What is Zen?

What is “Zen”?

“Zen” is a traditionally eastern way of delving deep into our heart-mind in order to grasp our true Self and true essence of all things.

As far as the expression is concerned, Zen is short for Zenna (Channa in Chinese), which is a transliteration of the original Sanskrit word dhjana, meaning “to delve deep into oneself.” The most effective way to put dhjana into effect, as the Indian people discovered some 4500 years ago, is to sit in a certain position while erecting your spine. This is called zazen, sitting zen (za means in Japanese “sitting”).

You may try to sit in zazen according to the demonstration in our HP (cf. below). But please know that the best recommended way to learn how to sit is to visit an authentic Zen teacher of our line and ask for personal guidance.


What are “fruits” of Zen?

Here is a little more explanation of what has already been stated in “Our aim”.

If you regularly practice zazen (sitting Zen) for some time, you already begin to feel some positive effects of zazen, which will probably encourage you to sit more. As you go on sitting, you will eventually come to see that there are three main “fruits” zazen promises:

(1)  Development of the “samadhi powers” (jôriki).

If you repeatedly go in the state of mind called “samadhi” (deep absorption into the depth of your being) through zazen, you will inevitably taste the first “fruit” of zazen. This becomes palpable in a fresh ability to better balance your emotions, in the increase in concentration power in whatever you do in your daily life, in the strengthening of intuitive understanding of things or in a series of new creative ideas that easily spring up. No one denies that these are very valuable elements in our life. Not few people have practiced zazen simply because of this “fruit.”

(2)  Awakening to your true Self

But the great “fruit” of zazen is more than the development of samadhi powers. The second “fruit” is one of the main gifts of zazen, namely you come to realize what you really are and what the whole universe is all about. This is actually what Shakyamuni Buddha realized some 2400 years ago, and we aspire to faithfully follow him on the Way. This is a sudden awakening experience, which presupposes a series of samadhi experiences in sitting, but dimensionally far different from a samadhi status: your commonplace, dualistic schema of perception and self-understanding will suddenly fall off, and a totally new dimension of life will break open. In most cases this is accompanied with deep joy, and you know self-evidently that you have discovered your true Self. This experience, called satori, kensho or enlightenment, is the foremost core of our Zen practice, and to let people take part in this true dimension of being is the sincere interest of all true Zen teachers.

(3)  Actualization of the true Self in our real life

However, the second fruit is not the ultimate one. The third fruit is obviously most relevant and significant, and it requires the greatest amount of time and energy. That is to personalize and actualize the true essential Self in your real life and real world. This is the greatest gift of zazen and the supreme aim of Zen as well. And this never-ending process, however hard it is, may be accompanied by constantly deepening experiences of your Zen realization. Here lies the most profound and everlasting joy of zazen practice.

Zazen practice is indeed a wonderful Way, open to all human beings.

28 December 2014   SATO Migaku Roshi