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 follower
of the Yoga system. But Buddhists

sharply distinguished Zazen from Yoga, and have the method peculiar

to themselves. Kei-zan 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.

See Yoga Sutra with the Commentary of Bhoja Raja

(translated by Rajendralala Mitra), pp. 102-104.

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

crossed-leg sitting.'

'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." At

any rate, the counting of breaths is an expedient for calming down of

mind, and elaborate rules are given in the Zen Sutra, but

Chinese and Japanese Zen masters do not lay so much stress on this

point as Indian teachers.

Chwang Tsz, vol. iii., p. 2.