What is Zazen – NOTE

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Kodo Sawaki practicing zazen
Kodo Sawaki practicing zazen

In zen Buddhism, Sitting meditation or zazen (座禅; literally ‘sit, contemplate’) is ameditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind and attaininsight into the nature of existence. Zazen is performed on a mat called a zabuton while sitting on a cushion called zafu. The common positions used to sit on the zafu are:

  • kekkafuza (full-lotus)
  • hankafuza (half-lotus)
  • burmese
  • seiza (a position in which the legs are folded under the body when seated on a bench or zafu).
  • western (a position which many westerns adopt – meditating while sitting upright on a chair usually with a wedge to keep the natural curve of the spine).

The hands are placed together in the “cosmic mudra“. During zazen, one breathes from the hara or belly and the eyes are half-lowered, being neither fully open nor shut.

Long periods of zazen, usually performed in groups at a Zendo (meditation hall), may alternate with periods of kinhin (walking meditation). The beginning of a zen period is announced by ringing a bell three times (shijosho), followed by the various practices of discipline and the end of zazen, which is announced by ringing the bell once (hozensho). Before and after sitting on the zafu, zen practitioners gassho (palms together in front of the chest) bow to the cushion, fellow practitioners and teacher.

See also: Buddhism