Methods (of Zen meditation)

Very generally speaking, zazen practice is taught in one of three ways.

    1. Concentration
    2. Koan </wiki/Koan>  Introspection
    3. Shikantaza </wiki/Shikantaza>  (just sitting)

Koan practice is usually associated with the Rinzai </wiki/Rinzai> 
school and Shikantaza with the Sôtô </wiki/S%C5%8Dt%C5%8D> 
school. In reality many Zen communities use both methods depending on
the teacher and students.


The initial stages of training in zazen will usually emphasize
concentration. By focusing on the breath at the hara </wiki/Dantian> ,
often aided by counting. This counting meditation is called susokukan,
and has several variations. Through this practice one builds up the
power of concentration, or joriki. At some Zen centers, the practice of
mentally repeating a mantra </wiki/Mantra>  with the breath is used in
place of counting breaths for beginners. In some communities, or sanghas
</wiki/Sangha> , the practice is continued in this way until there is
some initial experience of samadhi </wiki/Samadhi_(Buddhism)>  or
"one-pointedness" of mind. At this point the practitioner moves to one
of the other two methods of zazen.

Koan Introspection

Having developed the power of concentration, the practitioner can now
focus his or her attention on a koan as an object of meditation. Since
koans are, ostensibly, not solvable by intellectual reasoning, koan
introspection is designed to shortcut the intellectual process leading
to direct realization of a reality beyond thought.

Shikantaza (just sitting)

Shikantaza is objectless meditation, in which the practitioner does not
use any specific object of meditation, but uses the power developed in
concentration to remain aware of phenomena that arise and pass in the
present moment. Dogen </wiki/Dogen>  says, in his Shobogenzo
</wiki/Shobogenzo> , "Sitting fixedly, think of not thinking. How do you
think of not thinking? Nonthinking. This is the art of zazen."[3]
Comparison with other practices in Buddhism
Concentration practice in Zen is likened to the practice of samatha
</wiki/Samatha>  (concentration) in other schools of Buddhism. The eyes
remain slightly open in zazen, as with the practice of samatha in the
Tibetan Buddhist </wiki/Tibetan_Buddhism>  tradition and unlike in
Theravada </wiki/Theravada>  practice.

Concentration is foundational to most other forms of meditation in
Buddhism. In actuality, all meditative practices, Buddhist and
non-Buddhist, take concentration to execute, and therefore are
concentration practices in and of themselves. Some teachers do not teach
concentration as a separate practice, believing that it is developed
through other practices.

Koan introspection and shikantaza are more likened to the Vipassanâ
</wiki/Vipassana>  (insight) practice in Theravada </wiki/Theravada> ,
but are sometimes considered to be a condensation of vipashyana and
samatha into a single practice. For this reason, shikantaza can also be
referred to as samatha-vipashyana. Similarly, koan introspection, while
leading to insight, requires an immense amount of concentration on the
object of meditation (the koan). <>

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