The Art of Zen Meditation

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What is this essence of life? How can we experience it? Why is it so important to do this? What effect will this experience have in our daily lives? This is the first English-language collection of the literary works of Soen Nakagawa Roshi. Find an intimate, in-depth portrait of this great Zen master through his poems, letters, journal entries, and other writings, illustrated with his calligraphies. A fiery and intensely dynamic Zen teacher and artist, Hakuin — is credited with almost single-handedly revitalizing Japanese Zen after three hundred years of decline.

A charismatic and extraordinary Zen teacher and artist, Hakuin — is credited with almost single-handedly reforming and revitalizing Japanese Zen from a state of extreme spiritual decline. It brings together many teaching stories that were hidden for centuries and unknown until this volume. It makes available for the first time his complete commentaries on the Gateless Gate , one of the most important and beloved of all Zen texts, as well as on koans from the Blue Rock Annals and the Book of Equanimity.

The strange verbal paradoxes called koans have been used traditionally in Zen training to help students attain a direct realization of truths inexpressible in words. In this new edition of The Iron Flute , one hundred of the most challenging and enlightening koan from the Chinese Chan Zen patriarchs of the Tang and Sung dynasties are presented, along with commentary from the great Zen masters Genro, Fugai, and Nyogen, plus an in-depth biography of author Nyogen Senzaki, a pioneer in bringing Zen Buddhism to the West.


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The Dhammapada , edited by Eknath Easwaran. While the latter pleases the senses, the former stimulates the mind and emotions to contemplate the essence of reality.

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This artistic sensibility has had an enormous impact on Japanese culture up to modern times. Department of Asian Art. Brinker, Helmut, and Hiroshi Kanazawa. Zen: Masters of Meditation in Images and Writings. Zurich: Artibus Asiae, Levine, Gregory, and Yukio Lippit. New York: Japan Society, Mason, Penelope.

History of Japanese Art. Zafus are usually around inches in diameter but can be found in a variety of sizes.

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You can also utilize a thick blanket as a homemade zabuton. For the half-lotus position, put either foot on top of the opposite thigh, and place the other foot on the floor underneath the other thigh. For the full lotus position, put each foot on the opposite thigh with the line of the toes matching the outer line of the thighs. These postures might seem uncomfortable and unnatural for most beginners, but with practice, your legs and hips will become more flexible, your mind will relax, and you will find the posture to be quite comfortable.

If these postures are too uncomfortable, try sitting in seiza, the traditional kneeling position used in Japan for regular sitting in daily life. If that posture is also too uncomfortable, you can use a meditation bench.

Zen Buddhism - Gardens, Art and Zazen Meditation in Japan

You can also sit on a chair without using the backrest. The important point of this posture is to keep the body upright and well balanced; try not to lean in any direction, neither right nor left, neither forward nor backward. Whatever the position you choose to adopt, make sure that your back and neck stay as straight as possible. Do not be too tensed or too relaxed while you do this; try to find balance in your posture.

Keep your mouth closed during zazen; your teeth should be together, and your tongue should be against the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth. Traditionally in Zen, the eyes are kept open during meditation.

Zen as a Way of Thought and Zazen

This prevents the meditator from daydreaming or becoming drowsy. Without focusing on nothing in particular, direct your vision about one meter in front of you on the floor.


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Your eyes will naturally come to rest in a position that is half opened and half closed. When doing zazen in a soto dojo meditation hall , the meditator sit facing a wall in order to avoid distracted by external movement. It is suggested to do the same at home. The position of the hands during Zazen is the same for the full lotus, half lotus, seiza and chair positions.


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This hand position is called the Cosmic Mudra or Hokkaijoin in Japanese. First, put your left hand on the right one, and palms turned towards the sky. Now, make an oval by touching the tips of the thumbs together so that your thumbs touch each other and form a somewhat straight line. The tips of your thumbs should lightly touch each other. Both of your wrists should rest on your thighs; the edge of your hands should rest against your belly.

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Keep your shoulders relaxed. There are two reasons for this hand position. First, shape of the hands harmonizes the condition of our minds.