Online sits are streamed on our Dojo-Live page
These notes are intended to help practitioners follow what is happening in the sits.
Often, the person leading the sits will give a ‘commentary’ explaining what is happening, but as people get used to the format this may reduce. There is an explanation of terms used below.
5-10 mins before start: Channel opens (microphone goes ‘live’).
5 mins before start: The lead announces the format of the sit, and then sound the wood. The lead then offers incense and bows to their altar. For a morning sit, the bows will be ‘Sanpai’. Practitioners at home can simply sit, or can offer incense and then do three gassho or Sanpai. No bells are sounded for this. For afternoon sits, the offering is made followed by a single gassho.
At start: The lead sounds the gong 3 times.
We sit for 25-40 minutes. Usually, on weekday mornings we do a single sit of 40 minutes. On weekday evenings, we do two sits of 25 minutes separated by kinhin (walking meditation). On Sundays, we sit for 1.5 hours – either 2 sits of 40 or 3 of 25, with kinhin between.
Before kinhin: The gong sounds twice. Gassho, rock from side to side, and slowly stand up. Stand in shasshu while waiting, and begin kinhin when the lead says.
At the end of zazen
Before the end of Zazen: There may be ‘kaijo’, which consists of sounding of drum and wood to mark the opening of the dojo following zazen. In the morning, the Kesa Sutra is chanted. Anyone who chooses can join in.
At the end of zazen: The gong sounds once. Gassho, rock from side to side, and sit for chanting, or stand to join in the ceremony.
The lead offers incense to the altar. Others can do the same.
Then we chant the Hannya Shingyo and the Four Vows.
The lead chants the dedication, and we all join in with the Ji Ho San Shi
The lead offers incense to the altar, and then performs sanpai.
Others can make an offering if they have an altar, and then perform sanpai, or 3 gassho. There may be bells marking the bows.
Chanting takes place – it can be the standard set (as above) or may involve extra chants.
We finish with an offering to the altar followed by sanpai or 3 gassho.
Stand in shasshu, facing the altar if you have one.
We bow together to the altar in gassho. This is to the Buddha.
We bow (still facing the altar) in shasshu. This is to each other.
We may follow this with informal chat over WhatsApp and/or Zoom. Sometimes there will be Teisho or Mondo over Zoom. To join the WhatsApp group, contact one of the organisers.
Making a Zen altar
The simplest Zen altar consists of three things:
On the left, something representing nature: Flowers, leaves or branches.
In the centre, an offering: An incense pot.
On the right, light: A candle.
A statue is not necessary. If there is one, it should be raised, and be behind the offering pot
in the centre.
More about the terms used, including links
Zazen and Kinhin: Hopefully you will already have had an introduction at Bristol Zen Dojo or elsewhere.
Deshimaru: Demonstration of zazen posture, kyosaku and kinhin (in French with with some English)
Guidance from Reigen Wang-Genh of Ryumonji (with English subtitles)
Understanding Kinhin by Guy Mercier:
Shasshu: Standing meditation posture.
There is more good introductory information on this site
Gassho: Bowing from the waist with the hands in ‘prayer’ position, forearms horizontal
Sanpai: Three prostrations
Kesa: Garment worn by ordained people, symbolising transmission of the practice from the time of the Buddha
Rakusu: A smaller version of the Kesa, worn around the neck. People who receive lay ordination as Boddhisattva wear Rakusu but not Kesa.
Kesa Sutra – Dai Sai Geda PuKu – Chanted by ordained people before putting on the Rakusu/Kesa. Chanted at the end of morning zazen
Hannya Shingyo – The Heart Sutra
Shigu seigan mon – The Four Vows
Eko – Dedication: This can vary, but most often we use the FuEko (Universal Dedication). This is chanted by the lead only
Ji Ho San Shi – Every dedication ends with this verse, and everyone joins in.
More information is available on the Zen Brighton site