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Mechanics of Zazen & Kinhin

On This Page: [Zazen]   [Kinhin]

“Now, in practicing zazen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink with propriety. Avoid thoughts of good and bad; drop judgements about right and wrong, discarding all external concerns and putting all internal struggles to rest. Do not design to become a buddha, letting the drives of mind, will and consciousness cease, and stopping the measuring of memories, ideas and meditations. Zazen is beyond sitting or lying. The usual practice is to spread out a thick mat and to place a cushion on it. Then you sit in full or half lotus position (cross-legged): in the full cross-legged position, place your right foot on the left thigh, and your left foot on the right thigh; in the half cross-legged position, simply press your right thigh with the left foot. Wear your robes and belt loose, but neatly and orderly. Next, place your right hand on the left foot, and place your left palm on the right palm (both upward), thumb-tips supporting each other. Now sit upright, neither leaning to the left nor to the right, neither forward nor backward. Make sure your ears are directly over your shoulders and your nose is in line with your navel. Put your tongue against the upper gum with your lips and teeth closed. Keep your eyes always open. Breathe gently through the nose. Maintaining the proper body posture, deeply exhaling once, rocking to the left and right, settle solid and steadfast into immovable sitting, thinking the measureless thinking. How do you think the measureless thinking? No measured thoughts. Such is the essential art of zazen.”

from Fukanzazengi (A Universal Recommendation for Zazen) by Master Dogen

To learn more about the practice of zazen you may download Fukanzazengi from our document downloads page.

ZAZEN (sitting meditation)

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  • Enter the zendo on the left side of the doorway with the left foot. Stop there and do monjin with gassho.
  • With hands in isshu walk to sitting place (tan). Do monjin with gassho to your row. Then turn (keeping hands in gassho) and bow to the rest of the room.
  • Sit on the zafu (sitting pillow) facing in. Turn around and face the wall.
  • Sit either cross-legged (full lotus) or half cross-legged (half lotus) as described above.
  • At the three bells, you should be still and quiet. Minimize sounds (nose-blowing, coughing, etc.) that may disturb the harmony in the zendo.
  • Keep the eyes half-opened looking at the floor, but un-focused, about three feet in front of you so the sightline forms a 45° angle.
  • Breathe through the nose and employ diaphragm-breathing rather than chest-breathing. Beginners may count breaths (exhale and inhale count as one) up to ten to help stay concentrated. If you lose count, merely start over.
  • Neither repress nor attach to thoughts. As they arise, be aware of them, and let them go.
  • If you need to change position, do gassho before and after adjustment. Again, try to be as quiet as possible.
  • At the bell(s) signalling the end of a zazen period, do gassho, then rest both hands palm upward on the knees. Rock side to side (same as at the beginning). Then turn around on the zafu.

KINHIN (walking zen)

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Kinhin is to bring forward the wakeful, concentrated, calm unfettered state into free movement, as well as to relieve any stiffness in the body from long, still sitting.

  • At the conclusion of zazen, two bells signal kinhin. (One bell signals that zazen is dismissed.)
  • Correct the zafu and zabuton (matting underneath the zafu).
  • Stand up and do monjin to your row. Turn and do monjin to the room.
  • With hands in isshu, turn to face the counter-clockwise direction. (It may be necessary to take a few steps to space out practitioners).
  • Remain standing with hands in isshu until the signal to begin kinhin (the doan rings small, hand-held bell).
  • With each complete breath (exhalation and inhalation), take a half step, beginning with the right foot, keeping the upper body as in zazen, the sightline cast down about five or six feet in front, un-focused.
  • Keep the body and mind, walking and breathing in a well-balanced, concentrated way. Pay attention to turning corners in a crisp, clear way.
  • At the finish signal, put both feet together and do monjin with hands still in isshu. Then walk at a normal pace to your seat (tan). At the signal, do monjin and return to zazen.

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