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Harada Roshi

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I recently read about a Chinese Zen master who says not to synchronize the breath with asking a koan since this can cause difficulty with breathing and straining in the body. What is your advice on this?

Who taught you how to concentrate on your breathing ? Even when we do not concentrate on our breathing, we breathe. Sussokan is not about concentrating on the breathing. There is no meaning in the numbers being added to each breath. The number are being added so that our mind can become more concentrated and aware. If the breathing were the main point, then it would absorb even our whole body and we would intoxicate ourselves. That is not becoming zazen. The correct sussokan is about the awareness leading the breath slightly by numbers being added. Breathing is our life energy. We dive into our life energy, while our awareness leads the breath slightly, this is mind and body becoming one. This is how our concentration and breathing become one. The same is true when using a Koan: Mind and Body becoming One. The Koan is the breath. When you concentrate on your breathing, then the Koan might seem extra, as if focussing on 2 points at the same time. Yet this misunderstanding is only coming from the sussokan not being taught correctly.

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