Tuesday, 29 September 2015


3. Someone has asked, 'Does a Zen Master give teachings?' As to what the questioner meant by 'teachings' is not clear. Assuming that he or she was thinking of something like 'a body of doctrine', and allowing that with regard to Zen doctrine 'both speech and silence are faulty', the short answer would have to be 'no'. What the Zen Master does is introduce the beginner to a practice under the Master's personal guidance and in the context of a 'sangha' or community. Central to this practice is a very formal type of sitting meditation called 'zazen'. Extended periods of sitting meditation are relieved by shorter periods of walking meditation called 'kinhin'. These disciplines of sitting and walking meditation are supported by a set of rituals that foster an atmosphere of mindfulness conducive to the practice of meditative inquiry. The silence of this inquiry is offset and in a sense reinforced by sessions of chanting and the recitation of Zen Buddhist sacred texts. The Zen Master's 'teachings' are to be found in the way the Master guides the 'sangha' as a whole and its members individually. This guidance finds formal expression in the Master's talks to the 'sangha' called 'teisho' and in his or her private interviews called 'dokusan'.

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