Through experience we develop familiarity with the forms of practice.
Don't get caught up in worrying about what happens next or what
you should do. When in doubt, go with the flow of other students.
Enter the zendo with hands in gassho. Step in left foot first,
bow into the zendo, and with hands still in gassho, proceed to a
seat. Facing into the room, bow, remove shoes (placing them on the
floor directly under the tan) and turn to your left to take your
In assuming the zazen posture, sit with an erect, aligned spine
and raised sternum. The legs may be in full lotus, half lotus, Burmese
style or seiza, but the knees should be in contact with the zabuton.
The mouth is closed and the eyes are open, resting on the floor.
The left hand rests in the right palm, with the thumbs lightly touching,
forming an open oval. The thumbs should be at the level of the navel,
with the back edge of the hands in contact with the lower abdomen.
Zazen starts on the striking of three bells. Refrain from voluntary
movement or sounds during zazen. Zazen ends with a single bell.
Kinhin or rest kinhin is signaled by striking the wooden clappers
either once or twice.
Kinhin is the interval between zazen periods. For walking kinhin,
at the sound of a single clapper strike, bow, put on your shoes,
and stand with hands in gassho. At the sound of the next clapper
strike, bow, and with hands in sassho leave the zendo. Walk clockwise
beneath the zendo portal as a group and in step.
During walking kinhin students may use the rest rooms or leave
the Zen center. On leaving the kinhin line, step out of line and
bow toward the person behind you. On returning to the kinhin line,
stand with hands in gassho as the line approaches and enter at your
"place" in the line, bowing toward the person you step
in front of as you re-enter the line. As you get back in step with
the line, return your hands to sassho.
At the sound of the single clapper strike, place hands in gassho.
With hands in gassho, enter the zendo without bowing, proceed to
your seat, and at the sound of the single bell, bow and sit. When
entering the zendo as part of a group, such as returning from kinhin,
the Jikijitsu bows for the group.
Rest Kinhin is signaled by two strikes of the clapper. Rest kinhin
occurs as a brief interlude to formal zazen and as an alternative
to walking kinhin. A rest kinhin preparatory to zazen or chanting
may be used to adjust posture. During a rest kinhin between periods,
continue sitting in zazen posture, stand with hands in sassho or
sit on the edge of the tan, hands forming a mudra.
Rest kinhin ends with a single clap. If standing or sitting on
the edge of the tan, stand up with hands in gassho at the single
strike of the clapper, bow at the single bell and be seated. If
seated in zazen posture, no movement is required.
Chanting in the mornings (choka) starts with the striking of the
large gong, during which the sutra book is retrieved from under
the zabuton. The regular morning chanting begins with the Heart
Sutra and goes to the end of the sutra book. For closing services
in the evenings, retrieve the sutra book when the Jikijitsu begins
striking the small bell after offering incense. Only the Kozen Daito
is chanted in the evenings.
Great Bows occur after chanting. On the striking of one bell followed
by two bells in quick succession, bow with hands in gassho. As the
roll-down sound of the bell progresses, place a support cushion
on the floor in front of you and stand in gassho. After the roll-down,
at the striking of the single bell, perform a full prostration,
forehead touching the support cushion on the floor, and hands with
palms upturned raised above the ears, parallel to the ground. Hands
are held elevated while the bell sound reverberates, then lowered
and reversed so that both palms briefly rest on the bowing mat.
At the silencing of the bell, stand quickly, hands in gassho. Two
bells signal the third and last prostration. Upon standing, retrieve
the support cushion, arrange the seating area, and stand in gassho
as the bell is slowly struck three times. Bow with the group on
the third bell.
Tea (sarei) is served morning and evening. At morning service,
when the bell is struck once in response to two clapper strikes,
bow and retrieve a tea cup and napkin, placing the napkin on the
front of the zabuton. For the evening period, retrieve a tea cup
and napkin when the Jikijitsu announces “sarei.” Hold
the tea cup in one hand and signal by raising the other hand when
sufficient tea has been poured. Take some tea at the first serving;
on the second serving tea may be declined by bowing. Do not put
the cup and napkin away until the second serving has been offered.
On leaving the zendo at the end of a sitting, straighten up your
zabuton and fluff the zafu. Bow into the room and leave directly,
hands in sassho. Leave no traces.
The sitting area should be ready for the next student. If tea was
served, take your tea cup and napkin to the shoji room to be washed.
On entering or leaving during rest kinhins, or before a zazen period
starts, bow to the shoji.
Questions? Feel free to ask any of the zendo officers or more experienced
students about etiquette and practice before or after formal practice
periods. During formal practice, you can consult the Shoji during