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Zen Glossary

Gassho Hand posture with fingers and palms of both hands touching, upper arms roughly parallel to the body, and forearms and hands at a 45-degree angle from the body. The thumbs should be pressed down on against the index finger, symbolizing no separation.

Jikijitsu The zendo officer who leads formal sitting practice.

Mudra The posture of the hands during zazen. Different Buddhist traditions use various mudras in their practices. In the Zen tradition we use the cosmic mudra during zazen. Hands are placed with left fingers over right and thumbs lightly touching, forming a circle or full moon with thumbs at the level of the navel and the backs of the hands touching the body. Arms are held loosely, with upper arms slightly away from the body.

Sassho The posture used in kinhin, with left hand over right, palms against the body, and forearms parallel to the ground.

Seiza Seiza is the traditional way of sitting in Japan. One kneels on the floor, and then sits back on the heels, with the tops of the feet flat on the floor. In sitting seiza in the zendo, one may place a zafu between the legs or use a raised wooden seiza bench.

Shoji The zendo officer who serves tea and sees to the needs and welfare of the students.

Tan The wooden platform on which the zafu and zabuton rest.

Zabuton A large mat on which the zafu or sitting bench rests.

Zafu A round sitting cushion, usually stuffed with kapok or buckwheat hulls. One or more support cushions may be placed under the zafu.

Zazen In Japanese za means “to sit.” Zen is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese calligraphy for ch’an, a transliteration of the Sanskrit term dhyana (meditation). So zazen literally means “sitting Zen.”

Zendo The meditation hall.