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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.

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