Meditation can be an invaluable means to recover from stress. Zazen refers to sitting meditation unique to Zen Buddhism. The aim of zazen is just sitting, that is, suspending all thinking. In Japan there are many Buddhist temples where ordinary people can experience zazen. You can practice zazen in Tokyo, too.
1. History of Zazen in Japan
Zen is a school of Buddhism. Zazen is at the very heart of Zen practice. It was founded by the Indian priest Dharma in the early 6th century. It focuses on meditation in a seated position. Since its arrival in Japan in the 13th century, Zazen has developed itself and exerted a great influence on Japanese culture and thought including tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and Bushido or the way of samurai.
2. Zen meditation experience in Tokyo
If you want to experience zazen meditation in Tokyo, the Korin-in temple is ideal.
The Korin-in temple is located in Hiroo, Shibuyaku, Tokyo and it is close to the Hiroo station of Hibiya line. Although it is located in Tokyo, the neighborhood is quiet.
-Zazen practice starts at 7 am on weekdays, and 5 pm on Sunday.
-Admission is free.
The wooden gate of the Korin-in temple looks old. The entrance of the zen room is just behind of the gate.
Arrive in loose-fitting clothing and remove socks, watch, and any accessories before taking a seat. The hall in which you practice zazen is a sacred place. Refrain from talking, and remember to press the palms together and bow at the start and end of a session.
There’s no guidance or direction. People just come, do Zazen training, and go.
4. The way of Zazen
The zazen meditation consists of two sittings of 25 minutes each with a 5 minutes break.
Use two cushions called “Zabuton”. Fold the upper cushion and sit on it.
Sit cross-legged. Put your foot on your thigh if possible. Both feet are ideal but not necessary, just do what you can. Sit straight with your pelvis pushed forward. Imagine you are putting your weight on your knees. Your upper body should lean forward slightly.
Keep your eyes open and unfocused, looking at a spot about 1m in front of you. Breathe through your nose slowly and deeply. Hold your hands slightly below your naval and focus your attention there. Count your out breaths from one to ten. Start over when you notice you are thinking of other things.
Put your hands together at the start of a session and at the end of a session.
During the second sitting, sometimes (not always) the master monk walks around with a stick. If you want to get hit, put your hands together as he passes in front of you. Bow to each other then lower your head placing your hands on the floor. After each shoulder has been hit twice bow to each other again.
(1) The manual of Zen by the Korin-in temple
(2) “Zazen Instructions” by Zen mountain monastery (https://zmm.org)