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Zazen Or The Sitting In Meditation
Habit comes out of practice, and forms character by degrees, and
eventually works out destiny. Therefore we must practically sow
optimism, and habitually nourish it in order to reap the blissful
fruit of Enlightenment. The sole means of securing mental calmness
is the practice of Zazen, or the sitting in Meditation. This method
was known in India as Yoga as early as the Upanisad period, and
developed by the followers of the Yoga system.[FN#243] But Buddhists
sharply distinguished Zazen from Yoga, and have the method peculiar
to themselves. Kei-zan[FN#244] describes the method to the following
effect: 'Secure a quiet room neither extremely light nor extremely
dark, neither very warm nor very cold, a room, if you can, in the
Buddhist temple located in a beautiful mountainous district. You
should not practise Zazen in a place where a conflagration or a flood
or robbers may be likely to disturb you, nor should you sit in a
place close by the sea or drinking-shops or brothel-houses, or the
houses of widows and of maidens or buildings for music, nor should
you live in close proximity to the place frequented by kings,
ministers, powerful statesmen, ambitious or insincere persons. You
must not sit in Meditation in a windy or very high place lest you
should get ill. Be sure not to let the wind or smoke get into your
room, not to expose it to rain and storm. Keep your room clean.
Keep it not too light by day nor too dark by night. Keep it warm in
winter and cool in summer. Do not sit leaning against a wall, or a
chair, or a screen. You must not wear soiled clothes or beautiful
clothes, for the former are the cause of illness, while the latter
the cause of attachment. Avoid the Three Insufficiencies-that is to
say, insufficient clothes, insufficient food, and insufficient sleep.
Abstain from all sorts of uncooked or hard or spoiled or unclean
food, and also from very delicious dishes, because the former cause
troubles in your alimentary canal, while the latter cause you to
covet after diet. Eat and drink just too appease your hunger and
thirst, never mind whether the food be tasty or not. Take your meals
regularly and punctually, and never sit in Meditation immediately
after any meal. Do not practise Dhyana soon after you have taken a
heavy dinner, lest you should get sick thereby. Sesame, barley,
corn, potatoes, milk, and the like are the best material for your
food. Frequently wash your eyes, face, hands, and feet, and keep
them cool and clean.
[FN#243] See Yoga Sutra with the Commentary of Bhoja Raja
(translated by Rajendralala Mitra), pp. 102-104.
[FN#244] Kei-zan (Jo-kin), the founder of So-ji-ji, the head temple
of the So To Sect of Zen, who died at the age of fifty-eight in 1325.
He sets forth the doctrine of Zen and the method of practising Zazen
in his famous work, entitled Za-zen-yo-jin-ki.
'There are two postures in Zazen--that is to say, the crossed-leg
sitting, and the half crossed-leg sitting. Seat yourself on a thick
cushion, putting it right under your haunch. Keep your body so erect
that the tip of the nose and the navel are in one perpendicular line,
and both ears and shoulders are in the same plane. Then place the
right foot upon the left thigh, the left foot on the right thigh, so
as the legs come across each other. Next put your right hand with
the palm upward on the left foot, and your left hand on the right
palm with the tops of both the thumbs touching each other. This is
the posture called the crossed-leg sitting. You may simply place the
left foot upon the right thigh, the position of the hands being the
same as in the cross-legged sitting. This posture is named the half
'Do not shut your eyes, keep them always open during whole
Meditation. Do not breathe through the mouth; press your tongue
against the roof of the mouth, putting the upper lips and teeth
together with the lower. Swell your abdomen so as to hold the breath
in the belly; breathe rhythmically through the nose, keeping a
measured time for inspiration and expiration. Count for some time
either the inspiring or the expiring breaths from one to ten, then
beginning with one again. Concentrate your attention on your breaths
going in and out as if you are the sentinel standing at the gate of
the nostrils. If you do some mistake in counting, or be forgetful of
the breath, it is evident that your mind is distracted.'
Chwang Tsz seems to have noticed that the harmony of breathing is
typical of the harmony of mind, since he says: The true men of old
did not dream when they slept. Their breathing came deep and
silently. The breathing of true men comes (even) from his heels,
while men generally breathe (only) from their throats.[FN#245] At
any rate, the counting of breaths is an expedient for calming down of
mind, and elaborate rules are given in the Zen Sutra,[FN#246] but
Chinese and Japanese Zen masters do not lay so much stress on this
point as Indian teachers.
[FN#245] Chwang Tsz, vol. iii., p. 2.
Next: The Breathing Exercise Of The Yogi
Previous: The Third Step In The Mental Training