Ritsumeikan Field Trip: Zazen meditation - Vikingess Voyages

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ritsumeikan Field Trip: Zazen meditation

About a month ago in the Japanese Research-class we had the chance apply for an upcoming field trip. We could choose between different themes like making Japanese paper, or going to an Emergency Management and Training center. But my first choice was the Zen Buddhism style meditation, and thats what I eventually got to do as well.
The Zen meditation (Zazen/座禅) were to take place at Myoushinji (妙心寺), which is a temple complex situated a little south of Ritsumeikan University, and the date was the 10th of November (in other words: today!).
Before the meditation class me and Alex wanted to take a closer look at Myoushinji, and we found a road leading to an area where they had tiny traditional Japanese houses and so on.
Detail from one of the roofs in Myoushinji. This is a Komainu guardian statue, which is said to be a mix between a dog and a lion. The tradition of Komainu originally came from China.

The area in Myoushinji is really large, and besides the temples there are houses there as well. The people working in the temple area lives here, and apparently they don´t pay any tax for it! Seems like a nice place to live..

The leaves are starting to turn red in Kyoto these days.

After some sightseeing it was time for our meditation class. We were about 20 exchange students taking part in the class, and most of us had never tried (at least this form of) meditation earlier.
For those of you readers who haven´t heard about Zen meditation before, I can tell you that the word in itself originally came from the Sanskrit word dhyana, which means "meditation". On the way from Sanskrit to Chinese, and eventually from Chinese to Japanese, its pronunciation changed quite a lot though.. Oh, an by the way Zen is a part of Mahayana Buddhism.

Our Zazen-teacher walked around the room while we were meditating.

Usually the monks slaps you with their sticks if you fall asleep during the meditation, but for this class only those who wanted to got slapped. I decided to try it out, and he hit me twice on each side of my back, between the spine and my shoulder blades. I don´t think it hurt at all actually, perhaps they usually slap Japanese people harder than exchange students..? Haha..

Some others students from class practicing meditation:)

When meditating you are supposed to sit up straight with crossed legs. Then you put your left hand on the top of your right hand, which is supposed to show to others that you only have peaceful intentions (while the right hand usually is the one being used for actions such as hitting etc..).
In Zen-meditation you don´t close your eyes, but look straight ahead of you or towards the floor in front of you without bowing your head.
The breathing is also important; you must control your breath and so on in order to relax.
First we meditated for 10 minutes, and after a little break we did another 20 minutes. It might have felt a bit long, but apparently the monks does this up to 18 hours a day with only small pauses every 25th minute, so.. Well.. I guess one gets used to it.

Our Zazen-sensei.

I must say that this was by far my most peaceful lesson here in Japan up till now. Since we have had, and are having, a great deal of tests in these days, it was quite alright to get the chance just to relax a bit as well.. I feel a bit more calmed than I did earlier today, so perhaps it is a good idea to do some meditation on my own when (if) I have time. But for now, it is time to do some more homework.
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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