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Learning Zen Meditation

ZAZEN - Zen Meditation.

Zen is a part of Mahayana tradition, but unlike other schools of Buddhism in that tradition, Zen does not put too much emphasize on some basic aspects of the bodhisattva path, such as paying homage, making offerings, practicing confession, and the precepts. In the beginning, some of the Zen mediation practitioners should wonder why they are not making any offerings to buddhas and bodhisattvas. Why don’t they pay homage to buddhas and bodhisattvas? But the truth is that they do it every time they chant before a meal, these things were so built into their daily life that they took them for granted or didn’t even notice them.

There is no object in zen meditation, its objectless.

There is objectless meditation in other Buddhist traditions such as the objectless meditation In Vajrayana Esoteric Buddhism, but it is the most advanced meditation. Usually practitioners work for many years before they can do objectless meditation.

There are not stages in Zen Meditation. There is a story about Seigen Gyoshi - a Zen Buddhist monk during the Tang Dynasty. He went to the Sixth Ancestor and asked, “How can I avoid falling into steps and stages?” And the Ancestor said, “What have you been practicing?” Seigen said, “I haven’t even been practicing the Four Noble Truths [that is, I haven’t even started the beginning practice].” And the Ancestor said, “Well, what stage have you fallen into?” And Seigen said, “How could I have fallen into a stage if I haven’t even practiced the Noble Truths?”

In the Japanese tradition, learning is generally 80% watching and 20% instruction. When you practice the precepts, meditation comes alive. 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.

Starting practicing Zazen

Step 1: Find a place with no distraction.

Step 2: Your body position. Because the body and mind are one, our posture directly effects our breathing and state of mind. Cross your legs in the lotus or half-lotus position, or sitting on a chair. Keeping the back straight and centered allows the diaphragm to move freely and the mind to find stability. An upright spine allows our breathing to be deep, easy, and natural.

Step 3: Place your hands. The left hand rests in the palm of the right hand, the thumbs are in line with each other, pressing lightly against one another, and the edges of both hands are in contact with the lower abdomen.

Step 4: The chin is pulled in, the back of the head is stretched, the nose is on the same vertical line as the navel, and the shoulders are relaxed. The mouth is closed, the tip of the tongue is against the palate, and the jaw is relaxed. The eyes are half-closed, the gaze falls naturally toward the ground in front of you.

Step 5: Focus on your breathing. Once you’ve settled into your meditation posture, begin breathing through your nose and give your attention to completely experiencing the breath, the simple sensation of breathing.

The inbreath will come naturally, effortlessly. After a while, you can simply observe the breathing, without modifying it, by being fully present to it.

In the beginning of the practice try counting each inhalation and each exhalation, beginning with one and counting up to ten. Inhale—at the end of the inhalation, count one. Exhale—at the end of the exhalation, count two. Continue until you get to ten, then come back to one and start again.

If you maintain the right posture and let your breathing become deep and peaceful, your mind will also become vast and peaceful.

The mind is like the surface of a pond—when the wind is blowing, the surface is disturbed, there are ripples, and sediment from the bottom is stirred. It’s difficult to see beneath the surface even though the water is, by its very nature, clear and pure.

Try to let go of expectations and goals you may create for yourself.

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