Shikantaza translates as, quite simply, “just sitting”.  Shikantaza is the central practice of Soto Zen Buddhism.

In this practice, there is no requirement for focusing on an object or idea when seated in a meditative posture. Instead, the practitioner sits with full awareness “living in the moment”, with full attention on their present experience.

Practicing shikantaza means cultivating awareness without attachment to thoughts and sensations as they arise. There are no gaining ideas (i.e “This practice will help me achieve enlightment!”) or chasing after thoughts as they arise. Basically, you practice allowing things as they are.

Calling this meditation form “silent illumination”,  Chinese master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157) wrote:

“It is important to find a balance between serenity and intuitive insight, or illumination. If illumination neglects serenity, aggressiveness appears … if serenity neglects illumination, murkiness leads to wasted dharma.” (see definition of dharma below)

Roshi Joan Halifax (Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Albuquerque NM) published this Shikantaza Reader PDF.

Also available to expand your research, The Art of Just Sitting 


Dharma is a word that comes with many meanings. It includes:

  • The phenomenal world as it is
  • The laws of nature
  • The ethical duties to be performed in accordance with the laws of nature, and
  • The results of fulfilling such duties.

Dharma is “the Big Bang” that is present in everything.