What is Zazen?

by Richard Collins
"Mu" from Mushotoku Mind by Taisen Deshimaru

Zazen, or Zen meditation, is the direct path to living here and now, now and here. Zazen is the direct opposite of the intellectual study of Zen. Zazen is simply sitting in the posture of dignified nonaction for no reason, for no purpose, for no personal gain. Zazen is simply sitting and breathing, returning to a state of mental and physical equanimity, automatically, spontaneously, naturally.

In zazen we may grapple with our mind and body, with our emotional and physical pain, and we watch them drop off, leaving us with the unbearable lightness of compassion. In zazen we may sit with our past and future, our regrets and our desires, and we watch them drop off, leaving us with the treasure of the present moment. In zazen we become an empty vessel capable of containing the cosmos.

There are many ways to supplement zazen--through the practice of poetry, painting, calligraphy, music, the martial arts, flower arranging, running, cooking, gardening, child rearing, and so on--but without zazen there is no Zen practice.