|London Zen Centre||
Monday to Friday: 5:45—7:20
Sunday Midday: 11:00—12:50
Wednesday Evening: 19:00—21:00
Retreats & Programs
What is Zen.
The formal 4-bowl style of eating meals comes from China. Originally, in the Buddha's time, there was only one bowl. The 4 bowls are symbolic of the four elements - earth, air, fire and water, and also of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and Mind.
The formal meal is an important part of practice. Everyone eats together in silence in the Dharma Room. Following the steps of the formal meal helps the mind stay completely aware and focused. It also teaches us to be mindful while eating - always know how much is enough; think of others when sharing food; do not attach to taste and sight, eat only to support yourself in practice, and not to your satisfaction.
In the Kwan Um School of Zen, we use this style of meals only during retreats: YMJJs or Kyol Ches.
There is a certain ceremonial format for this meal, involving all four bowls, chopsticks and spoon. We begin with opening the bowl set, then serve each other, eath together, wash the bowls with tea, rinse them with water, offer some water to other beings, then dry and repack the bowl sets to the state we started from.
The Head Dharma Teacher or any senior student will help you through this for the first time, and as many times as you need afterward during the retreat.
Zen is Understanding Yourself
Zen is Understanding Yourself
One day a student from Chicago came to the Providence Zen Center and asked Seung Sahn Soen-Sa, “What is Zen?”
Soen-sa held his Zen stick above his head and said, “Do you understand?”
The student said, “I don’t know.”
Soen-sa said, “This don’t know mind is you. Zen is understanding yourself.”
“What do you understand about me? Teach me.”
Soen-sa said, “In a cookie factory, different cookies are baked in the shape of animals, cars, people, and airplanes. They all have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same dough, and they all taste the same.
“In the same way, all things in the universe – the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, rivers, people, and so forth – have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same substance. The universe is organized into pairs of opposites: light and darkness, man and woman, sound and silence, good and bad. But all these opposites are mutual, because they are made from the same substance. Their names and their forms are different, but their substance is the same. Names and forms are made by your thinking. If you are not thinking and have no attachment to name and form, then all substance is one. Your don’t know mind cuts off all thinking. This is your substance. The substance of this Zen stick and your own substance are the same. You are this stick; this stick is you.”
The student said, “Some philosophers say this substance is energy, or mind, or God, or matter. Which is the truth?”
Soen-sa said, “Four blind men went to the zoo and visited the elephant. One blind man touched its side and said, ‘The elephant is like a wall.’ The next blind man touched its trunk and said, ‘The elephant is like a snake.’ The next blind man touched its leg and said, ‘The elephant is like a column.’ The last blind man touched its tail and said, ‘The elephant is like a broom.’ Then the four blind men started to fight, each one believing that his opinion was the right one. Each only understood the part he had touched; none of them understood the whole.
“Substance has no name and no form. Energy, mind, God, and matter are all name and form. Substance is the Absolute. Having name and form is having opposites. So the whole world is like the blind men fighting among themselves. Not understanding yourself is not understanding the truth. That is why there is fighting among ourselves. If all the people in the world understood themselves, they would attain the Absolute. Then the world would be at peace. World peace is Zen.”
The student said, “How can practicing Zen make world peace?”
Soen-sa said, “People desire money, fame, sex, food, and rest. All this desire is thinking. Thinking is suffering. Suffering means no world peace. Not thinking is not suffering. Not suffering means world peace. World peace is the Absolute. The Absolute is I.”
The student said, “How can I understand the Absolute?”
Soen-sa said, “You must first understand yourself.”
“How can I understand myself?”
Soen-sa held up the Zen stick and said, “Do you see this?”
He then quickly hit the table with the stick and said, “Do you hear this? This stick, this sound, your mind – are they the same or different?”
The student said, “The same.”
Soen-sa said, “If you say they are the same, I will hit you thirty times. If you say they are different, I will still hit you thirty times. Why?”
The student was silent.
Soen-sa shouted, “KATZ!!!” Then he said, “Spring comes, the grass grows by itself.”
The London Zen Centre Ja An Sa
Practice at London Zen Centre
The London Zen Centre is the home of the Kwan Um School of Zen in London and the head temple of the school in Great Britain. Members and visitors are welcome to attend any of the meditation practice sessions at the centre. Please contact the guiding teacher, Ja An JDPSN, in advance if you are attending practice or a retreat for the first time. Kong-an (Jap. koan) interviews take place most Sundays at the midday practice.
Our guiding teacher is Dharma Master Ja An, who lives at the London Zen Centre. She received inka, the seal of teaching authority in Zen, from Zen Master Wu Bong at the Warsaw Zen Centre on 19th September 2009.
Please always contact the guiding teacher before your visit to the London Zen Centre on 0207 502 6786 (evenings, till 21:00) or 07742 979 050 (daytime, mobile phone). International: +44 207 502 6786.
Email: Please contact her through email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org