Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sitting zazen and time limits

I've read it is not recommended to sit zazen for more than 40 to 45 minutes. I'm curious why that is the case. Why only 40 to 45 minutes at each sitting? I know there are retreats where you sit for successive 40 minute periods but why not sit for an hour or more if you are able?

6 Comments:

Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Vinegar San,

Thank you very much for your important question, and my answer is as follows.

The reason why we practice Zazen every day is to maintain the balance of the autonomic nervous system throughout everyday for keeping the balanced state throughout our life.

Therefore even if we practice Zazen for rather long time once, without continuing the practice of Zazen everyday, such efforts might be useless for continuing the balanced state for long time.

I have studied Buddhism relying Master Dogen's idea, and so I have idea that the first enlightenment is just to practice Zazen itself.

So I think that it is not so important for us to practice Zazen for a long time scarcely, but the most important point of practice Zazen is to practice Zazen as frequent as possible.

Therefore recently I have decided that I should practice Zazen two times a day at least, but the length of the time is sufficient for 30 minutes.

A person, who believes in the existence of "SATORI" other than Zazen even in the beginner's stage, likes to practice Zazen scarcely for a long time, but I think that such a kind of romantic attitude comes from their misunderstanding Buddhist philosophy.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

8:39 PM, February 17, 2008  
Blogger Robert Halpern said...

Dear Roshi,

Thank you for this explanation of the importance of frequent Zazen practice. Would please tell me if shorter Zazen periods, maybe 10 or 20 minutes would be too short. Also would you please tell me about the value of kinhin (walking meditation)as a daily practice.

Thank you,
Robert Halpern

9:39 AM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger MatthewA said...

I would like to share my own experience with satori and zazen because I think it illustrates Gudo's point. I learned zazen from "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind" and began to do seated meditation. At first I could only manage a few minutes, then gradually I increased the duration to about 30 minutes a few times a week. I was also reading The Gateless Gate and while meditating on one of the koans I experienced a sudden change of mind. I was conscious of all my actions in the moment. I did not even dream for a period of many months, perhaps years. During this time however, I did not practice zazen regularly and completely stopped for over a year.

After that, I sat down one day and asked myself - what's gone wrong? I had started having dreams again and become very depressed. Nothing seemed to be working out any more. At this point I started to practice zazen again daily and have kept up my practice ever since. Starting again was very difficult (I had become very arrogant, even bowing alone was difficult). My mind is still not as calm as it was the day I walked off without bowing. Knowing why I practice everyday.

10:59 AM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Roshi,

Thank you for this explanation of the importance of frequent Zazen practice. Would please tell me if shorter Zazen periods, maybe 10 or 20 minutes would be too short. Also would you please tell me about the value of kinhin (walking meditation)as a daily practice.

Thank you,
Robert Halpern


For Mr. Robert Halpern.

Thank you very much for your opinion, and I agree with your idea.

Of course even 10 minutes or 20 minutes of Zazen is also very useful for us, but at the same time it might be better for us to increase the time for example to 30 minutes or so gradually.

If you like to continue the practice more, it might be adequate for you to have the time of Kinhin, and then to continue Zazen further.

It is very useful for us to utilize Kinhin, because by utilizing Kinhin we can continue Zazan further including the time of Kinhin.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima


Dear matthewa San,

Thank you very much for your important record, and I think that your record, which describes the so-called Satori so well.

Gudoo Wafu Nishijima

11:14 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger Mysterion said...

Am I correct in thinking that the word kinhin, which means 'sutra go' or sutra walk, is not walking meditation but rather walking and chanting a sutra?

Also, I am curious about the rather universal practice of circumambulating a sacred thing.

It is a fairly common Hindu practice. Is your practice east-to-west by way of south (returning east by way of north)?

Even the Haji (Pilgrimage) circumambulate the Ka'ba (Hindu for Cube) albeit for me this is backwards - west-to-east by way of south.

12:44 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger vinegar said...

Thank you sir for your response to my question. As always I appreciate your time and wisdom.

1:41 AM, February 22, 2008  

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