Here you will find descriptions of the elements of our practice. Although there are some do's and dont's, these are not so much "rules" as "marks of good form." They allow for the smoothest flow of people with the least amount of disruption. The also help us stay on task with respect to the reason we are all here: to practice zazen with the utmost diligence. In the end, they become ways in which we can loosen the grip of our likes and dislikes as we simply practice.
2. (Optional) Change into a sitting robe. Look for a robe that fits properly (hem should be 4-6 inches above the floor). Head to zendo.
3. Make a bow toward the altar whenever you enter (or leave) the zendo or Buddha Hall.
4. Gather what support cushions you need, take a place, and begin zazen.
5. When you move through the zendo, when you head down to the dokusan line, or when proceeding to the Buddha Hall for teisho or chanting, keep your hands in a kinhin position; do not walk with your arms at your sides.
6. There is no need to bow at your mat when you take your place.
7. Married couples, persons in a relationship, etc., should not sit next to one another in the zendo or Buddha Hall.
8. Do not verbally respond to instructions from the monitor or turn to look at the monitor when instructions are being given in the zendo.
9. "No moving" means no moving; we all experience pain or an itch, achy knees or sore rears.
10. If you need to sneeze or cough, do it into the sleeve of your robe.
11. Respond immediately to bells or other instruction. For example, when you hear the bell calling the dokusan line, get up immediately and head down. When you hear the bell ending the round, get up immediately and stand ready for kinhin.
12. If you find one or both of your legs is so asleep you can't stand, stay in your place on the mat and wait until you are able to stand. Then, join the kinhin line as it makes its way past you.
When the bell sounds indicating the end of the round, get up off your mat and turn toward the middle of the zendo with hands palm-to-palm. When the next bell sounds, make a standing bow before turning to your left and beginning kinhin.
During kinhin the hands are kept clasped at the base of the sternum (or thereabouts). The left hand makes the fist; the other hand covers it.
Kinhin is done as a group activity in a continuous line. The monitor sets the pace. Try to maintain the initial spacing between you and the person in front of you, neither bunching up nor stringing out. Gaps opened up as people drop out of the line can be left open. If you find, though, that you are more than 10 feet behind the person in front of you, catch up and keep pace.
When you leave the kinhin line to use the restroom or get a drink and are then returning to the lien, enter the line wherever it is wherever you are. If you are coming up the stairs, just enter right in; if you are coming out of the kitchenette, just enter right in; if you are coming out of the 2nd floor bathroom, just enter right in. THEN, once you get to the han area (the alcove to the left upon reentering the zendo), step out of the line and wait until your place comes around. At that point signal that you are entering and proceed apace.
If someone is signaling to enter the kinhin line, make sure you accommodate the person by opening up some space between yourself and the person in front of you.
The bell signaling the end of kinhin sounds while we are still walking. When you hear it, continue to your place, then stop and face the middle of the zendo. When the bell sounds again, take your seat to begin zazen.
When the monitor rings the dokusan line bell, the first group called proceeds down the front stairs. The first person down goes directly to the dokusan room, closing the hallway door on the way. The other persons that their place in the dokusan line. While in the dokusan line, practice continues as if one were in the zendo.
When the person in the dokusan room is finished, the teacher rings the teacher's bell, the person leaves the dokusan room and heads back to the zendo via the back stairs (at this time one may use the basement restroom or get water in the 2nd floor kitchenette).
When the person at the head of the dokusan line hears the teacher's bell, s/he strikes the dokusan bell twice, rises, and then proceeds through the hallway door to the dokusan room, closing the hallway door on the way. Hit the bell firmly enough to be heard by the teacher and monitor without being jarring. Those still in the dokusan line move forward once place.
Upon entering the dokusan room, you first close the door behind you. Then you walk to a spot directly in front of the teacher (or person giving daisan) and do a standing bow in greeting. If you are not a formal student of the teacher, or if this is daisan, then you simply take a seat and the interview can begin. If this is dokusan, and you are a formal student of the teacher, then make a prostration toward the teacher (using the student mat) before taking your seat.
When the teacher (or person giving daisan) signals the end of the interview by ringing the hand bell, give a bow (hands palm to palm), then rise and clear any cushions you may have used off to the sides of the student mat. Then step back to where you made your first standing bow on entering the room, and offer another standing bow. You’re now free to return to the zendo, leaving the dokusan room door open behind you.
Keep the vision lowered. Do not look about the room. Do not look at the altar. Do not look at the teacher. Teisho is not a public lecture.
Because of its length, it is permissible to change posture during teisho. It is also permissible to bring the knees up and clasp them with the arms. Such changes should be done sparingly (once or twice during the teisho), preceded each time by a small gassho.
If you need a chant book, hold it slightly below eye level so that the head is held erect and facing forward. The chant book may be held as you please for every chant except "The Ancestral Line." "The Ancestral Line" is our expression of gratitude to those who have worked tirelessly to pass the Dharma down through the ages. When we chant it, our hands are held palm-to-palm out of respect. If you need the chant book, hold the book open with the thumbs and keep the hands in the palm-to-palm position for the duration of the chant.
Chant books, since they contain sutras, are never to touch the ground. Make sure they stay in your hand or on a mat.
Chanting is most effective when one drops one's self-consciousness about one's voice and throws oneself into the chanting. Do your best to maintain tone, but don't worry if you can't. (As you will quickly discover, many in the sangha are tone-deaf.) Keep pace with the mokugyo, and do not drag.
All beings without number I vow to liberate
Endless blind passions I vow to uproot
Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to penetrate
The Great Way of Buddha I vow to attain
The Four Vows are chanted at the end of every sitting and every teisho. They are a reminder of our resolve and aspiration in our practice. Until you have memorized the Four Vows, hold your hands palm-to-palm for the duration of the chant and join in as you get to know the lines.
At the end of the three prostrations make a standing bow to the altar, then square yourself with your mat and make a standing bow in place as a recognition of our collective effort together.
Wondrous is the robe of liberation
A treasure beyond form and emptiness
Wearing it I will unfold Buddha's teaching
For the benefit of all sentient beings
Once a Sunday or weekday morning round has begun, there will be three strikes of the clappers. During the strikes, take off your rakusu (if you have one), fold it and put it on your head and place your hands palm-to-palm. If you have no rakusu, place your hands palm-to-palm. All recite the Verse of the Kesa together.
When planning on coming to a Zazenkai, either sign up on the attendance sheet set out the week beforehand at the Center or notify the Center by phone or email.
7:00-8:00am 50 minute round with 10 minute kinhin
8:00-9:00am 50 minute round (with dokusan) with 10 minute kinhin
9:00-10:00am Chanting service and teisho
10:00-11:00am 50 minute round with 10 minute kinhin
12:00-1:50pm 2 50 minute rounds (with dokusan) with kinhin in between
Here we use English unless there's good reason not to. These are some of the non-English, practice-related words one will hear at the CZC:
Daisan: One-on-one meeting with a senior student concerning one's practice and practice-related concerns
Dokusan: One-on-one meeting with the teacher concerning one's practice, koan work, and the confirmation of insight
Gassho: Hands held palm-to-palm, depending on the context accompanied by a bow
Han: The wooden block that is struck before formal rounds, teisho or chanting
Inkin Bell: The bell that is used to mark time and movement
Kentan: Morning inspection/greeting of the zendo by the teacher/monitor
Kesu: Metal bowl gongs used during chanting and other services
Kinhin: Walking meditation
Kyosaku: The flattened, wooden "encouragement" stick
Mokugyo: Wooden "fish" drum used to keep time during chanting
Rakusu: The abbreviated robe of the Buddha worn about the neck
Teisho: The formal talk of a Zen teacher
Umpan: Gong sounded for meals
Zazen: Seated meditation
Zendo: Meditation Hall