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Introduction to ZAZEN meditation

Zazen is a very popular Zen Buddhist practice. “Za” means “ Sitting” and “ Zen” is a Japanese word meaning “Meditation” or “Meditative State”, so Zazen means “Sitting Meditation”. Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment and de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct self-realization through meditation. Zazen calms the mind and increases the ability to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain Enlightenment (Satori).

Zazen practice begins with the practice of concentration and progresses further through Koans (means “public case”), and whole-hearted sitting (Shikantaza).

  • Concentration: The initial stages of training in Zazen usually emphasize concentration, by focusing on the breath often aided by counting.
  • Koan Introspection: Having developed the power of concentration, the practitioner can now focus his or her attention on a “Koan” as an object of meditation. Koan consists of a word, phrase , statement, dialogue,  story, anecdote, or question, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but may be accessible through intuition. Since koans are, ostensibly, not solvable by intellectual reasoning, koan introspection is designed to shortcut the intellectual process leading to direct realization of a reality beyond thought. One example of Koan is, “Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?”
  • Just Sitting (Shikantaza): Shikantaza is objectless meditation, in which the practitioner does not use any specific objects, anchors, or content of meditation, but uses the power developed in concentration to remain aware of thoughts that arise and pass in the present moment without any interference.

By practice one by one, the practitioner learns to regulate the body, then the breath and finally to regulate the mind.

The Technique:
The posture of Zazen is seated, with folded legs and hands, and an erect but settled spine. It is important to know the sitting techniques to be able to sit longer in Meditation. Although Meditation happens in mind and not in the sitting posture, so one should not stuck up in having an ideal sitting posture.

Sitting Posture: The common positions to sit are:

  • Burmese Position: a cross-legged posture in which legs are crossed and both feet rest flat on the floor. The knees should rest on the floor. The ankles are placed together in front of the sitter. One ankle is in front of the other, not over.
  • Half-lotus Position (Hankafuza): Left foot is placed up onto the right thigh and the right leg is tucked under the left thigh. Both knees should touch the ground or the cushion if being used.
  • Full-lotus Position (Kekkafuza): Cross-legged placing each foot up on the opposite thigh.
  • Kneeling Position (Seiza): Kneeling with hips resting on ankles. While using a bench or cushion, the buttocks rest on the upturned feet.

One should improve the sitting posture over the period of time and can use even chair to sit in the beginning.

Hands: The hands are folded together into a simple cosmic mudra. Place hands faced palm up with thumbs lightly touching. Less dominant hand should rest on top of the more dominant hand. The knuckles of both hands overlap. Keep elbows separate from the body. The hands form an oval, which can rest on the upturned soles of feet if sitting full lotus or rest on thighs if sitting in Burmese or any other position.

Eyes: Close the eyes. The eyelids can be half-lowered, the eyes being neither fully open nor shut so that the practitioner is not distracted by outside objects but at the same time is kept awake. The eyes are kept lowered, with the gaze resting on the ground about two or three feet in front of body.

Breathing: One breathes from the hara , the center of gravity in the belly. The hara is located around two inches below the navel. By keeping the back straight, the diaphragm is allowed to move freely, which results in deeper, easier and natural breathing. There should be no tension in the body. Breathing slows and in deep Zazen one breaths only 2 or 3 times in a minute. Attention to breath increase the sharpness of awareness and the power of concentration called “Joriki”, the ability to put your mind where you want, when you want and for how long you want at any place. This ultimately leads to Samadhi or single-pointedness of mind.

Counting: The beginners can utilize the technique of count, counting each inhalation and exhalation until they get to ten. On reaching ten, start all over from one. On loosing the counting, simply begin from one again. When beginners reach the level of reaching to the count of ten without getting disturbed by thoughts, they can start to count an inhalation and exhalation as one instead of two. Eventually practitioners can just concentrate on the breath, without any need of the counting.

Time: If sitting longer is an issue due to physical discomfort or the practical constraint of time, start with around 15 minutes. Increase by 5 minutes every week to take the practice to an hour.

It is better to give the gap of around 2 hours after taking the meal to sit for Meditation.

Benefits:
The aim of Zazen is to suspend all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, opinions, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. In Zazen, body, breath, and mind come together as one reality. Zazen is the study of the Self. Mind becomes free, not clinging to anything. Zazen settles the mind in its original state of purity and clarity, from where one can see the world as it is. Once the mind is able to be unhindered by its many layers, one will then be able to uncover and realize one's true nature or Buddha nature.

Category: Zazen | Added by: justonedot (2014-06-10)
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