How to practice

Formal Zen practice in our tradition is done in three ways: bowing, chanting, and sitting meditation.

The forms are very simple, and once you’ve seen them, they are easy to follow.

In the dharma room, these forms are done in unison with other practitioners. Each person’s practice supports every other person’s practice. We bow in the same rhythm. We chant together. We sit in silence until the end of each sitting period.

Most important is that whatever practice you are doing, just do it 100%. When you bow, just bow. When you chant, just chant. When you sit, just sit. That is our practice. When we experience doing this with a group, it can help us to do it on our own. But if you are practicing at home alone, we recommend that you do it regularly.

Additionally, our practice includes having kong-an interviews, doing retreats, and learning how to incorporate meditation into our everyday life. Regular kong-an interviews and consultation with a guiding teacher is available at most Kwan Um Zen centers and retreats are scheduled at various centers worldwide. For retreat information, please check with your local Zen center or contact us.

A student asked Zen Master Seung Sahn, “How can I get beyond just verbalizing the question, ‘What am I?’”

Soen-sa replied, “You want this question to grow. This mind is not good. This is attachment thinking. You must cut off this thinking, and only do hard training. It is not important for the question to grow. What is important is one moment of clear mind. Clear mind is before thinking. If you experience this mind, you have already attained enlightenment. If you experience this for a short time, even for one moment, this is enlightenment. All the rest of the time you may be thinking, but you shouldn’t worry about this thinking. It is just your karma. You must not be attached to this thinking. You must not force it to stop or force clear mind to grow. It will grow by itself, as your karma gradually disappears.”

“Clear mind is like the full moon in the sky. Sometimes clouds come and cover it, but the moon is always behind them. Clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don’t worry about clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes and goes, comes and goes. You must not be attached to the coming or the going.”