Meditation is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture.
It was a part of Shinto and an even bigger part of Zen Buddhism.
Of the Japanese citizens, the samurai followed the idea of Zen Buddhism most enthusiastically.
The samurai and other Japanese followers were led by Zen Monks and Nuns.
The samurai honored the Rinzai form of Zen, in which it was believed that Enlightenment could be achieved by one’s personal actions.
The leaders in Zen Buddhism are Zen Monks and Nuns.
Monks must follow the Basket of Discipline which is part of Tripitika which means 3 baskets.
Most Buddhist countries have their monks live a life of poverty, meditation and study; they are also expected to avoid sexual activity.
Zen nuns were never respected for a long time they weren’t allowed to become Zen masters or teachers and were always thought of as novices no matter how much seniority.
Zen nuns couldn’t live in a religious compound even if no monks inhabited it.
They were not allowed to run important religious ceremonies like funerals (soshiki) significantly lowering their income.
Monks are awakened by the ringing of small bell at 3:30 in the morning (4:30 in the winter).
They are then served breakfast.
Breakfast begins with the chanting of scripture.
All the monks leave the monastery in groups of three and go to different parts of town for 3 hours in the morning.
They are clad in white robes held in place by a cord girdle, a black jacket, a straw hat, and straw sandals or wooden clogs on bare feet.
Approximately every 5 th day- each date containing the numbers 4 or 9-is used as a day of housecleaning.
This is the day that the monks shave each other’s heads; shaving one’s head was originally a symbol of a monk’s strong will to break from secular illusions and delusions.
It is most commonly known to meditate in dry stone gardens
Monks meditate in temples
Common Japanese people meditate in their homes or dry stone gardens
There are meditation centers that people meditate
The centers are very calm and quiet because you have to focus during meditation
In New Jersey Zazen is practiced, Zazen is useful when you are stressed or worried
While Zazen is the most commonly known form of meditation, there are many other types including solving koan. A koan is a riddle with no apparent answer and they are used in the Rinzai school of Zen.
Meditation, specifically Zazen, is taught in the Soto school of Zen and is a way of achieving enlightenment slowly as opposed to the option of achieving it in a second, like is possible in Rinzai Zen.
To meditate in the form of Zazen, monks and nuns sit rigid and still against a plain wall as if they are statues of Buddha. Monks empty their mind of all thoughts and feelings. Eventually, the physical pain of the meditation position recedes and turns into a feeling of calmness and composure.
Meditation in a meditation hall is controlled by the head monk. The head monk lights an incense stick that burns for 45 minutes, during which time he paces the meditation hall with a keisaku. The keisaku is an encouraging stick which is used to scold any monks who are dozing.
Monks who are meditating are not allowed to move at all, even to swat at a mosquito or brush away sweat because they must be in shinjo (meditation in total silence) the whole time they are meditating.
Zen gardens range from simple to lavish
Gardens in Zen monasteries are objects of meditation, visual tableaux that are thought-provoking and suggestive of religious or cosmic themes
Zen gardens are intended to leave the viewer with a deep impression of natural beauty
The designer of a Zen garden intentions are to create forms that are suggestive or something beyond the forms themselves
Garden making was an art and spiritual discipline
A Zen garden is usually beautiful, and is a calm or relaxing place