Japanese Zen Buddhists conducted a traditional meditation and tea ceremony for students last Wednesday in Sierra Hall.
The two-hour session engaged students in the solemn practice of “Zazen” meditation and gave them a glimpse of ancient Japanese culture.
“Zazen is a tough practice because there is no purpose,” said Rev. Shumyo Kojima during his orientation. People are always perplexed because of Zazen’s notion, he said. “We are always bothered to make purpose or meaning out of something we do,” Kojima said.
Zazen meditation is at the heart of Zen Buddhist. Zazen literally means, “seated meditation.”
The posture of Zazen is seated, with folded legs and hands, and the back is straight. The hands are folded in the traditional mudra over the belly.
Mudra means that hands would be outward facing open palm.
Zazen meditation allows people, especially students, to obtain a serene state-of-mind thereby releasing any troubles or worries, he said.
Kojima comes from a direct bloodline of Zen Buddhists. Kojima and his assistant are current staff members of the Zenshuji Soto Mission temple in Los Angeles.
Dr. Kenneth Lee, a professor from the Department of Religious Studies, organized the session for his Buddhism studies class.
The class introduces the different aspects of Buddhism, including Zen, which is the Japanese form of Buddhism, Lee said. The class is available for all students who are interested in the religion.
Practiced by ancient Japanese warlords and emperors, Zazen is one of the basic fundamentals of Zen meditation, said Kojima.
He said that Zen originated from the first teachings of its founder, Soto Zen, about 800 years ago. Zazen is practiced by focusing on one’s self while sitting, he said.
Zazen mediation is initiated around a calm environment, said Kojima. Kojima instructed students on how to properly begin the meditation.
“First, one must bow in all directions to pay respect to everyone,” he said. Students meditating comfortably sat on a provided cushion and breathed deeply to relax.
Eyes calmly shut; they swayed themselves very slightly, left to right, into position. The meditation session lasted five minutes.
Traditional Zazen meditation would typically last for 45 minutes, Kojima said.
Following the meditation, the tea ceremony was conducted with two student volunteers.
Psychology student Josh Brown and Religious Studies student Le Duong participated in the ceremony.
“Tea ceremonies are very sacred traditions,” Kojima said. Kojima’s assistant prepared the tea with traditional Japanese utensils. He said that the tea is prepared with great elegance and care.
“(The preparation) was so delicate that I was almost hesitant to drink it,” Duong said after the ceremony.
Some students were hesitant about the session. Many had left during the tea ceremony.
Most had classes to attend, but some were just reluctant. “I also felt no purpose in being there, that’s why I decided to leave,” said one of the students who left during the session.
“We live in a society where you have to have objective and goals,” Lee said.
He suggested that students should consider practicing meditation to block out distractions. “If you do practice it, you begin to realize that you’ll find a sense of calmness to function,” Lee said.
Lee said that in Buddhism, distractions are caused by people’s desires and cravings. “Let’s realize that ultimately, and we can let go of all things that we desire and crave for,” he said.