28 April 2008

One Hundred Hours of Zazen...uhm, well, maybe

It sat there so innocently, that little white booklet: "Zen Practice 5, One Hundred Hours of Zazen in One Hundred Days, Practice Book." So I took it home, along with about half a dozen flyers announcing other events at the Zen Center of Los Angeles.

Here's what it said inside:

The practice is to sit one hour a day for one hundred consecutive days. You may choose to sit a half-hour in the morning and a half-hour in the evening. You may choose to sit a full hour, alternating periods of sitting and walking, or however an hour fits into your day.

The aim of this exercise is to establish a foundation for daily zazen practice. When you sit, you sit. When you walk, you walk. The practice is it let go of all that arises, including all thoughts regardless of content, all feelings, sensations, etc. Do not use this time to think.

Two pages describe, precisely, how to sit; one is an excerpt from Eihei Dogen's Fukanzazengi which says, "If you grasp the point of this practice, you are like a dragon gaining the water or the tiger taking to the mountains."

I'd like to be like a tiger taking to the mountains.

The other page of "how to" gives very specific details about what to do with your spine, legs, mouth, eyes, hands, breath, and attention, as well as the gatha (which is like a prayer) you chant three times when you first sit down:

Gatha of Atonment
All evil karma ever committed by me since of old
On account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance,
Born of my body, speech, and mind,
Now I atone for it all.

...and the one you chant three times when you're finished:

The Four Great Bodhisattva Vows

Sentient beings are numberlesss, I vow to save them.
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
The Dharmas are boundless, I vow to master them.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it.

Then comes six pages of empty rectangles for each of the one hundred days, space we're supposed to fill with "brief notes about my sitting." It's a pretty intimidating number of boxes to fill but I don't think I'll learn a thing about Zen just reading books about it. I might as well jump in. Whether I stay here at ZCLA or study Zen somewhere else, the heart of Zen Buddhism is, after all, sitting. Besides, it'll be easy to get going: I've got an overnight retreat at another center this coming weekend - a perfect time to begin.

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