Our Community of Practice

“The way is … never apart from this very place”

Eihei Dogen (1200–1253)

Our Community of Practice

Whilst doing zazen at the Dojo is the foundation of our practice, Zen has always recognised the importance of the sangha, the community of practitioners – many of whom may live at some distance from the Dojo.

Outside the Dojo, we keep in touch using social media, discussion groups and internet radio broadcasts.

Practising at the Dojo

Primarily, we sit shikantaza together – that is to say, we just sit in silence, facing the wall, trying to remain present rather than drifting off into speculative thought or drowsiness. We allow our agitation to subside and open ourselves to what is right in front of us, concentrating on our posture, our breathing, our alertness. All this without an intention to ‘get’ something or achieve’ something. Our practice is natural and rests on the statement of Eihei Dogen, that ‘all beings are buddha‘ from the first; there’s no need to ‘gain’ anything.

‘Sits’ are generally either 25 or 40 minutes long, perhaps interspersed with a few minutes of kinhin – slow walking meditation, during which we work to maintain the same upright alertness, the same zazen mind.

Monks, Nuns and Lay People

Monks and nuns are recognisable because over their black robes they wear the kesa – a traditional garment, handed down since the time of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha.

Lay people who have taken bodhisattva ordination wear a rakusu, a small symbolic kesa.

Ceremony

People may be surprised by the formal ceremonial aspect of Zen practice, but there’s no need to be alarmed. Ceremony can be seen as a halfway-house between seated zazen and life in the everyday world – in which we have plenty of distraction to cope with. Through chanting and bowing together, we have the opportunity to concentrate our minds and awareness while moving and performing action.

Chanting

Commonly we chant the Hannya Shingyo (the Heart Sutra) and the Shigu Seigan Mon (Bodhisattva Vows) in Sino-Japanese as this is a common language whether we’re practising alongside British, European or Japanese teachers.

Copies of the chants we frequently use can be found on the IZAUK website.

Social interaction

Our time in the Dojo is not all silent. We greet one another on arrival, and we may well have a cup of tea together, or sometimes share a meal, afterwards. We may even respectfully tease one another on occasion.

Sesshin

We have the opportunity to meet several times a year at sesshin – concentrated practice periods, led by senior Zen teachers from within our tradition. Residential, sesshin (literally meaning, to search the heart-mind) of two to seven days are held at various UK locations and organised collaboratively with the wider IZAUK community.

Keeping in Touch

For news about talks, mondos, informal meals, events, half-days, Zen weekends and Sesshin (retreats), please:

  • send an email to info@zenbristol.co.uk asking to join our mailing list
  • follow us on social media using the links at the bottom of the page