To receive beginning instruction in zazen at the Monastery, come to the Sunday Morning Program or Wednesday Evening Zazen. All of our weekend retreats, including the Introduction to Zen Training Weekend, also include beginning instruction for newcomers.
Zazen, a form of seated meditation, is at the very heart of Zen practice. In fact, Zen is known as the “meditation school” of Buddhism. Zazen is the study of the self. Master Dogen said, “To study the Buddha Way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.” To be enlightened by the ten thousand things is to recognize the unity of the self and all things. The Buddha sat in meditation to realize his enlightenment, and for 2,500 years this meditation tradition has continued, passed down to us from generation to generation. The Buddha’s meditation practice spread from India to China, to Japan, to other parts of Asia, and then finally to the West. The essential aspects of zazen are fairly easy to communicate and are important for both beginning and mature practitioners. At the same time, a person’s experience of meditation can change profoundly if they practice consistently. With consistent practice, zazen transforms our mind, heart and life.
We tend to see body, breath, and mind as separate, but in zazen we begin to see how they are one inseparable reality. We first give our attention to the position of our body in zazen, establishing an awake and relaxed posture. Because the body and mind are one, our posture directly effects our breathing and state of mind. A stable, relaxed, wakeful posture helps us cultivate a mind that is stable, relaxed and wakeful. The most effective zazen posture is the position of the seated Buddha. Sitting on the floor is recommended because it is grounded and offers a more stable base. We use a zafu, a small pillow that raises the pelvis and hips just a little, so that the knees can touch the ground. This will form a tripod base that is natural, grounded and stable.