The Charleston Zen Center was formed in 1987 to provide both a place and support for the practice of Zen in the Soto tradition. We are not affiliated with any specific lineage or teacher and practitioners from all traditions are welcome here.
Currently we meet Sunday mornings to practice sitting meditation (zazen), walking meditation (kinhin) and chanting as well as to discuss topics related to Zen practice and its application in daily life.
The CZC does not have a resident teacher. Three senior members share leadership responsibilities. Group members are encouraged to establish and maintain a relationship with a teacher if they choose to do so. To find teachers in our region, check out the Soto Zen Buddhists Association website, or the Atlanta Soto Zen website. Newcomers are always welcome, whether or not they have experience with Zen practice. We encourage newcomers to contact us before visiting so that one of our senior members can provide orientation and instruction as needed.
We have 3 thirty minute sits every Sunday interspersed with 10 minute walking meditation periods. Please arrive during the walking meditation session, as the doors will be locked during our sitting periods.
Followed by 10 minutes of kinhin.
Followed by 10 minutes of kinhin.
Followed by chanting and discussion.
Zen is a word inherited from the Chinese word Chan, which itself is a mutation of the word Jhana in Pali, and is translated into English as "meditation". Zen is a practice of calming and stilling the mind, while cultivating the faculty of mindfulness to illuminate the quality of the practitioner's own true nature. Through quiet stillness, the mind becomes clear and free from delusion; through mindfulness, we have the capacity to see what remains when our own mental delusions fall away.
The practice begins by taking up the meditation posture, either in the full lotus, the half lotus, or the Burmese posture (see link for images). It is also acceptable to kneel, or sit in a chair. Sitting upright, in a dignified posture, the practitioner brings energy and alertness to his or her practice. With eyes open or closed, begin with one of the basic practices such as counting the breath. Beginning with one, count each exhale up to 10. If you lose track, kindly and without self-judgement, return to 1. It may be difficult to get all the way to 10, but you can't help that. It is just where your mind is at the moment. With daily practice, you will find it becomes easier and easier to still the mind, and as the mind becomes more still, you will find joy and appreciation in your practice.
To learn more about the various meditation postures, continue to the original article at the Zen Mountain Monastery's website here
Though it is often a welcome opportunity to stretch one’s legs and recover from an long, intense period of sitting, it is also an excellent opportunity to deepen one’s practice.
Here is an excerpt from Suzuki Roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind describing the basic posture for kinhin:
Just as for sitting, when we stand in the zendo we have some rules. But the purpose of these rules is not to make everyone the same, but to allow each to express his own self most freely. For instance, each one of us has his own way of standing, so our standing posture is based on the proportions of our own bodies. When you stand, your heels should be as far apart as the width of your own fist, your big toes in line with the centers of your own breasts. As in zazen, put some strength in your abdomen. Here also your hands should express your self. Hold your left hand against your chest with fingers encircling your thumb, and put your right hand over it. Holding your thumb pointing downward, and your forearms parallel to the floor, you feel as if you have some round pillar in your grasp — a big round temple pillar –so you cannot be slumped or tilted to the side.
When we begin kinhin, everyone will be spread out around the room. We walk clockwise around the room until each practitioner is about 2 or 3 feet behind the next one. Then, we continue at the pace of the leader until the bell is rung.
Upon the sound of clapper, we bow, then walk, still clockwise around the room, until we find our seats. A bell is rung, and we bow to our cushions. The second bell is rung and we bow towards the center of the room, towards each other.
Chanting is an important practice in Zen Buddhism. Following our Sunday sit, we typically chant the Heart Sutra, an important Mahayana text. The sutra emphasizes the interchangeability of form and emptiness; that is all phenomena are "empty" of a fixed, identifiable self. When we chant, our goal is not to intellectually grapple with the subject matter of the sutra, but to abide in the spaciousness of emptiness, throwing our entire experience into the action of chanting, and leaving all other mental phenomena behind.