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ZAZEN MEDITATION GUIDE - Chapter 1. What is Zazen
Zazen is a romanized Japanese term. "Za" literally means to sit or sitting; "zen" means to meditate or concentrate. Actually, "zazen" is much more than "sitting in meditation". In short, "zazen" is a Buddhist practice to settle your mind in its original state: purity and clarity, and from that you can see everything in the world as it is.
"Zen" is a Japanese pronunciation for the Chinese word "Ch'an", and "Ch'an" is in turn a Chinese pronunciation of the word "Dhyana" in Sanskrit or "Jhana" in Pali, the two ancient forms of the language used in India, in the time of the Buddha, more than 2,500 years ago.
It was also known as "Yoga", another Sanskrit term, which is a method of mental practice used by Brahmins before the time of the Buddha.
Originally, "Dhyana" is a practice for settling the mind, which is usually wandering around at all time and leads us into confusion state. However, "Ch'an" or "Zen" is something more than meditation or concentration. It combines the threefold practice of Bodhisattva's Way:
- Observing Sila (Precepts)
- Developing Samadhi (Power of Mind Focusing)
- Practicing Prajna (Wisdom).
"Zen" is not simply a device for centering and calming the mind but also embracing the wisdom of enlightenment.
We also recognize the five different types of Zen. In his "Ch'an-yuan-chu-ch'uan-chi", a collection of sayings of Chinese Ch'an masters and brief histories of various Ch'an sects, Tsung-mi (780-841), a Ch'an master and Hua-yen patriarch, listed the five different types of Zen as follows:
When asked about what is the difference between the Zen of the Tagathatas and the Zen of the Patriarchs, a Zen master replied:
- non-Buddhist zen: for example: the zen practiced in other religions than Buddhism like Brahmanism, Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism, Sufism…
- Ordinary zen: the zen as in haiku poems, William Blake's poems, Henry D. Thoreau's works…
- Hinayana Zen: the zen which a Buddhist Elder practices to attain sainthood, often for the practitioner only.
- Mahayana Zen: the zen which a Bodhisattva (a candidate of Buddhahood) practices to attain enlightenment not only for himself but also for others.
- The last one is the Zen of the Highest Vehicle. It emphasizes on the quality and the characteristics of enlightenment achieved through the type of zen practice and the degree of wisdom embraced in that enlightenment. It includes the Zen of the Tagathatas and the Zen of the Patriarchs, the Zen of the highest quality of wisdom emanating from the highest enlightenment.
"Mountain is blue; snow is white."
For me, I would say: "The white cloud covering the snow mountain, their colors are not the same."
End of ZAZEN MEDITATION GUIDE - Chapter 1. What is Zazen
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