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How can Spirituality be re-discovered in Zen Shiatsu?

Why did Master Masunaga chose the name “Zen Shiatsu”?

The reason why Master Masunaga chose the name “Zen Shiatsu” as the international name for Keiraku Shiatsu (Meridian Shiatsu) was not just for show. He was practicing chanting the Heart Sutra, and he also taught us in the class to chant the Heart Sutra while treating the Hara (abdomen). He even chanted the Heart Sutra at patient’s houses after the treatment when he felt that an unsaved spirit was there. This is written in the book “Chiryo Hyaku wa (100 stories of treatment).”

He also said in the class that ” As Zen lets the practitioner enter into the undivided world, shiatsu practitioners also have to enter into the undivided world. That’s why I chose the name Zen Shiatsu.”

What I can clearly say from my own experience of meridian treatment is,

that without the subject and object being undivided, it is impossible to

recognize and diagnose meridians. The reason that it is impossible to recognize and diagnose, is because meridians themselves don’t exist objectively. Well, then where do the meridians exist? It is in the world of oneness of subject and object. But please note that, this is not just a fancy expression of Eastern Medicine philosophy. This is the reality of the meridians.


The meridians are in the world of non-duality.

With daily life ordinary consciousness, we can only recognize the duality of the world. We recognize things only as objective existence. The objective world and subjective world are separated in our daily life activities, so we usually don’t even notice or imagine that there exists a world of non-duality. We may have doubt that such a world exists, but actually, at the border of subject and object, the world of non-duality exists.

When we hear the words “the border of subject and object”, we imagine something like a line, being very thin. But actually inside of the border between subject and object, there is a world with no limit, full of richness and happiness.

It has an invisible depth, and is the place where you feel relief from fear and attachment. Actually, fear and attachment are like the two sides of a coin, constantly being flipped over, back and forth.

By seeing the world in a state of non-duality, you can have relief from fear and attachment, because this state of peace and happiness actively exists

This is the world which ‘one should enter into’, and, as Masunaga Sensei said, the results will be expressed in the meridian treatment.


Invisible stages in the non-duality world

The world of oneness of subject and object has different (invisible) stages of depth. The stage of Ki and meridians, for example, is at the very first level of this world of non-duality, compared to Buddha Nature and/or Pure Land existing at much deeper levels.

Ki and meridians can be found right in the first stage of non-duality, but I must say, that this is still far, far away from the conscious level of daily life. The point is, what made it possible for Master Masunaga to recognize and discover new meridians (12 meridians) and to establish a diagnostic system in Zen Shiatsu? It was, and is, the state of the heart, the state of non-duality (oneness of subject and object), and the Buddhist practice of chanting the Heart Sutra is where it came from.

Now you can understand why Master Masunaga chose the name” Zen Shiatsu”. The Heart Sutra is one of main sutras in Zen Buddhism, and the first word in the title of the Heart Sutra is “Maka” meaning “so huge as to be invisible”. This is about the world of oneness of subject and object and non-duality, and this is what made it possible for him to establish the meridian diagnostic system of Zen Shiatsu.


Shiatsu treatment is Yang, and spiritual practice is Yin

At this point, I would like to ask you one question.

If one is only pressing another person’s body with their thumb, no matter how much heart one puts into their shiatsu, is it possible to enter into the world of non-duality and live in the state of oneness of subject and object?

I guess everybody answers “No”.

As heart is the base of your path in life, heart also has to be the base of the method in shiatsu. So, spiritual practice has to be the base of shiatsu, the same as Master Masunaga practiced chanting the Heart Sutra.

Some might say, “Shiatsu itself is a spiritual practice, so why do I have to do some other spiritual practice?” Then I would simply say to that person, “Shiatsu treatment can be a spiritual practice only if that shiatsu is based on a spiritual practice, because in that case shiatsu will be an expression of the spiritual state.” For example, let’s say that coffee is the non-duality heart state and shiatsu is powdered milk. With the non-duality heart state missing, it is like drinking hot water with powdered milk, there is no coffee. If you want to drink coffee you have to add coffee. Ki and meridian only exist in the world of non-comparatives (coffee). In this state, we can clearly understand why Master Masunaga chose the name “Zen Shiatsu”, and we can really appreciate the essence (spirit). The attitude of using only form or method, ignores the essence, and leads people to a shallowness in spirit. I see this as a common problem when one practices Eastern culture in the modern age.


Why not enter into the world of ‘Maka’?

The word ‘Maka’ means the world of non-duality, and just as Master Masunaga was practicing the Heart Sutra chanting, I would like to recommend to all Zen Shiatsu practitioners to practice chanting the Heart Sutra, in order to enter into the world of non-duality and to receive the spirit of Masunaga sensei.


*From the next issue, I would like to start explaining the meaning of the Heart Sutra.


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