Thursday, November 13, 2008

ZEN Sitting

We had our first Zen meditation session yesterday at the Yoshukai Karate Dojo.

Zen meditation is not easy - It is however, the only way into Buddhism. 8 centuries ago, Master DOGEN, founder of Soto Zen, describe in his FUKAN ZAZENGI the basics of Zazen :

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?

At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth together and lips shut. Always keep your eyes open, and breathe softly through your nose.

Once you have adjusted your posture, take a breath and exhale fully, rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking. Not thinking — what kind of thinking is that? Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen.

This text was written in the 13th century for Japanese people used to sit on the ground and had probably never sat on a chair; the Lotus or half Lotus position were familiar to them.
Most people in the West get interested in Zen after the age of 40. Our bodies may not let us practice in positions (repeated injuries have damaged my knees, and they will absolutely NOT cooperate...). My interest in Martial Arts and Taoist meditation taught me that the most important thing is to keep the Spine erect and as straight as possible - to sit like a tower or pillar.

It is perfectly possible to do so when kneeling in Seiza or sitting on a bench or chair.

Read the full version of FUKAN ZAZENGI

No comments: