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Mountain Range
Soto Zen Approach to Meditation
Symbol for Myohoji Soto Zen Temple
Symbol for Myohoji Soto Zen Temple
Symbol for Myohoji Soto Zen Temple
Symbol for Myohoji Soto Zen Temple
Symbol for Myohoji Soto Zen Temple

The Soto Zen tradition is one of the major schools of Zen Buddhism, and its approach to meditation is characterized by a practice called "zazen," which translates to "seated meditation." The Soto Shu tradition places a strong emphasis on the practice of zazen as a primary means of attaining insight, mindfulness, and enlightenment. Here's an overview of the approach to meditation in the Soto Shu tradition:

Zazen (Seated Meditation)

    Zazen is the cornerstone of Soto Zen practice. It involves sitting in a specific posture, usually cross-legged on a cushion (zafu) with the legs folded and the hands resting on the lap. The back is straight, and the chin is slightly tucked in. The gaze is typically directed downward at about a 45-degree angle. The practitioner's focus is on the breath and bodily sensations. Sensations and thoughts arise and fall. This is normal.


    The primary technique in Soto Zen meditation is called "shikantaza," which translates to "just sitting" or "nothing but sitting." In shikantaza, the practitioner simply sits and allows thoughts, feelings, and sensations to arise without clinging to them or trying to suppress them. This practice emphasizes a non-striving, non-judgmental awareness of whatever arises in the present moment. The goal is to cultivate a deep sense of mindfulness and presence.

Everyday Mindfulness 

    Soto Zen also emphasizes the integration of mindfulness into everyday life. The insights and awareness cultivated during zazen are meant to extend to all activities, enabling practitioners to embody mindfulness in their interactions, work, and daily routines.

Teacher-Student Relationship 

    The Soto Shu tradition places great importance on the relationship between the teacher and the student. The teacher provides guidance, correction, and teachings to help the student deepen their understanding of meditation and the nature of reality.


    While Soto Zen is known for its emphasis on shikantaza, some branches within the tradition also incorporate the practice of koans (paradoxical questions or statements) as a means of contemplation and awakening. However, koan practice is more closely associated with the Rinzai Zen tradition.

Overall, the Soto Shu tradition of Zen Buddhism emphasizes the direct experience of reality through the practice of zazen, cultivating mindfulness, and letting go of attachment to outcomes. It's a practice of being fully present and engaged with the unfolding of each moment.

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