An Intro to Zen Practice

Formal practice

Our practice is formal, but the forms are simple and easy to learn: sitting, chanting, walking, bowing. The best way to learn them is by coming to beginners orientation before Sunday practice — even if you’ve practiced in another tradition, this is a good idea. Everyone does everything the same way at the same time, which brings us together and helps our minds settle down by eliminating decisions. Whether in person or over Zoom, doing everything in the same way at the approximately same time brings us together and helps our mind settle down.

In keeping with Korean tradition, we request that you wear shirts with sleeves (short sleeves are fine) and long pants in the dharma room.

Meditation

Sitting meditation practice has several possible forms — mantra, great question, breath, and so on — but only one technique: bring your mind back to the practice. Over and over again, bring your mind back. Don’t jump from one practice to another, but pick one and stick with it for a long time. In this way, clarity and steadiness naturally develop.

An excellent introduction to sitting practice can be found at the Kwan Um School of Zen page. Our teachers will be happy to answer any questions you have about meditation. Another excellent resource is this video with Kathy Park, JDPSN, through minute 16:13.

Chanting

Our chanting practice comes from the Korean tradition, and most of our chants are in the Korean pronunciation of Chinese (known as Sino-Korean). Here is a brief description of the main chants. And Kathy Park’s video from 26:33 to 32:09 gives a good overview of chanting practice.

Prostrations

Prostrations are a major form of practice in Korean Buddhism. It is a wonderful body practice that bypasses our thinking mind, naturally developing a strong center and deep compassion. On retreats and during early morning regular practices we begin with 108 prostrations. Often when people face difficult situations they will add more prostrations to their personal practice, sometimes many hundreds. Kathy Park’s video from 18:16 to 26:32 shows exactly how to do them.

Kong-an practice

Kong-ans (Ch.: kung-an, Jap.: koan) have their origin in records of encounters between Zen practitioners in ancient China. In kong-an practice, the teacher asks questions and the student answers them. The purpose of kong-an practice is to help us cut through our thinking. It is an essential part of our practice.

Retreats

Retreats are an opportunity to break through our delusions and attain our true self. We do this by intensive practice: bowing, chanting, sitting meditation, walking meditation, and kong-an interviews. We offer short one-day retreats (essentially 9 a.m. to 4 p.m) and longer one day and multi-day retreats (early in the morning to well into the evening).

Retreats take place in silence. Outside of interviews and dharma talks, speech and writing only occurs when necessary, functional, and brief. We keep silence not only in the dharma room, but during work period and breaks, whether we are on the Zen Center grounds or taking a walk in the neighborhood. In support of our internal silence, we also recommend that people not read during retreats, not even Buddhist literature, and that they not keep diaries or journals. Whether you are participating in person or over Zoom, we ask that you try to maintain silence.

If your are staying overnight at the Zen center during a retreat, be sure to bring appropriate clothing and toiletries — we provide mattresses, bedding, and a towel..

On short one-day retreats, in-person participants bring a brown-bag lunch. On other retreats, in-person vegetarian meals are served and eaten in a formal temple style. In-person participants are helped through the meal form during the retreat when necessary. The meal breaks are long enough for Zoom participants to prepare and eat their own meals.

Other activities

Aside from formal practice, we also hold classes, ceremonies, and social events. And work days! Can’t forget work days. Check our schedule for more information.

Ceremonies include sangha ceremonies on Buddha’s birthday and Buddha’s enlightenment day and precepts ceremonies. We also perform weddings, baby ceremonies, and memorial ceremonies. Contact us at kansaszencenter@gmail.com if you’re interested.