What is Zen Buddhist? | Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Zen is also known as Zen Buddhist is the combination of Mahayana Buddhism originated in India and Taoism from China. However, most people think Zen is neither religion nor just philosophy. It’s just seeing the presence of the moment and letting people see what it should see. The practice of Zen is originally called Zazen which means “meditation”.

To explain more about Zen or meditation, I should explain with an example. Most people lived in the past. Something they are thinking over and over about their good old memories and forgetting about their present. But some were thinking too much about the future like what should I eat dinner, where should I go next, or how to be rich in the future. So these people are also forgetting about their present, either. For Zen, it’s mainly focusing on the present, not the past and the future. Just present the time you were reading this text and the time you were breathing. Although Zen is widely spread in Japan and Korea, some famous people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bridges, Tiger Woods, Angelina Jolie, and Mark Zuckerberg are interested in this concept.

After talking some about the Zen concept and its originated background, let’s move on to our summary book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”. The book is mainly about Zen meditation for beginners and its practice together with its philosophy. There are three main parts to the book; Right Practice, Right Attitude, and Right Understanding. 

What is the Right Practice? 

The posture of the Zen Buddhist meditation practice has its own philosophy. Also, everyone who has watched Hollywood movies might know that posture – shown below. However, the concept behind it is deep. If you look at the leg in the photo below, you might see that it look like a lotus position like your right foot is on your left thigh and vice versa. The Philosophy or the concept behind is 

The oneness of duality: not two, and not one. This is the most important teaching: not two, and not one. Our body and mind are both two and one. Our life is not only plural but also singular. Each one of us is both dependent and independent.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

If you look at the posture, you will see the spine and the back is straight, your shoulders are on one line with your ears. It means gaining strength from your posture and helping to maintain the balance of mental and physical. 

Monk named Kodo Sawaki showing meditating posture with left leg on the right thigh and the right leg on the left tight
Kodo Sawaki (Source – Wikipedia)

The right practice doesn’t end in the posture. From my meditation experience, breathing is more important. There are others breathing exercise app, however, the best learning way of something is not focusing on its philosophy. It’s should learn from experience. If you are breathing right now,  while you are reading, you can do breathing exercises. Just focus on your breath in and breath out. That’s called breathing exercise. So for breathing practice, stop learning more and deep dive into it. Instead, start focusing your present breath in and breathe out the rhythm. 

How do we have the Right Attitude?

The right practice needs the right attitude. That means in Zen Buddhist, you need to have some attitude while meditating. The first attitude is living in present. I have also explained this concept at the beginning of this article, so you might already know about it. However, living in present can do everywhere. Whether you are sitting on the chair or laying on the bed, focus on your body and just take a look at your present. You will see how you are not aware of your present and your body. Also if you are walking just take a look at your feet and see what is happening to them. How is it feel on your feet when you push some pressure and lift from the floor? Living present doesn’t mean you have to be in the posture of Zen. You can do it everywhere.

The second attitude of Zen is “Acceptance and non-judgment”. It means one should focus on his present without judgment or questing with the “what” question. If you feel something while you are meditating whether with posture or without posture, don’t judgment with your conscious mind. People like to judge things like “Oh, it’s itchy. It’s hot, cold, etc”. But in Zen just see and experience what is happing without thinking and judging. Just accept what is happening to your body and mind. That’s called mindful and being aware of your present also called awareness. 

What is the Right Understanding in Zen?

In Zen Buddhist, there are simply seven principles and some of these principles are already explained in the above paragraphs. But in the following, you will see each principle clearly – 

  1. Zen isn’t a religion or principles, its true purpose is to see things as it were
  2. Do not focus on philosophy, focus on experience
  3. Practice emptiness
  4. Our existence should not be for something, but for ourselves
  5. Do not focus on your teaching too much. Focus on yourself and experience yourself with your own nature
  6. Practice should done daily and consistently
  7. Individual practice is more effective

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