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Embodying the Non-Dual: A Phenomenological Perspective on Shikantaza

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In this paper, I explore shikantaza, the Soto Zen practice of 'just sitting', through the phenomenological lens of late Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. One of the merits of the phenomenological approach is that it enables us to think of bodies not only as physical-objective, but also experiential-existential structures (K├Ârper vs. Leib, respectively), and thus provides a conceptual framework capable of thematizing the profoundly corporeal dynamics of shikantaza without falling prey to physico-neural reductionism, as is often the case with contemporary scientific accounts. Drawing on the various 'in-between' notions developed in the phenomenological tradition -- most notably: phenomenal field, lived body, praktognosia, double sensation, and motivation -- I go on to portray shikantaza as a practical means of suspending 'objective thought' (our habitual tendency to objectify experience) and of cultivating a form of corporeal/ praktognosic reflection, which anchors the meditator in its lived corporeality on the hither side of the subject-object dichotomy. Further, I argue that the phenomenological reconceptualization of shikantaza in terms of embodied/praktognosic knowing challenges our sedimented beliefs about the nature and role of knowledge, and indicates that our currently established epistemic practices, centred on the ideal of objective (explicit) knowledge, need to be expanded with those aimed at exploring the pre-reflective realm.
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Keywords: embodied knowledge; epoche; lived body; non-duality; praktognosia; shikantaza; zazen

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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