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Zen Buddhism Practices: Is There More Than Meditation?

By Edited Aug 9, 2016 1 2

Though it is one of many, Zen Buddhism is perhaps the best known branch of Buddhism, at least in the West. It is a simple practice which focuses on meditation as the way to reach enlightenment. Other Zen Buddhism practices do exist, however.

Soto is probably the best known sect of Zen outside of Japan, and one of the two main ones in Japan along with the Rinzai. Both, as with all other Zen branches, focus mainly on meditation techniques. The word Zen itself derives from the word used for meditation in Sanskrit. Enlightenment is thought to be found by directing focus within, and meditation is seen as the best way to accomplish this.

To meditate in the Soto style, you would face the wall and sit quietly. You should be aware of thoughts as they come but just as easily let them go. With the Rinzai style, you would face the center of the room and focus on your breath, allowing that to relax your mind and body.

Zazen, as Zen Buddhist meditation techniques are called, can be anything you do, if you really focus your whole attention on it. Everything you do during the day, if you are doing only that one activity with your full attention, becomes zazen. But you also need to put some time each day into meditation itself. Even if it is only for five minutes, the important thing is to establish a regular practice.

Naturally, monks will sit and meditate for much longer. Periods of sitting meditation will often be broken up by periods of walking meditation. This will give the legs a chance to stretch. Sesshins are meditation retreats for several days which lay students attend. They will meditate for hours each day, as well as do some work around the grounds and attend talks.

Though chanting is not as important a part of Zen practice as some other types of Buddhism, it is still part of the daily practice at many temples. Sutras included are usually the Heart and the Lotus Sutras, among others. Temples will have altars with Buddhas on them. Altars at home are often used specifically to honor ancestors.

Meditating on Koans is a well known practice of Zen, and mostly practiced by the Rinzai sect. These stories or phrases do not make much sense on the surface. They are meant to drive the meditator into a deeper level of consciousness. Without this, the Koan will not be understood.

As with the practices of other types of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism practices are meant to bring you closer to Satori, or enlightenment. If you can reach Satori, you will not have to be reborn into this world again, which is seen as a place of suffering.



Jan 12, 2010 12:12am
Interesting article! I very read zen buddism
Sep 21, 2010 10:23pm
I like the walking meditation concept.
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