Sozoku 正念相續. When we look at this we start to really see what Mikao Usui was pointing out with Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen. The more we understand these teachings the better our practice will be the more compassion we will lay bare. Below are some teachings from great Zen Masters about Shonen. And as you can see it is all about interconnectedness and not distance. It is all about a state of mind, awareness, as energy follows the mind. And as these Zen masters also point out, it needs to be integrated in all we do. This was pointed out by Mikao Usui in the precepts too: today. Today means that all the actions we are doing today are infused with this state of mind of interconnectedness, non-duality, pure harmony, concentration, samadhi, etc…
Shonen Sozoku [正念相續]
from Introduction to Zen Training by Omori Sogen
Master Shaku Soen says, “It cannot be possible except in the point by point by point succession of correct thoughts (Jpn. sho-nen sozoku).” By these words Master Soen means, and I agree, that the experience of the complete integration of subject and object is realized by the subject throwing himself into the objective environment. It is the self-negation of the subject, which makes it possible for him to become one with the object. I think that “pure harmony” suggests such integration of the subject with the object as realized through his self- negation. In order to experience “pure harmony,” self-discipline is necessary, so that we may be encouraged to be diligent and to be one with the objects in our everyday encounter with them. Integration, which means complete self-projection into objects, pertains at the same time to freedom from them.
Shonen Sozoku [正念相續]
from: Zen Brushwork by Tanchu Terayama
Zen calligraphy in particular must spring from shonen sozoku, a Buddhist term equivalent to “true thought.” Shonen is a state of full concentration that is devoid of thoughts and ideas, while sozoku here means “free-flowing continuity.” Greatness in brushwork cannot be achieved through conscious effort; it is only achieved through the states of mu-shin and shonen sozuku, or “no-mind” and a continuous state free of the thoughts and ideas that distract the mind.
Shonen Sozoku – True Awarenes [正念相續]
by Shodo Harada
There is an inner revolution that occurs when we shift from seeking answers outside to looking inside for fulfillment. Searching outside leads only to further thoughts and confusion, while turning inside and letting go of the thoughts that arise one after another is the true path to resolving our deepest anxieties. The production of thoughts is a type of habit, and thus letting go of thoughts can also become a habit—a habit that gradually dissolves our profound attachment to the process of thinking.
With the natural cessation of compulsive thinking comes the arising of true awareness (shōnen sōzoku in Japanese). True awareness is not confined to zazen, but can inform whatever we do, right here, right now, whether it be sitting or working or anything else. With true awareness our usual distracted, scattered consciousness gradually clears and we become vividly present in everything that happens, with our full attention on whatever is there. When working we are totally one with working, when meditating we are totally one with meditating, when eating we are totally one with eating. It is the same whatever we do.
This boundless state of consciousness appears with the stilling of the scattered mind. The liberation from fear that accompanies this is a result, not of reliance on some outside power, but of awakening to the immanent truth of the mind. This is the essential feature of liberation in Buddhism, and particularly in Zen.
Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, spoke of “one-practice samadhi” (ichigyō zanmai). That is, Pure Land Buddhists persevere their entire lives with nembutsu practice, Lotus school believers persevere their entire lives with reciting “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō,” and Zen practitioners persevere their entire lives with zazen. What Huineng intended by the term “one-practice samadhi” is not entirely clear, but it can be said that an overly literal interpretation of this concept risks binding a person in form and losing sight of Huineng’s true meaning.
For example, if one regards zazen as absolute one can end up believing that as long as one remains deeply focused while sitting in the meditation hall one is fulfilling the requirements of one-practice samadhi. If that focus is lost while outside the meditation hall, however, this is not true one-practice samadhi based on shōnen sōzoku.
The true awareness of shōnen sōzoku is something that continues twenty-four hours a day. If you’re just sitting for twenty minutes every now and then or if your practice is confined to sesshin, then the true meaning of zazen will never reveal itself to you.
The “practice” that Huineng refers to when he speaks of “one-practice samadhi” is, in essence, function or activity. If we do not maintain samadhi in the midst of activity, if the mind is wandering here and there and we do not continue our zazen practice while seeing, listening, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking, then the practice is not genuine.
True awareness must always be present. The Vimalakirti Sutra points to this when it refers to “direct mind” (jikishin) in the statement, “The direct mind is the place of enlightenment.” The direct mind of which the sutra speaks is a mind that is never stagnant but always flows like pure running water, that is vibrant and clear, and that is immediate in its perception. This is living zazen.
Manora, the twenty-second Indian ancestor, talks of this in his transmission verse:
The mind turns with its surroundings,
A turning that is truly profound;
Perceive mind’s nature within this flow,
And there is neither joy nor sorrow.
This verse tells us that a vital mind—one that is truly aware—is one that moves as one with this world, standing with the world when it stands, sitting with the world when it sits, walking with the world when it walks. Moreover, “there is neither joy nor sorrow,” that is, even as the mind sees, hears, smells, and tastes it possesses nothing inside.
The usual habit of the mind is to attach to external objects. Deceived by the outside world, it becomes, in effect, a slave to what it sees and hears. When we are used by the things of the world in this way we lose sight of our own inner presence and truth. This contributes nothing to our true happiness, and has nothing to do with genuine joy and sorrow. For the mind to “possess nothing inside” means that it has dropped its habit of attaching to outside things and is no longer led about by circumstances.
Shonen Sozoku [正念相續]
by Ji Haeng Zen Master
Last week we touched upon the term Shonen Sozoku.
This Japanese phrase translates as “True Awareness.” As human beings we might simply conclude, “I am alive, breathing, and functioning as a human being. What awareness is he talking about?
Descartes famously said “I think therefore I am.” My teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn often retorted, “If not thinking, then what?”
So what actually then is true awareness?
When we are able to observe our compulsive thought process, we begin to see just how much of our day is spent on automatic pilot, how this habit of being led by our thinking literally controls our daily existence.
Sitting in formal meditation allows us the opportunity to observe how one thought leads to another, then another, then another. Our wisdom starts to grow just by observing this phenomena. We witness first hand that everything is changing, everything is impermanent, and our thoughts are the so called “living proof.” We begin to see the dichotomy, the separation between our actual experience and how much time we spend lost in our daydream. This initial and important insight into the ever changing landscape of our mind and the realization that all things are impermanent is the catalyst to freedom.
The great modern day Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki taught “In zazen, leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.”
What happens when we stand up from our meditation cushion and proceed with our day to day affairs? Invariably we begin to slide back into our established mind habits. True Awareness, or Shonen Sozoku, is a continuance of samadhi, not just confined to the time spent on the meditation cushion. True awareness must be present in everything we do, in all of our daily encounters and situations. Cutting and letting go of our compulsive day dream habits then becomes our new habit, one that is real and dynamic.
How so? Because it lovingly escorts us right here into this moment. Whether working, eating, driving, reading, spending time with our family and friends, we are truly present, not mentally leap frogging in preparation for the next event. How many times have you mentally prepared responses during a conversation not really listening to a friend’s sincere attempt at conveying a matter of importance to them. The moment is lost.
Becoming attentive, better listeners, and present to life’s situations can only appear with the stilling of the scattered mind. No longer relying on familiar constructs, a presence begins to emerge, one that is not contrived. You are resonating from a place of genuine openness. With practice, this becomes a 24/7 continuance that as referenced above is “real and dynamic.”
Hui Neng, the sixth ancestor likened this to another phrase he coined, “one- practice samadhi.” The Vimalakirti Sutra refers to this same essence as “direct mind,” never stagnant, always pure and clear like running water.
This week, make a conscious choice to be fully engaged with only one thing at a time. No multi tasking. Remind yourself repeatedly that thoughts and impulses create restlessness in our minds moving us away from simplicity – the unfiltered direct perception of each moment.
This most important aspect of our life requires nurturing. That nurturing can only be developed through our meditation practice.
Based in Holland, Frans Stiene teaches in North America, Europe, UK, Australia and Asia.
Frans is also the author of Reiki Insights, it is the continuation of his previous book The Inner Heart of Reiki, taking your personal practice and understanding of the system of Reiki yet another step deeper.