Zazen means sitting in silence, a state of being in
Japanese word Zazen is not easy to translate. Terms like
"concentration" or "meditation" are somehow not suitable,
because they imply that the mind centers itself around an
object. Even the common term "meditation" originally
describes a process of contemplating about an object. But
what is Zazen?
day seeing Yakusan sitting in Zazen, Sekito asked him: "What
are you doing?"
Yakusan answered: "I'm not doing anything at all."
Sekito said: "In that case, you are sitting idly."
Yakusan replied: "If I were sitting idly, the I would be
Sekito asked: "You say you are not doing anything. What is
this 'not doing'?"
Yakusan replied: "Not even the ten thousand sages
Zazen is doing nothing. We are however used to
constantly doing something. "To do" something without goal
or purpose seems an unnecessary waste of time to us.
Activity gives us the feeling of continuity regardless of
the actual sense or nonsense of our actions. Therefore we
prefer to engage in thousands of other things rather than
starting with Zazen. Most of our problems are rooted in the
inability to sit silently. Particularly western people are
very restless. We waste our live in endless activities. Our
mind never quietens. We are carried away in an never ending
cycle of events. Unaware of the deeper motives of our
actions, we remain involved in an endless chain of cause and
Zazen is stopping. But usually we are ready to do
this only if we find that our motives and actions do not
lead to the desired success. We rather tend to project our
thoughts and we do things to make impressions on others. We
want to be seen in certain ways by others. But in this way
we are constantly looking on others, loosing ourself. As
long as one does not know oneself, one wants to become
something or is imagining to be something and is
disappointed if one is not loved.
Zazen is not goal-oriented, it is without purpose and
without supportive devices. Zazen is observation and let go.
Zazen is to be here and now. However, we experience the
present moment only once our consciousness is free from the
processes of thought and identification. It is not the
achieving of a goal, but the state of being awake, which
then has it's own meaning.
Zazen is direct seeing into the nature of one's own
being. There is no conception, no object, over which one
meditates. Our brain forms and stores emotional, conceptual
and graphical samples and interprets them. Zazen is
awareness without anticipation. All interpretations are the
attempt to derive the future from the past. This way we miss
the direct perception of the world. To let go of accumulated
knowledge seems dangerous to us, because it means the end of
routine and security.
Zazen is silence, stability and
openness. The body is like a mountain, the spirit is
like the sky. If too many thoughts are clouding the
perception, we not only loose contact with ourselfs, we also
loose compassion and humanity. But even when it is cloudy,
the sun is shining behind the clouds. If thoughts and
emotions are calming down, we start remembering the nature
of ourselfs. Like undisturbed water, our consciousness
returns to it's natural state.
Zazen is not an auto-hypnotic technique and
has nothing to do with any kind of visualisations. The
awareness is wide and open and not focused in any way. It is
not pondering and wandering around terms or phantasies.
Zazen means to become aware of the film which is playing on
the screen of our mind, seeing thoughts come and go without
judgment or fixation.
Zazen is not concerned with metaphysical
speculation or spectacular experiences; it has
nothing to do with mystification, esoterics or new age.
Zazen is not asceticism. Zazen is not a dry and
serious affair. Zazen is a play, the highest play you
can play, alone or with others.
Zazen is returning to the source, becoming
intimate with oneself.
Practice of Zazen
The wind blows, but the mountain is
can be practiced alone or in a group.
In a calm room, one chooses a place where one feels
comfortable and can stay silent throughout the sitting.
Zazen is not an escape from the world. One must not create a
separation between oneself and the world and it is not
necessary to look for a perfect outer situation.
Before one begins to sit, it is good to relax by shaking,
stretching or other body exercises. One's clothes should be
loose, in order to breathe freely. As a beginner, one should
not struggle to sit for an uncomfortably long time. It is
good to start off with half an hour and to gradually extend
the time of sitting intuitively.
one sits in the half lotus position on a cushion
facing a neutral wall or looking ahead into an
open space. A Zafu cushion filled with
Kopak or buckwheat has the right hardness, so
that one neither sinks nor sits unpleasantly
hard. As a substitute, one can also use a folded
blanket to sit on. A blanket or a soft carpet on
the floor provides added comfort as well as
protection against the cold. It is necessary to
sit straight up with the knees touching the
ground so that the spinal column stands
comfortably in a vertical position. One sits on
the front section of the cushion and crosses
In the full lotus position the left foot is
placed on the right thigh and the right foot on
the left thigh. Since however in the west we are
not accustomed to sitting like this, the half
lotus position is recommended as an easier
alternative. This posture requires that only the
right foot be placed on the left
If one sits properly upright, both knees should touch the
ground. It is important to realize that it is not necessary
to torture oneself in any way! The form just serves to
enable one to sit freely. Asceticism or other ideals have
nothing to do with Zen. If the half lotus position is
impossible, one can cross one's legs without putting one
foot on the high of the other one. If even that is
impossible, other alternatives are to sit on a meditation
bench or to sit on a cushion in a kneeling position. Those
who are unable to sit on the ground can sit in a chair while
the search for the right way to sit should be
guided by trusting our own senses. If the body
is balanced it carries itself and one is able to
sit quietly, and there is no reason to do
anything, outwardly or inwardly. It is important
not to lean upon anything and to find a relaxed
and strain free attitude. The back is held
naturally and the shoulders are relaxed. The
arms fall easily and freely, a little away from
the body. The head is held upright and the chin
sits is relaxed and a little back. The hands
rest underneath the navel,whereby the left hand
rests in the right hand, so that the middle
joints of the fingers lie on top of each other.
The thumbs touch and the view is soft and
directed about a meter before one towards the
ground. One's half-closed eyes do not look at
anything in particular, even if one sees
everything intuitively! The view goes inward.
One's mouth is closed.
sitting the breath is not manipulated. If one
sits correctly, breathing occurs in a natural
way by itself. After a short time a natural
rhythm arises, the body's center of gravity is
shifted downward and the breath flows gently on
it's own. After exhaling deeply the inhalation
follows completely naturally. Zazen means to see
the reality of one's existence,without
interpreting it. The observer is not identified
with the observed. The perception is direct. The
mind is like a mirror. The internal processes
are observed without judgment. Thoughts come and
go like clouds. Neither does one try to hold
thoughts, nor does one suppress them. They are
guests, coming and going. Although they are
present, one is free of them.
spirit flows freely without holding on to anything. The
journey is completely open. Eased and open one enters with
the whole being, without spending energy. Our memory
constantly projects new movies onto the internal canvas. If
you find yourself lost in thoughts, just let go. As if
before a mirror, everything passes by. Here there is no work
to do, no right or wrong, no confusion. The awareness is
total, without judgment. The heart and the mind are quiet.
Without conceptions of space and time one is here now.
Simply sitting, and that's it. One is free and at the same
time conditioned by everything.
The first step is to remember one's own nature and get
rooted therein. If one becomes capable of observing thoughts
and feelings in one's everyday life, one becomes independent
of the form of sitting. Without hunting for things, one
plays an active part in day to day life. Out of the polarity
between silence and action contrasts and contradictions
appear in a new light. From this arises an insight into the
mutual interdependence of all appearances, compassion, an
intelligence of the heart, and a great liberty.
Truth is a land without highways and there are no absolute
claims. No organisation, no believes, no dogmas, no priests,
no philosophical knowledge and no psychological techniques
can help us to know ourselfs and to be ourselfs. We have to
realize truth through the mirror of our relationships and by
watching the content of our mind. The uniqueness of mans
life lies not in second hand knowledge which books,
traditions or symbols supply, but in the total freedom of
all of this.
For more information browse through the literature