• WHAT IS ZEN?

    Zen is a stripped-down, meditation-based form of Buddhism that has no interest in dogma. Zen is personal, direct experience of life passed on from master to disciple, teacher to student.

    ZAZEN PRACTICE

    Zazen ( Zen meditation ) is the most important practice in Zen. Emphasis on personal direct experience is fundamental, we practice our lives just sat in meditation. Shikan taza ( Just Sitting ) is an incredibly simple practice to do, but also the most difficult. All the teacher says is "Just Sit". It is not something that is done in stages but a full awareness of the present, of the present body and breath; nothing more than this. We are aware of the posture. We sit like this is the last moment of our lives, nothing more to do than fully live this moment. But zazen is more than this sitting. It is a state of mind that extends into all activities. Work is zazen; eating is zazen; sleeping, walking, standing, going to the toilet — all are zazen practice.

     

    TAKING UP A ZEN LIFE

    First find the location and schedule of a Zen Centre or Zen meditation group nearest to you, show up, and keep showing up (thats the important bit!). Eventually you will learn the formalities of the local Zen meditation hall; you can sign up for dokusan (private, intense, formal interview with a teacher). You can try a one-day sesshin (meditation retreat). After some time you’ll be ready to attend a seven-day sesshin. Sesshin is a life-transforming experience, no matter what happens or how many koans that you pass. As time goes on you will establish a relationship with a  Zen teacher, and you will find this relationship increasingly warm and important in your life, so much so that perhaps some day you will want to take vows as a lay Zen practitioner, joining the lineage family. It is also possible that you do not ever want to go to a week sesshin, and that Zen classes, one-day retreats, meetings with the teacher from time to time, and the peace that comes from a daily meditation practice is all that you need and that nothing more is necessary. What will all this effort do for you? Everything and nothing. You will become a Zen student, devoted to your ongoing practice, to kindness and peacefulness, and to the ongoing endless effort to understand the meaning of time why you were born and that you will die. You will still have plenty of challenges in your life, you will still feel emotion, possibly more now than ever, but the emotion will be sweet, even if it is grief or sadness. Many things, good and bad, happen in a lifetime, but you won’t mind. You will see your life and your death as a gift, a possibility. This is the essential point of Zen.