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Mountain Range

Zazen: What is it?

Siddhartha Gautama (Shaktamuni Buddha)

Shakyamuni Butsu; the Buddha

Dogen Zenji

Eihei Dōgen Zenji

(Circa 1200-1253)

The Midtown Atlanta Zendo Group

Midtown Atlanta Zendo


    Zazen is the central practice in the Zen school of Buddhism.  In Japanese "za" means "seated," zen is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word "Chan" which is the Chinese pronunciation of the Sanskrit word "Dhyana" which means "state of perfect equanimity and awareness and full absorption with  (or non separation from) the universe and all beings.  In other words, it can be said that our practice of Zazen means sitting in full absorption with all beings and the universe. This reflects early Buddhist teachings where it is said that the Buddha sat and realized his own liberation along with that of all beings himself simultaneously in his meditation practice.  The Buddha was an everyday seeker just as we are so our seated meditation is of no difference than his own.  We simply sit in quiet stillness dropping of concepts of self until full unification with the universe occurs.  This may take much practice with the help of a teacher and a Sangha but that is the purpose that the community serves. 


Japanese Soto-Shu Zen Perspective:

    Within the Soto-Shu Zen tradition Zazen occupies a central role as the fundamental practice for spiritual realization. Founded by Dogen Zenji in the 13th century, Soto Zen emphasizes the practice of "shikantaza," or "just sitting," as the purest expression of Zazen. In this approach, practitioners are encouraged to sit without any specific goal or aim, allowing thoughts and experiences to arise naturally without grasping or aversion. By immersing oneself completely in the present moment, Soto Zen practitioners embody the true nature of Zen – embracing life as it is, free from judgments or attachments. The lineage of Soto Zen masters has passed down the wisdom of Zazen through the generations, nurturing a lineage of dedicated practitioners seeking enlightenment through seated meditation.

An Ancient Practice for Modern Day Life

    In today's fast-paced and complex world, the practice of Zazen offers the modern practitioners, living amongst  the constant distractions and pressures of modern life, a respite—a sanctuary of stillness and self-reflection. The practice of mindful sitting not only enhances mental clarity and emotional resilience but also fosters a deep sense of compassion and interconnected-ness with all beings. 

    Furthermore, Zazen transcends cultural and religious boundaries, making it accessible to individuals of diverse backgrounds seeking inner peace and self-discovery. Whether one is a devoted Buddhist practitioner or simply curious about meditation, Zazen offers a transformative path to reconnect with the essence of human existence that transcends traditional religious boundaries. By incorporating Zazen into daily life, modern practitioners can cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them, leading to a life of greater contentment, wisdom, and compassion.

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