"The truth is everywhere all around us, but if we don't practice it, it doesn't show itself and we don't experience it.
When we let go of reality our hands are filled with it and when we shut up about reality our mouths are filled with it." - Eihei Dogen
how to meditate
Sit on a cushion facing a wall with your knees on the ground, your eyes open, and your back straight.
Try to keep still.
Let thoughts and sensations come and go without getting caught up in them or judging them as good or bad.
Rest your attention on what is currently happening.
If you get confused, distracted, or your legs fall asleep, check in with your posture, adjust if needed, and keep sitting.
Q: What is Zen?
A: Oh jeez. I was afraid you were going to ask that.
Brad Warner says Zen is "a communal practice of deep individual inquiry."
In short it is a form of Buddhism that emphasizes a very simple and direct meditation of just sitting with ourselves and the world as we currently find them. We emphasize goalessness in our practice, not knowing in our understanding, and compassion for all things, even the things that are really really hard to love. The idea is that the more we accept the truth of ourselves and things as they actually are, the better we are able to work with them, and the more their innate goodness is able to shine through on its own.
The technical answer is that, according to the histories, Zen is the simplest and most direct Buddhist teachings passed down from the historical Buddha in an unbroken line of teacher to student transmission to the present day. It was brought to China by a monk named Bodhidharma, then to Japan by a monk named Dogen, and then many Japanese teachers brought it to America in the 20th century. Our group was founded by Brad Warner after he was given dharma transmission by Gudo Wafu Nishijima in Tokyo and then moved to LA to start Dogen Sangha Los Angeles.
Q: Will Zen make me a happier nicer person?
A: Oh man, I wish. But it might help, although not in the way we'd probably like. Zen is more about letting us become aware of ourselves on a deeper level than we usually would. Sitting quietly with ourselves we often become intimately aware of what habits and thought patterns keep us from being happier and nicer, and then it becomes easier to make those changes in our lives. After enough practice, it becomes almost difficult not to.
Q: Will Zen help relieve my stress?
A: See above! Same answer.
Q: Why should I do Zen, or your style of Zen instead of other forms of Buddhism or spiritual practice? What makes you the best?
A: It's true! We think Zen is just the best. But the truth is there are many different approaches to this type of thing and some work better for different people. Try them out, see what you like. While different schools have mild to sometimes completely contradictory approaches to Buddhist practice, most of them are getting at pretty much the same thing. Here in the 21st century we have the great luxury of being surrounded by every conceivable form of practice, allowing us to find one that works best for us. Browse around, see what suits you, and if you agree that this is just the best, we'll be here waiting for you.
Q: Is Zen a religion? Do I have to believe in reincarnation to come meditate? Can I do Zen if I'm already a practicing Christian Jewish Muslim Humanist Bahá'í Taoist Paganist Wican Satanist Shaman and don't want to burn in any one of those hells for practicing a heretic religion?
A: While Zen contains some of the outward forms of religious practice such as chanting, incense offerings, and the like, it is not a religion in the sense that it asks you to subscribe to any particular beliefs or dogma. Instead Zen asks you to just be aware of your self and see what you learn from that. If your current religion or lack thereof allows you to trust yourself and question experience, there shouldn't be any conflict.
Q: Will Zen teach me how to fly, levitate, astral project, read minds, see past lives, manifest anything I want, or do other forms of wonder and magic?
A: The Buddha always said it was impolite to display or talk about your magical powers in public. No more questions.