Zazen (literally "seated meditation"; Japanese: 座禅; simplified Chinese: 坐禅; traditional Chinese: 坐禪; pinyin: zuò chán; Wade–Giles: tso4-ch'an2, pronounced [tswô ʈʂʰǎn]) is a meditative discipline that is typically the primary practice of the Zen Buddhist tradition.[1][2] The precise meaning and method of zazen varies from school to school, but in general it can be regarded as a means of insight into the nature of existence. In the Japanese Rinzai school, zazen is usually associated with the study of koans. The Sōtō School of Japan, on the other hand, only rarely incorporates koans into zazen, preferring an approach where the mind has no object at all, known as shikantaza.[3]

Kodo Sawaki Zazen
Kodo Sawaki doing zazen


Zazen is considered the heart of Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist practice.[1] The aim of zazen is just sitting, that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them.[3][4]



Các thiền sinh Tông Tào Động tại Nhật Bản đang thực hành Thiền Mặc Chiếu
Monks using zafus for zazen
Hsuan Hua Hong Kong 1.jpeg
A young master Hsuan Hua sitting in full lotus

In Zen temples and monasteries, practitioners traditionally sit zazen as a group in a meditation hall, usually referred to as the zendo. The practitioner sits on a cushion called a zafu,[2] which itself is usually placed on top of a low, flat mat called a zabuton.[2]

Before taking one's seat, and after rising at the end of the period of zazen, a Zen practitioner performs a gassho bow to their seat, and a second bow to fellow practitioners.[5]

The beginning of a period of zazen is traditionally announced by ringing a bell three times (shijosho), and the end of a round by ringing the bell either once or twice (hozensho).

Long periods of zazen may alternate with periods of kinhin (walking meditation).[6][7]


The posture of zazen is seated, with folded legs and hands, and an erect but settled spine.[8] The hands are folded together into a simple mudra over the belly.[8] In many practices, the practitioner breathes from the hara (the center of gravity in the belly) and the eyelids are half-lowered, the eyes being neither fully open nor shut so that the practitioner is neither distracted by, nor turning away from, external stimuli.

The legs are folded in one of the standard sitting styles:[2]

  • Kekkafuza (full-lotus)
  • Hankafuza (half-lotus)
  • Burmese (a cross-legged posture in which the ankles are placed together in front of the sitter)
  • Seiza (a kneeling posture using a bench or zafu)

In addition, it is not uncommon for modern practitioners to practice zazen in a chair,[2] often with a wedge or cushion on top of it so that one is sitting on an incline, or by placing a wedge behind the lower back to help maintain the natural curve of the spine. One can sit comfortably, but not too comfortably, so as to avoid falling asleep. While each of these styles is commonly taught today, Master Dogen recommended only Kekkafuza and Hankafuza.


In his book Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau says that practitioners in the Rinzai school face in, towards each other with their backs to the wall, and in the Sōtō school, practitioners face the wall or a curtain.[9] Kapleau quotes Hakuun Yasutani's lectures for beginners. In lecture four, Yasutani describes the five kinds of zazen: bompu, gedo, shojo, daijo, and saijojo (he adds the latter is the same thing as shikantaza).[10]


Very generally speaking, zazen practice is taught in one of three ways.

  1. Concentration
  2. Koan Introspection
  3. Shikantaza (just sitting)[11]

Koan practice is usually associated with the Rinzai school and Shikantaza with the Sōtō school. In reality many Zen communities use both methods depending on the teacher and students.


The initial stages of training in zazen resemble traditional Buddhist samatha meditation in actual practice, and emphasize the development of the power of concentration, or joriki[12] (定力) (Sanskrit samādhibala). The student begins by focusing on the breath at the hara/tanden[13] with mindfulness of breath (ānāpānasmṛti) exercises such as counting breath (sūsokukan 数息観) or just watching it (zuisokukan 随息観). Mantras are also sometimes used in place of counting. Practice is typically to be continued in one of these ways until there is adequate "one-pointedness" of mind to constitute an initial experience of samadhi. At this point, the practitioner moves to one of the other two methods of zazen.

Koan introspection

Having developed awareness, the practitioner can now focus his or her consciousness on a koan as an object of meditation. Since koans are, ostensibly, not solvable by intellectual reasoning, koan introspection is designed to shortcut the intellectual process leading to direct realization of a reality beyond thought.


Shikantaza is a form of meditation, in which the practitioner does not use any specific object of meditation;[3] rather, practitioners remain as much as possible in the present moment, aware of and observing what passes through their minds and around them. Dogen says, in his Shobogenzo, "Sitting fixedly, think of not thinking. How do you think of not thinking? Nonthinking. This is the art of zazen."[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b Warner, Brad (2003). Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality. Wisdom Publications. p. 86. ISBN 086171380X.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Zazen Instructions". Zen Mountain Monastery. December 30, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Warner, Brad (2003). Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality. Wisdom Publications. pp. 189–190. ISBN 086171380X.
  4. ^ Suzuki, Shunryū (2011). Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Shambhala Publications. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-159030849-3.
  5. ^ Warner, Brad. "How To Sit Zazen". Dogen Sangha Los Angeles. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  6. ^ Heine (ed.), Steven; Wright (ed.), Dale S. (2007). Zen Ritual : Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice. Oxford University Press. p. 223. ISBN 9780198041467.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Maezumi, Hakuyu Taizan; Glassman, Bernie (2002). On Zen Practice: Body, Breath, Mind. Wisdom Publications. pp. 48–49. ISBN 086171315X.
  8. ^ a b Suzuki, Shunryū (2011). Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Shambhala Publications. p. 8. ISBN 978-159030849-3.
  9. ^ Kapleau, Philip (1989). The Three pillars of Zen: teaching, practice, and enlightenment. New York: Anchor Books. p. 10(8). ISBN 0-385-26093-8.
  10. ^ Kapleau, Philip (1989). The Three pillars of Zen: teaching, practice, and enlightenment. New York: Anchor Books. pp. 48–53. ISBN 0-385-26093-8.
  11. ^ Deshimaru, Taisen (1981) The Way of True Zen, American Zen Association, ISBN 978-0972804943
  12. ^ Carl Bielefeldt (16 August 1990). Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation. University of California Press. pp. 137–. ISBN 978-0-520-90978-6.
  13. ^ Eihei Dogen; Taigen Dan Leighton; Shōhaku Okumura; John Daido Loori (16 March 2010). Dogen's Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Koroku. Simon and Schuster. pp. 348–349. ISBN 978-0-86171-670-8.
  14. ^ Dogen. "Principles of Zazen". Soto Zen Text Project. Retrieved April 24, 2013.

Further reading

External links

  • How to sit Zazen [1]
Dave Fridmann

David Lawrence "Dave" Fridmann is an American record producer and musician. From 1990 onwards he co-produced most releases by Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. Other bands he has worked with include Weezer, Saxon Shore, Neon Indian, Wolf Gang, Ammonia, Ed Harcourt, Sparklehorse, Café Tacuba, Creaming Jesus, Elf Power, Mogwai, Thursday, Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, The Delgados, Low, Phantom Planet, Gemma Hayes, Goldrush, Tapes 'n Tapes, Hopewell, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Number Girl, Jed Davis, Zazen Boys, Sleater-Kinney and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. He has recently worked on new recordings with MGMT, Neil Finn, The Cribs, OK Go, Tame Impala, Lord Huron, Baroness, Spoon, and Interpol.

As a musician, Fridmann was the bassist and a founding member of Mercury Rev. He gave up his role as a touring member of the band in 1993 to concentrate on producing other artists. In 2001, Fridmann was included on MOJO's 100 Sonic Visionaries list and was described as "the Phil Spector of the Alt-Rock era". In 2007, he received a Grammy for The Flaming Lips' At War With The Mystics at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards (Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical). In 2010, three Fridmann-produced albums were listed on the Rolling Stone 100 Best Albums of The Decade: MGMT's Oracular Spectacular, The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, and Sleater-Kinney's The Woods.Fridmann often brings a distinctive, expansive, open sound to the albums he produces, which has much in common with that used by Mercury Rev.

Fridmann is an occasional faculty member of SUNY Fredonia, teaching sound recording techniques in the Fredonia School of Music.

In 2017, Fridmann became the director for the Western New York Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps, where he plays the bass drum.


Dōgen Zenji (道元禅師; 19 January 1200 – 22 September 1253), also known as Dōgen Kigen (道元希玄), Eihei Dōgen (永平道元), Kōso Jōyō Daishi (高祖承陽大師), or Busshō Dentō Kokushi (仏性伝東国師), was a Japanese Buddhist priest, writer, poet, philosopher, and founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan.

Originally ordained as a monk in the Tendai School in Kyoto, he was ultimately dissatisfied with its teaching and traveled to China to seek out what he believed to be a more authentic Buddhism. He remained there for five years, finally training under Tiantong Rujing, an eminent teacher of the Chinese Caodong lineage. Upon his return to Japan, he began promoting the practice of zazen (sitting meditation) through literary works such as Fukan zazengi and Bendōwa.

He eventually broke relations completely with the powerful Tendai School, and, after several years of likely friction between himself and the establishment, left Kyoto for the mountainous countryside where he founded the monastery Eihei-ji, which remains the head temple of the Sōtō school today.

Dōgen is known for his extensive writing including his most famous work, the collection of 95 essays called the Shōbōgenzō, but also Eihei Kōroku, a collection of his talks, poetry, and commentaries, and Eihei Shingi, the first Zen monastic code written in Japan, among others.

Fukan zazengi

Fukan zazengi (Japanese: 普勧坐禅儀), also known by its English translation Universal Recommendation for Zazen, is an essay describing and promoting the practice of zazen written by the 13th century Japanese Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. The date of its composition is unclear, and the text evolved significantly over the author's lifetime.

It is traditionally thought to have been composed in 1227, shortly after Dōgen's return to Japan from his years of study in China. This is based on a statement to that effect in his essay Bendōwa from 1231. However, a manuscript of Fukan zazengi discovered in modern times that was produced by Dōgen's own hand ends with a Colophon (publishing) stating it was written in 1233. This version, known as the Tenpuku manuscript, also has a number of major differences from the more widely known version, the "vulgate version". The vulgate version, which is included in the Eihei Kōroku, likely has an even later date. Carl Bielefeldt, a scholar of Dōgen's work, believes it could not have been composed before 1242 based on similarities with the Shōbōgenzō book Zazen shin, which was composed in that year. There is also a Shōbōgenzō book entitled Zazen gi, composed sometime between 1243 and 1246, that appears to draw material from the vulgate Fukan zazengi and thus suggesting it would not have been written afterwards. Regardless of the exact date of its first composition, it is clear the material went through many rounds of editing over the author's lifetime.Much of the section describing the actual practice of zazen is copied from the Zuochan yi, a meditation manual written by Changlu Zongze in the early 12th century.


A jikijitsu (直日) (Chinese: chih-jih) is the directing monk in charge of every movement of the monks coming to sit zazen in the zendo in a Japanese Zen monastery of the Rinzai School. Their position is that of head monk, and they are generally regarded as strict disciplinarians. Their position is considered most desirable to hold in the meditation hall. The jikijitsu also ensures that the monks get to sleep and wake up on time according to a strict protocol.

Muhō Noelke

Muhō Nölke (ネルケ無方) (b. March 1, 1968, as Jens Olaf Christian Nölke) is a German-born Zen monk who is presently the abbot of Antai-ji, a Japanese Sōtō Zen temple in Shin'onsen in the Mikata District of Japan's Hyōgo Prefecture. He has translated works of Dōgen and Kōdō Sawaki, and has authored four books in German and several books in Japanese.

At age 16, Muhō was introduced to zazen by one of his high school teachers and soon had the wish to become a Zen monk. To prepare for his stay in Japan, he studied Japanese at the university in Berlin, along with philosophy and physics. During his studies, he spent one year at Kyoto University and learned for the first time about Antai-ji. At age 22, he spent six months there as a lay practitioner.

Three years later, after graduating from university, Muhō was ordained as a Sōtō Zen monk under the abbot Miyaura Shinyu Rōshi. Apart from Antai-ji, he has trained for one year at the Rinzai monastery Tōfuku-ji in Kyoto, and one year at Hosshin-ji in Obama, Fukui.

After obtaining the transmission of dharma (shihō) from his teacher Miyaura Rōshi, Muhō decided to live as a homeless monk in a park in central Osaka, where he led a zazen group in 2001. Six months later, in February 2002, he learned of the sudden death of his teacher and was called back to Antai-ji. He succeeded his teacher as the ninth abbot in the spring of that year. Apart from his responsibilities at Antai-ji, he is also teaching at Chigen-ji, a Sōtō Zen priest seminary in Kyoto prefecture.Muhō has published numerous books and translations in both Japanese and German. He has also featured in several films, including documentaries by director Takeshi Kitano and broadcaster Peter Barakan's "Begin Japanology", as well as Werner Penzel's feature film "Zen for Nothing".


Rinspeed is a Swiss automobile manufacturer and tuning designer. It specialises in restoring classic cars, and tuning and modifying modern cars such as Porsches and Subarus. Since 1991, they have also designed exotic concept and special vehicles for the Geneva Motor Show and other car shows each year, but do not enter into production.

Rinspeed was founded in 1979 by Frank Rinderknecht.


A sesshin (接心, or also 摂心/攝心 literally "touching the heart-mind") is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery.

While the daily routine in the monastery requires the monks to meditate several hours a day, during a sesshin they devote themselves almost exclusively to zazen practice. The numerous 30- to 50-minute-long meditation periods are interleaved with short rest breaks, meals, and sometimes short periods of work (Japanese: 作務 samu) all performed with the same mindfulness; nightly sleep is kept to a minimum, at six hours or fewer. During the sesshin period, the meditation practice is occasionally interrupted by the master giving public talks (teisho) and individual direction in private meetings (which may be called dokusan, daisan, or sanzen) with a Zen Master.

In modern Buddhist practice in Japan and the West, sesshins are often attended by lay students, and are typically one, three, five, or seven days in length. Seven-day sesshins are held several times a year at many Zen centers, especially in commemoration of the Buddha's awakening to full enlightenment (anuttarā-samyak-saṃbodhi). At this Rohatsu sesshin, practitioners seek to relax and quiet the mind to the point of cessation of mental chatter and emotional impulse, samadhi, kensho, or satori.


Shikantaza (只管打坐) is a Japanese translation of a Chinese term for zazen introduced by Rujing, a monk of the Caodong school of Zen Buddhism, to refer to a practice called "Silent Illumination", or "Serene Reflection", by previous Caodong masters. In Japan, it is associated with the Soto school. Unlike many other forms of meditation, shikantaza does not require focused attention on a specific object (such as the breath); instead, practitioners "just sit" in a state of conscious awareness.


For the Ryukyuan king, see Shō Shin.Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind." It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.The phrase is also discussed in the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen teacher. Suzuki outlines the framework behind shoshin, noting "in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."

Shunryū Suzuki

Shunryu Suzuki (鈴木 俊隆 Suzuki Shunryū, dharma name Shōgaku Shunryū 祥岳俊隆, often called Suzuki Roshi; May 18, 1904 – December 4, 1971) was a Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, and is renowned for founding the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia (Tassajara Zen Mountain Center). Suzuki founded San Francisco Zen Center which, along with its affiliate temples, comprises one of the most influential Zen organizations in the United States. A book of his teachings, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, is one of the most popular books on Zen and Buddhism in the West.

Walking meditation

Walking meditation, also known as kinhin (Chinese: 経行; pinyin: jīngxíng; Japanese pronunciation: kinhin, kyōgyō; Korean: gyeonghyaeng; Vietnamese: kinh hành) is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen. The practice is common in Zen, Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon and Vietnamese Thiền.


A zafu (Japanese: 座蒲, pronounced [d͡zaɸɯ]) or putuan (Chinese: 蒲团, pronounced [pʰǔ.tʰwǎn]) is a round cushion. Although also a utilitarian accessory, it is best known for its use in zazen Zen meditation.

Zaren Kesh

Zaren Kesh (Persian: زرنكش‎; also known as Zazen Kesh) is a village in Kandovan Rural District, Kandovan District, Meyaneh County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 318, in 69 families.

Zazen Boys

Zazen Boys is a Japanese band formed by former Number Girl guitarist and vocalist Shutoku Mukai. Stylistically, their music consists mostly of complex rhythmic songs reminiscent of math rock, as well as extended improvisational songs during live performances.

Zazen Xstasy

Zazen Xstasy (座禅エクスタシー, Zazen Ekusutashii, Zen Meditation Ecstasy) was a live show performed by Japanese musician Sheena Ringo at the Kaho Theater (Kaho Gekijou (嘉穂劇場, kaho gekijou) in Iizuka City, Fukuoka. The event took place on July 30, 2000. The event's official name is "Shiina Ringo Jitsuen Kyūshū Zazen Ekusutashī (椎名林檎 (稀)実演キューシュー 座禅エクスタシー, Shiina Ringo (mare) Jitsuen Kyūshū Zazen Ekusutashii, Shiina Ringo (rare) Kyushu Performance Zen Meditation Ecstasy)".

A video recording of the event was released on DVD by EMI Music Japan on September 17, 2008 as part of the celebration for the 10th anniversary of Ringo Sheena's debut.

Zazen gi

Zazen gi (Japanese: 坐禪儀), also known in various English translations such as The Standard Method of Zazen or Principles of Zazen, is a book of the Shōbōgenzō by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. The book appears tenth in the 75 fascicle version of the Shōbōgenzō, and it is ordered 58th in the later chronological 95 fascicle "Honzan edition". It was presented to his students in the eleventh month of 1243 at Yoshimine shōja (吉峰精舍), a small temple where Dōgen and his sangha practiced briefly following their sudden move to Echizen Province from their previous temple Kōshōhōrin-ji earlier in the same year and before the establishment of Eihei-ji. Unlike other books of the Shōbōgenzō, it is not as much a commentary on classical Chinese Chan literature as it is a guide for the practice of zazen. The title comes from earlier Chinese texts of the same name and purpose, with a well known example found in the Chanyuan qinggui, from which Dōgen quotes extensively. His more famous Fukan zazengi, as well as Eihei shingi's Bendoho, also owe much to this Chinese text and are thus closely related to the Shōbōgenzō's Zazen gi.

Zazen shin

Zazen shin (Japanese: 坐禪箴), rendered in English as the Acupuncture Needle of Zazen, Lancet of Zazen, or Needle for Zazen, is a book of the Shōbōgenzō by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. It was written on the 19th of April in 1242 at Dōgen's monastery Kōshōhōrin-ji in Kyoto. The book appears as the 12th book in the 75 fascicle version of the Shōbōgenzō, and it is ordered 27th in the later chronological 95 fascicle Honzan editions. The title Zazen shin refers to a poem of the same title written by Hongzhi Zhengjue. Hongzhi's poem is quoted verbatim in Dōgen's Zazen shin and also presented again in modified form later in the text.

Zen Center of Los Angeles

The Zen Center of Los Angeles (ZCLA), temple name Buddha Essence Temple, is a Zen center founded by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi in 1967 that practices in the White Plum lineage.

ZCLA observes a daily schedule of zazen, Buddhist services, and work practice. The Center's programs include introductory classes, sesshin, workshops and training periods, as well as face-to-face meetings with Abbot Wendy Egyoku Nakao and other Center teachers. The sangha practices zazen and koan training in the Maezumi-Glassman lineage.ZCLA's mission is to know the Self, maintain the precepts, and serve others. The Center serves by providing the teaching, training, and transmission of Zen Buddhism. ZCLA's vision is an enlightened world in which suffering is transcended, all beings live in harmony, everyone has enough, deep wisdom is realized, and compassion flows unhindered.


Zendō (禅堂) (Chinese: Chántáng) or senbutsu-jō (選仏場) is a Japanese "meditation hall". In Zen Buddhism, the zen-dō is a spiritual dōjō where zazen (sitting meditation) is practiced. A full-sized Zen Buddhist temple will typically have at least one zen-dō as well as a hon-dō ("main hall", but sometimes translated as "Buddha hall"), which is used for ceremonial purposes, plus a variety of other buildings with different functions. However, any place where people go to practice Zen can be referred to as a zen-dō.

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