GUIDE FOR PRACTICE IN THE DŌJŌ
Place of the Way: Do
Generally, denominates the Buddhist monastery or particularly, the rooms where practice is held. Any action inside the dojo must be made with respect and attention and done within mental silence.
Japanese tern that translates the Chinese symbol for Tao, Way, and indicated the Buddha’s path toward illumination.
- You must arrive to the Dojo at least 10 minutes before the start of Zazen in order to prepare the body and mind for Meditation.
- Make time to calmly change your clothes and allow your mind to relax from the whirl of everyday thoughts.
- Having the objective of lowering into a quieter state is advisable from the beginning of your time and activities in the Dojo.
- The Dojo is not a place for mundane findings, it requires a code of conduct along with harmony, respect and manners in the practitioners’ behavior.
- It is best to move about in silence, using a light tone of voice and a behavior that is composed and in agreement to the practices that is taking place.
- Included in this moment are shared moments dedicated to preparation, cleaning and tidying up communal areas.
- These guidelines make it possible to respect practice within the Dojo in its totality: before, during and after.
Clothing for the Dojo
- It is best to wear comfortable clothing, best if made of cotton and dark or neutral colors.
- No belts or elastic around the waist so that you can have comfortable breathing in your abdominal area.
- Do not wear watches, necklaces or jewelry.
- As a concern for the energy, hygiene and respect of the practice that we will do, it is important to always wear the same clean and tidy outfit for exclusively used for Zazen.
Zen: meditation, Do: Way
The Zendo is meditation room where Zazen is practiced, and the Sutra are recited. It is the place where we sit and manifest ourselves without fronts or frills, for this it is a place where we move in silence and with respect.
- Enter the Zendo barefoot, after the first series of sounding the Han, with your feet in line with the door jamb.
- If you are crossing the threshold from the right of the doorway, you enter with your right foot, if instead you are entering from the left side, then you enter with the left foot.
- Once you have passed the threshold, stand with your feet together and slightly bow with a Gassho Mudra.
- Doing Gassho is gathering all of yourself: the right side with the left side, the mind with the heart, the body with the spirit.
- It is gathering yourself in unity, putting all of yourself in what you are doing.
- Doing Gassho when entering the Zendo means dedicating yourself to others, offering your practice for the good of others.
- For this reason, the gesture is done with extreme awareness and attention: is it not a movement taken as a mere ritual.
- Immediately afterwards, put your hands in the Sasshu Mudra and begin walking with the right foot as the first step toward your Zafu.
- Respect silence in the Zendo and proceed solemnly along the perimeter of the room without ever cutting corners.
- When you pass in front of the Buddha, without stopping, slightly bow your head as a sign of respect.
- Once you have arrived at your Zafu, stop and do Gassho in front of your spot facing the wall, to unite with the place where we will meditate and to the practitioners seated to our right and left.
- Then, turning clockwise, do Gassho toward the center of the room to unite with all of the meditators in front of us.
- Always moving clockwise, turn to face the wall again while trying to make the least number of movement possible.
- We sit on the Zafu with legs crossed and knees resting on the Zafuton, in the Full Lotus, Half Lotus or Burmese position.
- If we are in the Half Lotus position, which is itself an unbalanced position compared to the Full Lotus or Burmese positions, you must change the crossing of your legs with each Zazen session.
- It is important to sit on the first third of the cushion so that you are creating a wedge with your body weight with your knees naturally sloping downward.
- Try to find stability in our posture by checking the setting of the three points of the triangle, between knees, the pelvic bone, and lightly leaning the lower back vertebrate forward.
- With our spine extended, the chin must be slightly lowered toward the chest, the top of the head pushes toward the sky, like being a puppet suspended by threads.
- The facial muscles should be relaxed, the tongue set on the upper palate of the mouth to moderate salivation, eyes open and lowered toward the floor at a 45° angle looking at the wall without focalizing on any precise point.
- Shoulders relaxed as are the arms, resting upon the knees, the four fingers softly clasped, wrapping the thumbs inside the fist, resting on the tip of the ring finger.
- Take a few deep breaths lengthening the exhale, then waiting for our breath to become calm and regular.
- In that moment, around the third sounding of the T-kin bell, move your hands off your body, keeping them parallel to the floor, put your hands in the Hokkaijion Mudra, resting them on Hara.
- Beginning Zazen, we must follow the Soto ritual, the practice of being seated in meditation in Shikantaza, meaning correctly seated, simply manifesting yourself.
- During Zazen, we become aware of our breath and posture.
- Do not try to have a particular breathing, accept it as it is.
- With time, with practice, our breath will become naturally “low” from the diaphragm.
- Concentrated on the breath, we can make unity between the internal and external, the self in the world.
- We simply sit manifesting our being, our life beyond judgements and conditions.
- Being, simply being, being one with the universe, manifesting our true self, our Buddhahood.
- Without forcing or wanting to control the mind we try to return to our interior silence.
- When thought arise don’t try to hinder or stop them but simply watch them, let them cross through our minds like clouds passing through the sky, moving with the wind.
- When you become aware that you are dwelling on or repeating a thought, bring your attention back to the breath and posture so that your mind calms down.
- Attentively observe the movement of the air that goes in and out from the nostrils to the belly and from the belly to nostrils.
- Moment after moment, without thinking of anything in particular, without worrying about anything, without searching for anything, not even Satori.
- Watch the position of your body, checking that it is always correct.
- Keep the dorsal spine straight with a slight tension that allows you to keep your posture without “sitting” on the lumbar and without leaning your head forward or backward, that stays aligned with the spinal column.
- Let go of worries of everyday life: finally, in this moment we don’t have to achieve anything.
- Try to stay still in the posture throughout the entire Zazen.
- If you absolutely must move during the Meditation sitting, first do Gassho, then move into position trying to make the least amount of noise possible to not disturb the others’ practice.
- When you feel ready to return to posture, do another Gassho and return to posture.
- The ending of the first Zazen is marked by two sounds of the bell.
- Do Gassho, slowly undo your legs, massaging them a bit if needed, and put the pillow back while in the Seiza position.
- On the inhale, press your seat into your heels to help reactivate the circulation in your legs, on the exhale, rise by pressing your hands on the zafu to compact it.
- Repeat this action three times while turning the cushion counterclockwise.
- Return the zafu to its place with the white or black stripe facing toward the interior of the Zendo, and while making sure that we can keep our balance, stand up.
- Turning again clockwise, face toward the center of the room and wait with your hands in sasshu while others arise.
- Then all together, do gassho and immediately turn 90°, this time counterclockwise.
- With one practitioner after the other, we begin practicing Kin-hin at the sounding of the In-kin.
- The first step is always done with the right foot: on the inhale raise the foot, lower it on the exhale.
- Move forward step by step, according to your breath but without forgetting that we are all one with others in the entire universe.
- Therefore, walk in a harmonious way, try to keep the same distance between each other, as if there were just one body and one mind walking.
- The Tradition says to take six steps throughout the length of a Tatami.
- Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, hands in the sasshu position, neck extended, chin slightly toward your chest, the gaze must always be at 45° ahead.
- When you arrive at a corner of the room, turn outside with the left foot and unite the feet as your shift direction.
- If you pass in front of the Buddha, without releasing the position of your hands, lightly bow your head as a sign of respect.
- Kin-hin is no different from Zazen, it is simply Meditation in movement.
- It is entirely being here and now in each instant, one with the universe.
- It is the attitude we should have in every moment of our day.
- It is Gyoji: the experience of nonstop practice, moment by moment, that allows us to find unity in our lives with Zazen, with the Way, Do.
- It is what allows us to follow a life without separations, divisions, unreached areas.
- Thanks to complete presence, here and now, in every moment of practice that unites the mind-body.
- You simply must pay attention, watch and be vigilant.
- Keep walking until the sounding of the in-kin which marks the end of Kin-hin.
- Upon the ringing, stay in sasshu, unite your feet and lightly bow.
- Immediately start walking again, starting with the right foot, this time with faster steps until you reach your zafu.
- Stop and wait in sasshu for others to return to their places, then do gassho all together in front of your own zafu and turn around clockwise.
- Now do gassho facing the wall and sit down on the zafu.
- Return to the correct posture and at the sounding of the bell, we must already have our hands in hokkaijoin, ready for the second Meditation session.
- The end of the second Zazen session will be marked by four soundings of the bell that begin the Sutra ceremony.
- Upon the fourth sounding of the t-kin, do gassho, then release your posture and reshape the zafu placing it on the part near the wall on the zafuton, with the strip facing the wall.
- Stand up and do gassho together facing the center of the Zendo.
- Stand with your feet on the zafuton in sasshu.
- When a practitioner passing out Sutra booklets arrives in front of you, do gassho, then with your hands parallel, with straight posture, take a Sutra booklet.
- After bringing it to your forehead for a moment, put it on the floor by the center of the zafuton and return in sasshu.
- At the ringing of the in-kin, step away from the zafu toward the wall and do the San Pai, three bows.
- Lightly move over the Sutra booklet so your head doesn’t touch it.
- At the end of the third bow, return the booklet in front of you.
- Doing San Pai before and after the Sutra is not an easy practice to perform, especially for physical dynamics, but is done for accepting, interpreting and becoming one with the practice.
- Doing San Pai with all of your being means to truly let yourself go, giving the earth not just your forehead, but most importantly, your ego.
- It is the unconditional surrender to the universe, to others and yourself.
- It is giving homage to the Buddha, not as a divinity, but rather, as the totality of being, like the one that encompasses all, like ourselves as Buddha, one with the entire universe, without separation or division.
- After completing San Pai, reset the cushion and sit in seiza with the zafu between your knees and hands in mudra hokkaijoin position, ready to recite the Sutra.
- Even this practice is no different from Zazen or Kin-hin.
- It is always a form of Meditation uniting everything in one being.
- Intellectual understanding of the texts is irrelevant during the recitation of the Sutra, however, it is important to be in tune with the sound of the words and become them.
- The strength of the vibration of the sound of the words takes us into becoming one with the universe.
- Then if one desires, in another occasion, they can research the intellectual knowledge of the texts.
- The Sutra booklet is help open in front of your face with both hands, with the thumbs and pinky fingers on the inside pages and the other fingers on the exterior cover.
- For each Sutra recitation you close the booklet, bring it to your forehead and place it again in front of the zafuton, returning to the mudra hokkaijoin position.
- At the end of the Sutra ceremony, do San Pai again, then the booklets are collected while you are standing, with your feet on the zafuton, holding the Sutra with two hands, in the same way that you took it.
- When the assigned practitioner arrives to collect the booklet, put it on the tray, do gassho and return to sasshu while waiting for all of the booklets to be collected.
- Then the bell will ring three times: at the first ring do sasshu, at the second do gassho facing the Buddha, at the third do sasshu and stay still in this position.
- The practitioner who lead the Meditation will leave first, wait for his cue and do a gassho before leaving the Zendo. After that, exit one after the other starting with who is closest to the door, when you arrive at the threshold, turn toward the inside of the Zendo, do gassho and step out with the right foot over the door jamb.
Place of the Way: Generally, denominating the Buddhist monastery or in particular, the rooms where practice is done. Any action done inside the dojo must move with respect and attention and in metal silence.
Japanese term that translates from the Chinese symbol for Tao, Way, indicating the path of the Buddha toward Illumination.
Seated meditation. Za: staying still and stable as a mountain while seated. Zen: meditation, understanding the essence of the universe. Zazen is the posture of the body-spirit, heart of Zen. Simply seated, without goals or spirit of attainment, seated and simply being present exactly here and exactly now.
Zen: meditation Do: Way. The zendo is the meditation room where one practices Zazen and the Sutra are recited. It is where we sit and manifest ourselves without fronts or frills, for this reason, it is a place where we move in silence and with respect.
Wooden table, often contains an inscribed writing, hanging at the Zendo entrance, it is struck to indicate the beginning of a Zazen session.
Position for the hands and fingers with a relevant symbolic value.
Mudra that indicates the ancient gesture of “palms of the hands united together”, with the point of the finger at the height of your eyes. Leaning forward, lightly lower the body, creating a gesture of greeting, prayer or an act of devotion.
Hand mudra with the left thumb folded inside the palm, the other fingers enclosed inside the hand. The hand lightly touches the body at the height of the solar plexus, just below the chest. The right hand, with fingers closed, wraps around the left hand and the right thumb covering the opening of the left fist.
Round and firm cushion made of velvet or cotton, stuffed with natural fibers, traditionally kapok, upon which one sits to practice Zazen.
Rectangular meditation mat filled with cotton upon which the zafu is placed.
Sitting with a straight back, the right foot resting on the left thigh and the left foot resting on the right thigh.
Half lotus position
Staying seated with a straight back with the right resting on the left thigh and the left foot resting on the right thigh.
Seated with the back straight with one leg crossed in front of the other.
Bell made of hammered black bronze, kept on a pillow, rings with a wooden clapper wrapped in cloth so that it emits somber sounds.
Literally “seal of the ocean of Dharma.” Hand mudra that unites at the center of the abdomen with the palms facing upward. The right hand below, the left hand above, fingers overlapping, thumbs in a straight line, lightly touching at the tips. The angle of the hands resting 3-4 fingers below the belly button in contact with the hara.
Japanese term indicating the inferior part of the abdomen making up the center of gravity of the human body. It is considered the energetic center of our body. In Zazen it becomes a center of awareness.
Shikan: "nothing more than” or “with the whole heart”, “unconditionally”. Taza: correctly seated. Meditation without a goal, practiced in the Soto Zen school. Zazen is without supporting elements such as counting breaths and studying the koans.
Zen term designating the experience of illumination, realization, the awakening to the cosmic truth, waking up to the true nature of humanity.
Position on the knees with the seat resting on the heels, with the top of one foot resting on the bottom of the other, with a straight back.
Small bell made of smooth bronze, attached to a lacquered wooden handle that, when sounded with a metal ringer, announced the beginning and end of a Zazen session.
Walking meditation lasting five to ten minutes between two Zazen sessions.
Mat made of woven rice straw, aged for at least one year in a rectangular shape. The tatami laid out according to a precise pattern form the Zendo floor.
The experience of continuous practice 24/7 consisting of having total and constant presence and awareness, here and now, in every moment of the day.
Booklet that collects the teachings of the Buddha or Ancient Teachers, they are recited out loud with a cadence and sometimes follow the beat of a bell or the mokugyo.
Wooden drum traditionally in the shape of a fish, now it is spherical, it accompanies the recitation of the Sutra in the Zendo. It comes with a wooden mallet covered with cloth and is kept upon a pillow.
San: three, Pai: bows. Three prostrations with the forehead touching the floor and the hands raised at the ear level, like supporting the feet of the Buddha.