Entries by Judy Roitman

How should I breathe during meditation?

There are techniques which consciously control the breath. We won’t talk about those here. Instead we’ll talk about general principles. Principle 1: Your stomach muscles control your breathing. Relax your stomach and air comes in; contract your stomach and air goes out. Sometimes this is called belly breathing. Principle 2: The inbreath is shorter than […]

What is the point of kong-an practice?

Kong-ans (the Japanese call them koans) are those extremely brief stories (often just a few lines) and associated questions that are unique to the Zen tradition. No other school of Buddhism uses them. And Zen practice depends on them — these stories deliver Zen teaching far more than sutras do.   You can make kong-an […]

Why all the prostrations?

If you live in Korea and ask your local Zen teacher what you should do when your life is falling apart, you will probably be told: do prostrations! 500 a day! 1,000 a day! Which may seem surprising — isn’t Zen about sitting still? And how can something that looks like a cross between squats […]

What is enlightenment?

The short answer is: a bad translation of a word that means “awake.” It’s not that the Buddha attained something we call enlightenment. It’s that he woke up. It’s like when you’re dreaming — you think you’re walking on water, or flying over Mars, but then you wake up and see where you are — […]

To practice Zen do I have to believe in rebirth?

The short answer is: no. There are no doctrinal requirements in Zen practice.   The longer answer is: what is there to be reborn? I.e., what is your fundamental nature? what is my fundamental nature? what is every human being’s fundamental nature? That is the basic question, independent of any belief or disbelief in rebirth. […]