What is Zen

by Zen Master Seung Sahn

Zen is very simple... What are you?


In this whole world everyone searches for happiness outside,
but nobody understands their true self inside.

Everybody says, "I" -- "I want this, I am like that..." But nobody understands this "I." Before you were born, where did your I come from? When you die, where will your I go? If you sincerely ask, "what am I?" sooner or later you will run into a wall where all thinking is cut off. We call this "don't know."



 

Zen is keeping this "don't know" mind always and everywhere.

Zazen

On Zen Meditation
From Exposed in the Golden Wind - An Introduction to Zen and Buddhist Forms

Chanting

"Chanting meditation means keeping a not-moving mind, perceiving yout true self. So when you are chanting, you must perceive the sound of your voice: you and the universe have already become one, suffering disappears, true happiness appears. This is called Nirvana. If you keep Nirvana, your mind is clear like space. Clear like space means clear like a mirror. Red comes; red. White comes; white. Someone is happy; I am happy. Someone is sad; I am sad. Someone is hungry; give them food. The name for this is Great Love, Great Compassion, the Great Boddhisattva Way. This is chanting meditation, chanting Zen."


--Zen Master Seung Sahn

The Heart Sutra

 

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita perceives that all five skandhas are empty and is saved from all suffering and distress.

 

Shariputra: form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness, form.

 

The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

 

Shariputra: all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they do not appear or disappear, are not tainted or pure, do not increase or decrease.

 

Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

 

No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness. No ignorance and also no extinction of it, and so forth until no old age and death and also no extinction of them. No suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path, no cognition, also no attainment with nothing to attain.

 

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and the mind is no hindrance; without any hindrance no fears exist. Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.

 

In the three worlds all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

 

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, is the great bright mantra, is the utmost mantra, is the supreme mantra which is able to relieve all suffering and is true, not false. So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra, proclaim the mantra which says:

 

gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasam gate bodhi svaha

Sitting Zen is practiced on a large rectangular mat upon which one or two smaller support cushions are placed. Daily sittings are done facing the wall, with the exception of long sittings (generally one night a week), all of a Yong Maeng Jong Jin, and short sittings before a Dharma Talk, when the practitioners face the center of the Dharma Room. If there is a question about which way to face, the Head Dharma Teacher always indicates the correct direction.

 

Sitting periods begin when the Head Dharma Teacher hits the chugpi three times. If you come to the Dharma Room after the chugpi has been hit, you must enter silently so as not to disturb people already sitting. As a general rule no one should enter or leave the Dharma Room during sitting periods. You may enter the room when the chugpi is hit again, either once to signal walking meditation or three times to signal the end of a sitting period.

 

There are many acceptable sitting positions that can be used for meditation. The legs may be in half lotus, full lotus, Burmese style Indian style, or kneeling, most important is that the back be kept straight and shoulders relaxed. The chin is tucked in and eyes are half-open, looking down at a 45° angle. The hands are held in the "universal mudra" which is done by resting the hands in your lap, palms facing up, with the left hand on top of the right, and the thumbs touching lightly, forming an ellipse.

 

Attention to the breath is important for beginners so breathing should be centered in the lower belly. It is helpful to begin sitting by taking several long deep breaths. Then the breathing should be relaxed and natural; the breath should breathe you.

Bowing

On Doing Bows
From Exposed in the Golden Wind - An Introduction to Zen and Buddhist Forms

Sword requires considerable strenght in the legs, for this we rely on bowing. There are eight basic forms of bowing which are; hapchang, standing bow, half standing bow, sitting bow, full prostration, half prostration, three prostrations and 108 prostrations. In the following section the use and fom of each of these types of bows will be discussed.

 

Bowing practice or prostrations are an effective means of prosessing our life's karma. Bowing helps us truly understand the Zen aspiration of "how may I help you" in a very real and physical sense. Performing 108 prostrations frequently helps us to balance the scales of our ongiong accumulated karma; however, if our accumulated karma begins to weigh heavily on us, then prostrations can be used as an 'emergency measure' for clearing the mind. They are a very powerful technique for seeing the karma of a situation because both the mind and the body are involved. Something that might take days of sitting to process may be digested in a much shorter time with prostrations. The usual practice is to do 10 bows as a warm up before class. This can be done all at once or as is usually the case, spread out through the day.

 

Here is a suggested schedule for 1080 bows:


*1 set for morning bows
*2 sets before breakfast
*2 sets at lunch time
*2 sets mid-afternoon
*1 set before evening practice
*2 sets after evening practice

Kong-ans

Kong-on practice is a method that allows us to test the fruits of our practice of no-mind. Wrestiling with these conundrums shows us the shape of our mind, and reveals our condition, as does calligraphy, martial arts, and Zen practice. Here is a famous example:

First Gate: Jo Ju's Dog

 

A monk once asked Jo Ju, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature?"
Jo Ju answered, "Mu!" (No)

1. Buddha said everything has Buddha-nature.
Jo Ju said a dog has no Buddha-nature. Which one is correct?
2. Jo Ju said, "Mu!" What does this mean?
3. I ask you, does a dog have Buddha-nature?

Commentary: Silence is better than holiness, so opening your mouth is a big mistake. But if you use this mistake to save all beings, this is Zen.

 

Once you understand the purpose and method of kong-an practice, you can move through the wheel of Zen from 0 degrees to 360 degrees. The mind of Kwan Um Do Kwang is 270 Zen mind. In sword practice, the sword can control the whole circle from 270 degrees, thus one can reclaim one's mastery and attain to freedom.

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