Last updated on November 28th, 2023.
Are you thinking about practicing Zen Buddhism but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Many people that are new to Zen Buddhism have the same questions. What is it? Where do I start? How will practicing change me, if at all?
If you’re asking yourself these types of questions or want more information on how to practise Zen Buddhism in your everyday life, this blog post is for you! We’re going to cover ten essential practices that can help you integrate meditation into your life and launch yourself down the path of inner discovery.
What Is Zen Buddhism?
Zen Buddhism is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that focuses on meditation and understanding your true nature. Zen Buddhists believe that everyone can discover their inner light through mediation.
The practice was introduced in China around 600 years after Siddharta Gautama’s enlightenment as Buddha, which occurred thousands of years ago. Buddhists believe that after six years of searching, he found enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. He continued to teach meditation and introspection and Zen Buddhism as a path to enlightenment.
Zen Buddhists believe in the Buddhist philosophy of becoming at one with the universe—and seeing yourself as an inseparable part of it. This form of Buddhism focuses on your own personal journey rather than worshipping external forces or deities.
What Does it Mean to Practice Zen Buddhism?
Zen meditation, also referred to as Zazen, is the most common practice in Zen Buddhism. This Buddhist meditation technique involves focusing on your breath, body and mind to achieve a state of mental clarity that is free from distraction.
Zen Buddhists value self-discipline and selflessness above all else—and believe that every moment should be spent developing yourself rather than seeking pleasure or happiness for personal gain.
So, what does Zen practice mean? Zen emphasizes daily life and living in the present moment rather than focusing on past or future events. Zen Buddhists try to stay calm in every situation they encounter by not allowing their emotions to control them—it is this practice of “stopping” that differentiates them from other types of Buddhism.
Furthermore, Zen Buddism is big on intuitive understanding and not so much on philosophizing. The goal is to achieve enlightenment by directly seeing your original mind( or original nature) without the intellect intervening.
10 Essential Practices for Zen Buddhism
When you’re trying to learn something new, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the endless list of things you need to remember. Zen Buddism isn’t any different. There are a plethora of things to learn and practice to become a true bodhisattva. But if you don’t know where to start, it’s easy to become discouraged and quit before you’ve even begun.
So we’ve compiled a list of the top ten essential practices for Zen Buddhism so that you can focus on mastering just one thing at a time instead of trying to learn them all in one sitting! So, let’s get this show on the road, shall we?
Zen Buddhism is all about mindfulness. And that means focusing on the task at hand and nothing else. When you’re learning something new, it’s easy to want to multitask because there are so many things you need to remember. But doing this will only make mastering them harder (if not impossible).
Zen monks strive to focus on one thing at a time to become truly mindful in their actions. This is the first step towards understanding what Zen Buddhism means and how you can apply it to your own life. You have an unlimited amount of work that needs doing, so why not focus on just one task for now?
Committing to one thing at a time offers clarity and the opportunity to engage with the task itself. It’s easy to get distracted by other tasks you need to do, but if you can give yourself fully to one thing at a time, it will go much more smoothly and be far better quality than anything else.
Give it Your All in Everything You Do
Zen practice also involves doing things with your entire being. This means using your whole body and mind, not half-assing the task at hand. You can apply this to any activity you do in life – whether that is washing the dishes or giving a presentation at work.
If you’re doing something fully present, it’s easier for distractions to slip away because all your attention will be on what you are currently engaged in. However, this doesn’t mean that distractions won’t come up. They will, but you now have the ability to deal with them more effectively because your mind and body are fully engaged in one activity at a time.
Zen monks have plenty of rituals that they perform each day, and it’s not just because these rituals are fun to do. Rituals serve as a way of emphasizing certain tasks or movements that need to be performed regularly at the same time every day.
Not to mention, they are a great way to keep the mind focused on what needs to be done next. You can create your own rituals or use some of their rituals as examples for creating your own.
Simplify Your Life
By the time we get to adulthood, our lives are already filled with so much clutter that we sometimes forget what is important to us. We become too accustomed to all the distractions and noise around us that it becomes easy for us not to take note of them anymore. Simplifying your life means minimizing (or even getting rid of) these distractions to single out what matters.
Zen monks believe in a simple life that includes the essentials like food, shelter and clothing. To ensure that you are not carried away by material possessions or distractions, look for things to give up in your life, starting with the ones you hold on to out of habit.
This is one thing that Zen monks do every day, whether it’s a holiday or an ordinary day. Sitting meditation (or Zazen) helps them go inwards and concentrate on the “now” instead of thinking about what happened yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.
It is also a great way for you to take time off from your busy schedule so that you can relax, reflect and find out who you truly are.
Live As If You're Going to Die Tomorrow
Zen monks live every day as if it’s their last one on earth. They do not waste time worrying about what will happen tomorrow or the next day. They only think of today and make sure that they are happy at this very moment.
Zen Buddhists also believe that there is no point in worrying about what happened yesterday or future events because everything will happen when they are supposed to. They think only of today and make sure that every action counts for something good.
You can try to be like a monk too! If you want to get rid of everyday burdens, you should live your life like it is the last day on earth.
Smile and Serve Others
Zen monks spend their lives doing things for others. They believe that it is important to serve other people and do their best every day without expecting anything in return. This practice teaches them humility and makes them grateful for the things that they have.
You might not be able to do everything you want, but there are ways that you can help out and make a difference in someone else’s life! Give back to the community by donating your time or resources, and see how much of an impact it can make on others. Smile at a stranger, help an old lady with her groceries or offer a seat on the train to someone who needs one. Small random acts of kindness have the power to brighten someone’s day.
Work Diligently and Let Go of Attachments
Another way to live a Zen lifestyle is to work diligently and let go of attachments. This helps you focus on what matters most in your life and not get caught up with trivial matters or other people’s opinions. It also teaches you to be grateful for what you have and accept what you don’t have!
When you’re working hard without getting caught up in the results, it’s a lot easier to live your life with little stress and anxiety. Besides, you’re more likely to find success when you’re not overly focused on it.
Also, this practice helps you remember that everything is temporary in this world, so you have no right to be attached or too greedy with your possessions. This way of thinking helps keep people grounded and humble when they succeed later on down the line!
Contrary to popular belief, Zen monks are not lazy. They’re actually quite busy with their rigorous daily schedules! However, they don’t focus on chasing after material possessions or so many distractions that prevent them from living in the moment. They have more of a “less is more” mindset regarding life’s pleasures and extravagances. This means trying to live every day without taking on too much.
You can use this same technique in your own life by trying to do less. Take a break from scrolling through social media every day and focus more on spending time with loved ones or pursuing new hobbies that you’ve always wanted to try!
In the same tune of doing less, Zen Buddhists establish order in their lives to avoid distractions and focus on what is really important.
Establishing order for yourself means you are limiting the number of choices you will have to make throughout your day, which helps with decision fatigue! This way, if someone asks, “What would you like to do today?” You won’t be confused or change your mind about what you want to do because you already know your answer.
Besides, this way of living makes it easier to attain success in what you’re doing each day because you’re not spreading yourself too thin. You’re acting more deliberately and investing your time into things that really matter to you.
If you’re new to Zen Buddhism, it might seem a little strange at first. And that’s okay! You don’t have to do everything all at once. We recommend trying one of these practices for the next few days to see if you like it. Like with most things, it takes time to get the hang of it. So don’t give up!