Dan74 wrote:no duality of any sort, and yet there is a keen alertness, that's at the very least, a very good sit, IMO.
Does right effort comprise a duality (wholesome/unwholesome) that is, on this view, to be set aside?
There is time to exert it and time to set it aside. We know not to attach to the raft, don't we? So in the context of Dogen's shikantaza, my limited understanding is that his exortations not to seek results and yet perservere in meditation and posture, his descriptions of non-judgmental non-grasping clear awareness constitute Right Effort. Trust the raft (shikantaza) and gradually let go of the notion of a being that is crossing over to superbeing/nonbeing (conceit). I guess wholesome/unwholesome proceed from (absence of) grasping and aversion, so the kind of awareness Dogen advocates in shikantaza does exactly that. In my limited (and probably quite incorrect) understanding, shikantaza is a little crucible of liberation. In this fairly non-challenging situation which after some practice we feel reasonably comfortable in, we gradually learn to practice non-attached radiant awareness.
Of course even earlier it can be very liberating to allow oneself to just sit, without adding expectations, notions of correct/incorrect, fast/slow, cannonical/extracannonical. To just sit, one has to let go of the garbage. There is a lot to process, a lot to clear. It can and usually does take years. Right Effort, the way I see it, is to persevere with correct practice, motivated by something other than personal desires and ambitions, seeing through the appearances and dualities as empty and letting them go. Until there is shikantaza in every moment, not just the cushion.
Ven Sheng-Yen, who studied shikantaza under Soto masters in Japan writes:
While you are practicing just sitting, be clear about everything going on in your mind. Whatever you feel, be aware of it, but never abandon the awareness of your whole body sitting there. Shikantaza is not sitting with nothing to do; it is a very demanding practice, requiring diligence as well as alertness. If your practice goes well, you will experience the 'dropping off' of sensations and thoughts. You need to stay with it and begin to take the whole environment as your body. Whatever enters the door of your senses becomes one totality, extending from your body to the whole environment. This is silent illumination.
There is also the following description from the scholar Hee-Jin Kim:
The prototype for the unity of practice and enlightenment, as all Dogen students know, is “zazen-only” (shikan taza). In a nutshell, it consists of four aspects:
(1) It is that seated meditation which is objectless, imageless, themeless, with no internal or external devices or supports, and is nonconcentrative, decentered, and open-ended.
Yet it is a heightened, sustained, and total awareness of the self and the world. (2) It seeks no attainment whatsoever, be it enlightenment, an extraordinary religious experience,
supernormal powers, or buddhahood, and accordingly, is non-teleological [lacks “purposeful development towards a final end”] and simply ordinary. (3) It is “the body and mind cast off” (shinjin datsuraku) as the state of ultimate freedom, also called “the samadhi of self-fulfilling activity” (jijuyu zammai). And (4) it requires single-minded earnestness, resolve, and urgency on the part of the meditator.
There is also this beautiful though perhaps not always easily accesible article on shikantaza by Taigen Dan Leighton
http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/art ... st_sitting