Zen Meditation


As the name Zen implies, Zen sitting meditation is the core of Zen practice and is called zazen in Japanese (Chinese tso-chan [Wade-Giles] or zuòchán [Pinyin]). During zazen, practitioners usually assume a sitting position such as the lotus, half-lotus, Burmese, or seiza postures. To regulate the mind, awareness is directed towards counting or watching the breath or put in the energy center below the navel (Chinese dan tian, Japanese tanden or hara).

Zazen cushion used by Soto-zen school.

Often, a square or round cushion (zafu) placed on a padded mat (zabuton) is used to sit on; in some cases, a chair may be used. In Japanese Rinzai Zen tradition practitioners typically sit facing the center of the room; while Japanese Soto practitioners traditionally sit facing a wall. In Soto Zen, shikantaza meditation (“just-sitting”) that is, a meditation with no objects, anchors, or content, is the primary form of practice. The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference. Considerable textual, philosophical, and phenomenological justification of this practice can be found throughout Dōgen‘s Shōbōgenzō, as for example in the “Principles of Zazen” and the “Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen”.

Rinzai Zen, instead, emphasizes attention to the breath and koan practice (q.v.). The amount of time spent daily in zazen by practitioners varies. Dōgen recommends that five minutes or more daily is beneficial for householders. The key is daily regularity, as Zen teaches that the ego will naturally resist, and the discipline of regularity is essential. Practicing Zen monks may perform four to six periods of zazen during a normal day, with each period lasting 30 to 40 minutes. Meditation as a practice can be applied to any posture. Walking meditation is called kinhin. Successive periods of zazen are usually interwoven with brief periods of walking meditation to relieve the legs.



5 thoughts on “Zen Meditation

  1. Pingback: Zen: shin ku myo u | New Earth Heartbeat

  2. Pingback: Our Practice Group | The Boundless Way Zen Down East

  3. Pingback: Zen: shin ku myo u | heartflow2013

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