Hi, How are you doing today?
These days, Mindfulness meditation is gaining popularity internationally.
A lot of leaders know and practice it including Steve Jobs.
He used Zen mindfulness meditation to enhance his creativity.
But what really is Zen?
What are the benefits of doing it?
Are there places to try Zen meditation in Japan?
Check the info below to learn about Zen meditation!
What is 禅/Zen?
It is very difficult to define what Zen is.
Zen is not a religion, belief, knowledge, or a theory.
It is to attain the spiritual enlightenment by controlling yourself.
Zen is based on Siddhartha Gautama’s teaching (He’s also called Buddha. Anyone who reached the enlightenment can be Buddha.
Buddhas are not gods, but teachers who help people to live life peacefully and not to suffer in after life).
It involves self-control, meditation practice, and the perception of the true nature.
And the enlightenment can be achieved by doing the proper meditation, or 座禅/Za-zen, which is a seated meditation (座 Za means to sit).
It is said that at the age of 35, Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment while he was doing Za-zan style meditation.
This attitude of spiritual awakening is the experience of “living here and now”.
In order to do the meditation well, you need to understand the followings.
中道 /Middle way
It was the first teaching that Buddha taught after his spiritual awakening.
In order to stay free from possessions/greed, he found that taking the way between the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgent is needed.
He believed that the oneness of the sprit and body is in the middle way of them ,and embracing both materialism and spiritualism is important.
四諦 Shitai/Four noble truths
These 4 teachings are to understand what is going on in the living world and how to deal with them.
To live is to suffer
We are not perfect being because we have physical and psychological sufferings.
One can not live without aging, sickness, separation, encounters with unpleasant situations, etc.
Knowing that to live is to suffer helps you understand that we are imperfect from birth to death.
Attachment is the Cause of Suffering
We have wants/desires and we get stressed or depressed because we can’t satisfy all of them.
A person has to rise above attachments and should know where to put an end to his/her desires.
The cessation of suffering is attainable
By controlling desires, we can stay free from attachment, sorrow, troubles, and worries.
The condition where one can calm his/herself down and feel completely peaceful is called 悟り/Satori, or Nirvana/Enlightenment.
The path to the cessation of suffering
There are 8 important ways to put these teachings above in practice.
By learning the Eightfold path and leading a balanced life, one can live life peacefully.
八正道 Hashou dou/Eightfold path
It is the 8 ways to put thoughts into actions.
The right view
It is necessary to see things in the right perspective.
Salvation is only attainable by knowing things as they are and doing the right things to stop making troubles in life.
The right intention
We are what we are because of what we think.
We should aim at peaceful renunciation of non-sensuality and non-ill-will.
Staying away from cruelty and having the right intention is needed.
The right speech
Avoid slander and gossip and stay clear of mindless idle chatter.
One should not lie or deliver rude speech because that will distract your right intention.
The right action
Behaving peacefully and harmoniously with people/things around is needed to do the right action.
The right action includes no killing, injuring, stealing, or having material/sexual desires.
The right Livelihood
Having more than enough will disturb you from seeing what really is important.
One should only possess what is essential to sustain life.
The right effort
Clearing away unnecessary thoughts, controlling our minds ,and replacing unpleasant things with positive ones will help us take the right direction.
The right mindfulness
Focus on the emotions mentally and stay away from distractions to improve the ability to see things as they are.
The right concentration
Following the 7 things above and doing Za-Zen properly with concentration is the way to reach the enlightenment.
It is believed that Buddhism was founded based on these teachings (and some more) by Siddhartha Gautama about 2,500 years ago in India.
In the 6th century, his teachings were introduced from India to China, and to Japan in the 12th century by a monk named Eisai ,who trained himself in China and brought the teachings to Japan.
There are many kinds of Schools of Buddhism in Japan.
Among them, 曹洞 Soto, 臨済 Rinzai ,and 黄檗 Obaku are the three traditional schools of Zen Buddhism.
Benefits of doing Zen meditation
A lot of psychical and psychological researches have been done to find out the benefits of doing Za-Zen.
Researchers have found many benefits such as reducing stress, controlling anxiety, promotes emotional health, increasing focus, generating kindness, improving sleep, and decreasing blood pressure. (Reference: Healthline Media)
Where can you practice Za-zen?
Although you can do Za-Zen meditation anywhere quiet, you will learn a lot by doing it at a temple with a monk. (Here is a link to learn how to do it if you would like to try it by yourself: SOTOZEN-NET)
Below are some of the foreigner-friendly temples where you can try the meditation in Japan.
- Shogan-ji in Oita prefecture
- Chokai-san International Zendo for foreigners in Akita prefecture
- Shunko-in in Kyoto
- Koyasan (temple lodging) in Wakayama prefecture
- Horakuan Temple in Nagano
- Tosho-ji International Zen Center in Tokyo
- Rinzai Myoujinji in Tokyo
- Daihonzan Kofukusan Kenchouji in Kanagawa prefecture
- Soutoushuu Gyokuhouzan Chokoji in Tokyo
I tried Za-Zen meditation several times at a temple in Takayama in Gifu prefecture.
One session lasts 40 min.
At first, it was very hard to concentrate just sitting, but after a while I got used to it and it made me feel so peaceful after trying.
Although I closed my eyes, I say a lot of black dragons (and once a golden Koi fish) during meditation.
I wonder what they were… (Sometimes say them, other times I didn’t)
This is the place where I tried Za-zen.
I even got myself 座布/Zafu (a round cushion that you use during the meditation) and do it regularly at home.
Zen is not a religion and anyone can try at anytime.
If you are interested in Asian culture, I highly recommend that you experience Za-Zen meditation!
See you next time.
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