Don’t open your eyes too wide, but don’t close them either! And watch your posture!
When you first arrive, remove your shoes at the reception. Then greet the receptionist by pressing your palms together, fingertips at nose height, and bowing slightly. This is called Gassho (see pic.5). Fill in the guest book. If it’s your first time, draw a small circle in the box.There is no admission fee, but donations are appreciated! You’ll be conducted into the waiting room. When it’s time for meditation, everyone will walk to the Zazen-do (Zazen hall) in Shashu hand position (see ill.1). You aren’t allowed to wear jewelry or socks in the Zazen-do, so leave those behind. Before sitting, perform Gassho while facing your seat, then turn clockwise 180 degrees and bow to those behind you.
Now, let’s talk about proper sitting technique! The monk will show you how to shape your Zafu (Zazen cushion). You can sit in one of two positions. The first is called Kekka-fuza (see ill.2), which is the lotus position. This can be very difficult to accomplish, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do it right away! I prefer the more beginner-friendly Hanka-fuza (see ill.3), which is the half-lotus position. Once you are seated, hold your hands in Hokkai-join (see pic.4) hand posture. Straighten your back and draw in your chin. Don’t open your eyes too much, but don’t close them or you’ll fall asleep! Focus your gaze on a spot about one meter in front of you, then take a deep breath. The final step is swinging side to side. Slowly rock your body left and right like a pendulum, gradually reducing the movements until you come to a stop at the center.
Free your mind, and the rest will follow! Shed all worldly preoccupations, no matter how important they seem!
You’ll hear a bell ring three times. This is the signal to start meditating. It’s okay to feel nervous at first. Daijoji is located in the hilly part of Kanazawa, and it has a natural garden. Because I was here during the summer, tons of cicadas were buzzing outside. So clearing my mind wasn’t exactly easy! After all, we humans are creatures of thought, constantly pondering the complexities of our materialistic lives. Yet Zen philosophy asks us to abandon excess in all aspects of our lives, including our thoughts. Getting used to Zazen takes a lot of practice, but it’s a wonderful way to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul!
Sunday meditation at Daijoji consists of two 40-minute sessions. After the first session, you’ll hear a bell ring twice. Perform Gassho, turn around, then quietly stand. Return your Zafu to its original shape, then Gassho again. Now’s it’s time to meditate—while walking! You and your fellow monks-in-training will slowly pace in a circle near the seating area. Take a half-step forward with each breath, making sure to maintain the Shashu hand position. Keep some distance between you and the person ahead. When you hear the bell ring, stop pacing, bow, then return to your seat. The second Zazen session will then begin. When the bell rings again, the Zazen session has ended. Perform Gassho, turn around, then rise. Restore your Zafu to its original shape, then Gassho toward your seat and again to those behind you. Slowly recess from the Zazen-do while holding your hands in the Shashu position.
Fear not! That stick-wielding monk isn’t doling out punishment— He’s just offering encouragement!
Let me guess: You’re somewhat wary of that cruel monk carrying the stick. To be honest, I was also a bit leery of the prospect of being whacked while meditating. But worry not—the monk is just there to help! After all, sitting in one place for such a long time is hard work! You’ll find yourself assaulted by the malevolent forces of drowsiness, bad posture and concentration loss, all conspiring to ruin your meditating. But luckily you have a holy warrior on your side! With a single blow, the monk will handily defeat these nefarious foes, allowing you to continue on your quest for peaceful repose. In Soto Zen, this form of encouragement, called Kyosaku, can be requested by those who are meditating. If you would like to receive the monk’s services, perform Gassho when he passes behind you. He will then give your shoulder a light tap, a sign that you should prepare yourself for the impending strike. Tilt your head to the left and the monk will strike your right shoulder. Afterwards, bow in the Gassho to show your appreciation.
After the two sessions have ended, the head monk will give a sermon in the waiting room. You’ll be served tea and sweets, so make yourself at home while listening. You can skip the sermon if you don’t understand Japanese or you don’t have time.
What an invigorating experience! I want to try Zazen again sometime. I kept getting this one song stuck in my head...maybe I’ll do better next time!
Ru-10, Nagasaka-machi, Kanazawa
Phone 076-241-2680 (Japanese)
#20/#22 Hokutetsu Bus (20 minutes
walk from Heiwa-machi bus stop)
Zen Sitting Schedule
Daily Zazen: 4:30am - 6:30am Followed by the morning service.
Sunday Zazen: 1:30pm - 4:00pm Followed by Dharma talks and tea.
We welcome you to visit and experience Zazen anytime. Please call us ahead of time if you plan to visit us outside of the times specified above. Thank you for your consideration. (Open to the public. No fee requested.)