In Soto-Zen Buddhism there is a sitting meditation known as Shikantaza which is the art of just-sitting. My question, what techniques are given to Soto-Zen practitioners to prevent the mind from being "sticky" or "stuck" during Shikantaza. For example,

  1. I have been told by some practitioners that they would call sight, sound, taste, touch, smell and mind as objects. By referring to the six sense organs as objects they disconnect themselves from the object to prevent the formation of subject. Although it sounds interesting that doesn't sound like, at least by what I've read, as Shikantaza.

  2. Another practitioner told me they simply listened to silence or emptiness. This reminded me of Eckhart Tolle's meditation instructions especially given in his book "Stillness Speaks". The problem I find through this method is the practitioner is focusing on an object, as Lao tzu mentioned in his book the "Tao Te Ching"; the form which is formless. Also, Dogen encouraged the sitter to just sit with no attention to a single object. Concentration on emptiness is neglecting sitting and the original face.

  3. Finally, another practitioner explained he would simply try to keep his attention centered as if he were sitting inside of a dome. That is, trying to be aware of the world and his thoughts while building a kind of cushion between himself and object. Almost but not exactly a combination of the first two.

Therefore, what are the steps Soto-Zen practitioners are encouraged to take in order to practice Shikantaza. To clarify, I'm not interested in physical postures such as sitting, hand positions, the position of the tongue, etc... but rather, what is the sitter doing with his/her mind and the steps they are taking to separate subject from object.


2 Answers 2


Look, there is nothing special about Shikantaza or any other type of meditation. If you ask me honestly, I say that meditation is for fun really. You don't do it to achieve anything. In fact the idea is to let everything be. And NOT achieve anything. No "Nirvana", No "Moksha", No "separation", No "clinging" or whatever labels we like to create.

There is really no answer to this question apart from experience. You just sit and go on with whatever happens, your physical and mental sensations. Until they cease (or not). The moment you start thinking anything about it or whatever to do about it, the point is lost.

What I mean is whatever you are thinking right now about the way to do it, or "am I doing it right?" or "what should I focus on?" or such like questions are mere thoughts and are invalid.


The nature of consciousness is it always has an 'object'. This is similar to if a very loud noise occurs; hearing the loud noise cannot be avoided. Consciousness of the loud noise happens automatically.

If a practitioner 'just sits', i.e., does not think or does not exercise intention/volition apart from 'just sitting', then the mind will automatically (primarily) be aware of the silence. Then objects, such as sounds may enter consciousness. Or, more predominantly, objects such as the in & out breathing may become the dominant sense object of consciousness. Similar to a loud noise, consciousness cannot avoid continuously experiencing the in & out breathing, jhana, etc. It will be automatic.

If the mind is allowed to wander in thoughts, certainly this cannot be 'just sitting' since it would be 'sitting & thinking' rather than 'just sitting'. Allowing the mind to wander in thought is different to continuously experiencing in & out breathing since the mind can control/stop thoughts but cannot control/stop breathing.

'Just sitting', I imagine, is just sitting. Thus, intention operates for the sole purpose of just sitting. Since thinking is not 'just sitting', the mind must act to maintain a state of just sitting.

'Thinking' is not 'just sitting'. Acting to stop thinking is also not 'just sitting'. But once both thinking & acting to stop thinking stop, there will be only the state of 'just sitting'.

Therefore, there is say 'the path' to achieve 'just sitting' and the actual achievement of 'just sitting', which are two different things.

Once 'just sitting' is achieved, the mind will automatically be enlightened by the 10,000 things.

  • 1
    I appreciate the answer you gave but I'm afraid it doesn't really answer my question. The answer you gave for object is true for formations (such as the world we see), but it's not what is meant in Soto-zen. The only real shikantaza statement i can really find is, "But once both thinking & acting to stop thinking stop, there will be only the state of 'just sitting'." Sep 15, 2016 at 1:38

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