views updated May 17 2018

Zazen (Jap., ‘sitting’ + ‘absorption’; Chin., tsoch'an). Basic meditation practice in Chʾan/Zen, the gateway to enlightenment. Associated above all with Dōgen (his way of Zen is sometimes called shikan taza, ‘zazen alone’), it is described in his classic work Fukanzazengi:

If you wish to attain enlightenment, begin at once to practise zazen. For this meditation you need a quiet room; food and drink should be taken in moderation. Free yourself from all attachments and bring to rest the ten thousand things. Think not of good or evil; judge not on right or wrong; maintain the flow of mind, will, and consciousness; bring to an end all desire, all concepts and judgments!

To sit properly, first lay down a thick pillow and on top of this a second (round) one. One may sit either in the full or half cross-legged position. In the full position one places the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh. In the half position, only the left foot is placed upon the right thigh. Robe and belt should be worn loosely, but in order. The right hand rests on the left foot, while the back of the left hand rests on the palm of the right. The two thumbs are placed in juxtaposition. Let the body be kept upright, leaning neither to the left nor to the right, neither forward nor backward. Ears and shoulders, nose and navel must be aligned to one another. The tongue is to be kept against the palate, lips and teeth firmly closed, while the eyes should always be left open.

Now that the bodily position is in order, regulate your breathing. If a wish arises, take note of it and then dismiss it! If you practise in this way for a long time, you will forget all attachments and concentration will come naturally. That is the art of zazen. Zazen is the Dharma gate of great rest and joy. (Tr. Dumoulin.)


views updated May 23 2018


Term used in Zen Buddhism to indicate the sitting position for meditation, which usually takes place in the Zen-do or meditation hall in Zen monasteries. The meditation position is known as dhyanasana. It resembles the "lotus" position of hatha yoga known as padmasana, but the hands have a precise positioning integral to the very different method and goal of Zen meditation.