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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).
By practice one by one, the practitioner learns to regulate the body, then the breath and finally to regulate the mind.
Sitting Posture: The common positions to sit are:
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.
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