From the very beginning please see the practice
of zazen not just as a mental activity (nor as a
physical discipline) but as an operation of the unified
body and mind.
Do you experience your body and mind
as separate? Before reading this lesson,
reflect on how you do experience mind/body
unity. Reflect on how you might.
experience of this body and mind as
is is the plain, universal
fact that all the ancient masters
realized. It is the realization
that the Way is complete. Taizan
things originate from the mind.
When the whole mind is silent,
all appearances end. …the
essence lies in emptying and
opening body and mind so they
are vast as space, then you will
naturally be complete everywhere.
In this course we will examine zazen
from three perspectives:
The process of
The practice of mindfulness
Please keep in mind that
while I’m separating the elements of practice
for teaching purposes, in reality body, breath
and mind coexist and mutually influence each
other. The more stable your posture, the more
well-aligned you can make your spine, the easier
and more natural your breathing can become and
the quieter your mind will be. The clearer your
mind and the stronger your concentration, the
more readily you will be able to maintain upright
posture and not distract yourself by fidgeting
or changing position.
The body/mind pond
Let me introduce an image that we can use as we
look at working with our body and mind.
Learning to sit still and calm with a comfortable,
balanced posture, you cease to stir up waves.
Learning to breathe naturally, you
calm the surface of the pond still more and bring
yourself closer to the mirror-state of still water.
Siddhartha set off upon a journey
of self-exploration and study
Rather than read about what Zen meditation is, let's
start doing it. In the next module I take you through
the step-by-step process of doing zazen. After you
have some experience with zazen, you can return in
the last module to some of the discussions we’ve
It is not an easy path.
It is not easy to brush away the delusions
that cloud emancipating truth. Without religious
devotion, Zen becomes a kind of hobby. Without
the Great Death and Great Rebirth, it becomes
a kind of self-improvement exercise. It is
not a subject to be mastered with a certain
form or a certain curriculum, but a lifetime
training. Yet with the devotion and rebirth
so clearly manifest here, how easy it all
is! Robert Aitken Roshi