All day, everyday, people are surrounded by countless things and tons of information. It is hard for many to find time to sit down and relax. For those people, I recommend trying Zen meditation. Known throughout the world, Zen has become an ideology or lifestyle for many. Zen meditation, or Zazen as it is called in Japanese, is a fundamental practice in Zen Buddhism that has been carried out since ancient times, and through which practitioners improve their posture and mental concentration.
For this article, I visited the Jissouji Temple in Takamatsu City to try Zen meditation.
Zen Meditation: The First Step To A New Beginning
Zen meditation lessons are held every week on Monday mornings. The clear, pristine morning is a great start to my meditation experience. Participants are not required to have any specific qualifications to join the lesson, so as long as they are able to sit quietly, persons of any age, gender, nationality or life experience can participate. The kind chief priest gives thorough explanations throughout the lesson, so first-timers need not worry about keeping up.
First we chanted the hannya shinkei (heart sutra), the shosaishu (disaster preventing dharani) and the zazen wasan (song of zazen). First-timers are given a booklet so they can follow the chants.
Meeting Yourself Through Mindlessness
Including breaks, Zazen takes about 1 hour. During the meditation, I started hearing the sounds of the outside; of birds and of swaying trees, and also my own breathing. I was able to focus on all the different sounds I am usually unable to hear during my daily life.
The chief priest walked around during the meditation and tapped anyone who started falling asleep or losing their peace of mind with a keisaku (wooden stick). It is extremely difficult to remove all worldly thoughts from your mind, but being able to do so while being aware of yourself achieving it is the true epitome of Zazen.
Zen Temple Manners And Rice Porridge
After finishing the meditation we had okayu (rice porridge). While eating, we chanted sutras and made no other sounds at all. If it’s your first time, you might not be accustomed to the particular manners and etiquette and be a little bit confused in the beginning, but the other more experienced people in the group will teach you how to do it properly, so all you have to do is follow their lead. You learn that there is deep meaning behind every aspect of the etiquette of Buddhism.
Next, we did temple work. We all got together and scrubbed the floor of the main temple. This again is a little bit different to meditation and a new experience.
Tea, Sweets, And Chatting
Finally, we received tea and confectionary during the sarei. Here, everyone gets together and enjoys a relaxing, harmonious time together. We talked about our recent experiences and thoughts.
The chief priest is usually very busy, but during the Zazen, you have an opportunity to listen to his talk and teachings. Everyone listened attentively.
Serene Sutra Copying
Although not held regularly, in addition to Zazen practice, you can also experience sutra copying. Copying sutras by hand in complete silence is yet another experience most people do not have the opportunity to do in their daily lives.
For those who find themselves busy all the time, come and try to find yourself through Zen meditation practice. It is well worth the effort.
Zazen Experience: Jissouji Temple – Myoshin Branch – Rinzai School
Address: 1811-1 Mitanicho, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture
Hours: Every Monday from 7:00 – 9:30
Participation fee: 1,000 yen. Sutra copying – 1,000 yen per scroll.
Booking: First-timers must book by phone or e-mail at least 1 day in advance.
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer Megumi Yamada
Megumi Yamada Although I was born in Kagawa, after graduating high school I spent time in America, Kyoto, and East Timor, and now live in Kagawa again. I’m currently rediscovering the beauty of my hometown. I love to draw and take pictures.
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