What Is Zazen?
What is “zazen” or “zuochan”?
Westerners have become familiar with the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation.” Often, they are used interchangeably. Studying each, even within a secular framework, soon makes one realize they are actually two slightly different methods for bringing a person into the present moment.
Most people are aware mindfulness and meditation practices are an integral part of Buddhism. Buddhism, just like Christianity, Judaism and Islam, have many different denominations, sects, and lineages. The result is that there are many different approaches to meditation.
Zazen (Japanese) or zuochan (Chinese) literally means “seated meditation.” It is a primary practice for the study of Zen Buddhism. It is approached in three distinct ways through 1) concentration practice 2) koan practice or 3) Shinkantaza “just sitting, or “silent illumination.”
Concentration uses an object for the mind to completely focus on, like the breath, a phrase, or an object. Koans contemplate a dialogue or phrase which will eventually test the student’s understanding, “Shinkantaza” or “silent illumination” involves discarding focus on a particular sensory or mental object to allow an experience of all phenomena as a unified whole.
Though all three methods are used within Zen Buddhism, the ultimate practice is “silent illumination.” Shinkantaza goes “beyond thinking.”
Join us to explore these methods, discuss our experience of them and investigate how they ease the suffering of our modern world. Hopefully, we all approach it with beginner’s mind. 🙂