Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk

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Monday, November 19, 2012

A History of Samurai and Zen (15)

ZAZEN, THE SITTING IN MEDITATION

Habit comes out of practice, and forms character by degrees, and
eventually works out destiny. Therefore we must practically show
optimism, and habitually nourish it in order to reap the blissful fruit of
enlightenment. The pure meaning of securing mental calmness is the
practice of Zazen, or the sitting in meditation. This method was known in
India as Yoga as early as the upanisad period, and developed by the
followers of the Yoga system. But Buddhists sharply distinguished Zazen
from Yoga, and have the method peculiar to themselves.
Keizan describes the method to the following effect: "Secure a quiet room
neither extremely light nor extremely dark, neither very warm nor very cold,
a room, if you can, in the Buddhist temple located in a beautiful
mountainous district. You should not practice Zazen in a place where a
conflagration or a flood or robbers may be likely to disturb you, nor should
you sit in a place close by the sea or drinking shops or brothel-houses, or the
houses of widows and of maidens or buildings for music, nor should you
live in close proximity to the place frequented by kings, ministers, powerful
statesmen, ambitious or insincere persons. You must not sit in meditation in
a windy or very high place there you should get ill. Be sure not to let the
wind or smoke get into your room, not to expose it to rain and storm. Keep
your room clean. Keep it not too light by day nor too dark by night. Keep it
warm in winter and cool in summer. Do not sit leaning against a wall, or a
chair, or a screen. You must not wear soiled clothes or beautiful clothes, for
the former are the cause of illness, while the latter the cause of attachment.

Avoid the Three Insufficiencies that is to say, insufficient clothes,
insufficient food, and insufficient sleep. Abstain from all sorts of uncooked
or hard or spoiled or unclean food, and also from very delicious dishes,
because the former cause troubles in your alimentary canal, while the latter
cause you to covet after diet. Eat and drink just too appease your hunger
and thirst, never mind whether the food be tasty or not. Take your meals
regularly and punctually, and never sit in meditation immediately after any
meal. Do not practice Dhyana soon after you have taken a heavy dinner,
you should get sick thereby. Sesame, barley, corn, potatoes, milk, and the
like are the best material for your food. Frequently wash your eyes, face,
hands, and feet, and keep them cool and clean.

"There are two postures in Zazen, that is to say, the crossed leg sitting, and
the half crossed leg sitting. Seat yourself on a thick cushion, putting it right
under your haunch. Keep your body so erect that the tip of the nose and the
navel are in one perpendicular line, and both ears and shoulders are in the
same plane. Then place the right foot upon the left thigh, the left foot on the
right thigh, so as the legs come across each other. Next put your right hand
with the palm upward on the left foot, and your left hand on the right palm
with the tops of both the thumbs touching each other. This is the posture
called the crossed leg sitting. You may simply place the left foot upon the
right thigh, the position of the hands being the same as in the cross legged
sitting. This posture is named the half crossed leg sitting."

"Do not shut your eyes, keep them always open during whole meditation.
Do not breathe through the mouth; press your tongue against the roof of the
mouth, putting the upper lips and teeth together with the lower. Swell your
abdomen so as to hold the breath in the belly; breathe rhythmically through
the nose, keeping a measured time for inspiration and expiration. Count for
some time either the inspiring or the expiring breaths from one to ten, then
beginning with one again. Concentrate your attention on your breaths going
in and out as if you are the sentinel standing at the gate of the nostrils. If
you do some mistake in counting, or be forgetful of the breath, it is evident
that your mind is distracted."

Chwang Tsz seems to have noticed that the harmony of breathing is typical
of the harmony of mind, since he says: "The true men of old did not dream
when they slept. Their breathing came deep and silently. The breathing of
true men comes (even) from his heels, while men generally breathe (only)
from their throats." At any rate, the counting of breaths is an expedient for
calming down of mind, and elaborate rules are given in the Zen Sutra, but
Chinese and Japanese Zen masters do not lay so much stress on this point as
Indian teachers.

~Kaiten Nukariya