Zazen guidance
Zazen guidance


The three elements of Zazen
 The words of the sixth Zen patriarch may be translated as follows: "Outwardly, to be with pure heart, before making any distinction of good and bad is called za; inwardly, to see one's true nature without moving is called zen."
Zazen is preparing of the body, preparing of the breathing and preparing of the mind. The preparation of body, breathing and mind may be called the three elements of Zazen.
 When one wishes to sit zazen, one should eat neither too little nor too much, sleep just the right amount, neither too long nor too short: thus preparing the body and mind is of great importance.
 The philosopher Nishida Kitaro is said to have sat zazen by himself in his youth. In his work "Humble Diary" he wrote that. But in fact, zazen is really not something, that can be done easily alone. Thus it is advisable to attend a local zazen meeting and be properly instructed in sitting.

Hozumi Roshi as an unsui, a novice in the Shofuku-ji monastery

How to sit
 When sitting zazen, wear loose clothing, sit upon a thick cushion, place your right foot upon your left thigh, then place your left foot upon your right thigh. This is called the full lotus position. When one places just one leg upon the other thigh, it is called half lotus position.
 As for your hands, set your right hand palm up upon your ankle, just in front of your abdomen, then place the left hand palm up upon your right, and bring your thumbs together lightly, forming a circle. Straighten your spine, sitting straight as a pillar. Pull back your chin, keep your eyes half open, dropping your focus to a point roughly one meter ahead of you. Relax your shoulders, and fill up your lower abdomen with Ki, your energy. However, one should not tense.

(1)From standard cross-legged position, first place your right leg upon your left tigh, as far up as possible. (2)Next, place your left leg upon your right tigh. (3)Straighten your spine.

(4)Hokkaijoin: Fold your hands into a circle on your lap, the left palm over the right with your thumbs lightly touching.
Another possibility is holding with the left hand the right one.

(5)Relax your shoulders, open your eyes halfway so that your line of sight grazes the tip of your nose and falls on the ground about one meter ahead of you. ( This is half-lotus position. ) (6)Sit at ease, but solidly and in a dignified manner, like Mount Fuji towering toward heaven. ( This is the full-lotus position. )

How to breathe
 To settle your breathing, you count your breathing; this is called Susokukan. That means, one counts each breath within one's mind. Count "O-ne" as you breathe out profoundly, and breathe in. Count "Two-" as you breathe out, and breathe in. Continue this way until you reach ten, then start over again. For beginners, this is the best method. It will be easier to be concentrated.
 Breathing comprises inhalation and exhalation. In zazen, the exhalation is primary and should be longer than the inhalation. It is not to take shallow breaths from the throat. It's important that the breathing is profound and has its roots in the lower abdomen, the so called Kikai Tanden, center of energy within the body.
 Breathing is the most important prerequisite for life, so it is important not to corrupt it. In breathing, bear in mind the Kikai Tanden.
 One's energy and vitality spring from the Kikai Tanden. One's high spirits as well come from the Kikai Tanden. Here is the source of life. The lower back is also essential, but the Kikai Tanden is a significant part.
 So taking each breath with care, please try to breathe slowly and deeply. With your entire body, exhale each breath utterly, not leaving air in the body. When you exhale exhaustively, inhalation comes naturally, without intending it. In other words, it is life that is breathing.

Preparing the mind
 Human beings cannot stop breathing for even five minutes. Even while sleeping, our breathing must continue uninterrupted. Breath by breath, as you exhale utterly down to your belly, by and by the mind naturally settles. This preparation of the mind is a very difficult thing, but through proper zazen and proper breathing, the mind is prepared. Which is to say, "zenjo sanmai", a state of concentrated oneness, is of utmost importance. To that end effort and devotion are necessary.
 Zen is not something that is far away. Zen must be at work in the midst of our daily lives. Since we live but once, we should live out mutually meaningful lives.

Clothing for Zazen
 Although there are no special rules regarding clothing for zazen, something that is comfortable to sit in but is not too loud is best. It is inappropriate to sit awkwardly in a suit and cinched necktie. As for pants, it is desirable to use a spare pair. Wear clothing loosely. Simple clothing is best.
 When wearing Kimono, a Hakama is recommended. According to one's preference, one can have a Zazengi made. It is good to arrange the appropriate clothing. It is also neat in appearance. As much as possible, one hopes to do so.
 During zazen, socks, watches, etc. should be removed. Except for special cases, eyeglasses should also be removed.

Zazen Meetings
 When entering the zendo, one must not enter through the entrance near the altar where Monjubosatsu is enshrined. Instead, one enters through the entrance on the side where one sits.
 Not entering through the front entrance is also a sign of humility. One enters the zendo by folding one's hands together in gassho and bowing one's head. One should walk quietly inside the zendo.
 When walking, the rule in Rinzai Zen is that one advances with the left foot and withdraws with the right foot.
 Inside the zendo unnecessary conversation is not permitted. Greetings are unnecessary.
 When reciting sutras, try to do so with devotion in a loud voice, from the belly.
 One should not read the sutras in one's own way. Men of old said to read by the ears. That is, listen to what everyone is reading with your ears and harmonize with it. It is easy to say but hard to do.
 Reciting sutras in unison gives a feeling of refreshment, not only to those chanting but also to those listening. Chanting sutras is truly a good thing.

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