Monday to Friday: 5:45—7:20
Sunday Midday: 11:00—12:50
Wednesday Evening: 19:00—21:00
Retreats & Programs
What is Zen.
For Zen students, the day begins with 108 prostrations (bows). In the Korean tradition, there are 108 Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Another explanation is that human beings have 108 kinds of delusions and we bow in order to cut them off. More generally, it is taught that we are not bowing to Buddha, but to ourselves. Our small 'I' (ego) bows to our big 'I' (unity of self and all) until it disappears.
Zen Master Dae Bong about bowing practice
Bowing practice means that your body and your mind become one very quickly. Also, it is a very good way to take away lazy mind, desire mind and angry mind.
When you’re sleeping, your body’s lying in your bed, but your mind flies around and goes somewhere. Maybe you go to Las Vegas or you go to the ocean or you go to New York, or some monster is chasing you. Your body’s in bed, but your consciousness already went somewhere. When we wake up, many times, our consciousness and our body don’t quickly connect. So you wander around your house, and drink coffee, you bump into things.
Then slowly, slowly your consciousness and your body again come together. So that’s why, first thing in the morning, we do one hundred and eight bows. Through these one hundred and eight bows, your body and your consciousness become one very quickly. In this way, being clear and functioning clearly is possible.
We always bow one hundred and eight times. One hundred and eight is a number from Hinduism and Buddhism. That means there are one hundred and eight defilements in the mind. Or, sometimes they say one hundred and eight compartments in the mind. Each bow takes away one defilement, cleans one compartment in your mind. So our bowing practice is like a repentance ceremony every morning. In the daytime, in our sleep, our consciousness flies around somewhere. Also, we make something, we make many things in our consciousness. Then, we repent! So we do one hundred and eight bows; that’s already repenting our foolish thinking, taking away our foolish thinking.
Some people cannot sit. Sometimes due to health limitations or they have too much thinking, and if they sit, they cannot control their consciousness. Then, bowing is very good. Using your body in this way is very important.
The direction of bowing is very important. I want to put down my small I, see my true nature and help all beings. So, any kind of exercise can help your body and mind become one, but with just exercise, the direction is often not clear. Sometimes it’s for my health, sometimes it’s for my good looks, sometimes it’s to win a competition, but in Buddhism, everything’s direction is the same point — how to perceive my true nature and save all beings from suffering.
Our bowing takes away our karma mind, our thinking mind, and return to this moment very clearly, want to find my true nature and save all beings from suffering. This is why bowing practice is so important. If somebody has much anger, or much desire, or lazy mind, then every day, 300 bows, or 500 bows, even 1,000 bows, every day. Then their center will become very strong, they can control their karma, take away their karma, and become clear. This helps the practitioner and this world.
Full Standing Bow Form
1. Put your hands in hapchang (palms together as shown at right), feet together
2. Bow fully from the hips, keeping your back straight so your chest is parallel to the floor. Your head should be bowed and your hands should remain close to your body.
3. Return to standing position.
When it is used:
1. Start in a standing position with the feet together, and the hands in hapchang.
2. Drop gently to your knees, but still stay in a vertical position sitting on your heels with your hands in hapchang.
3. Drop forward to all fours so that the right hand is in front of the right knee and same for left.
4. Rock back and down so that your rear is touching your heels and your forehead is touching the floor. In this position, your hands should be turned over (palms up), touching the mat next to your ears and your left foot should be crossed over the right one. Remain for a moment in this position.
5. Rock forward and up so that you return to the “all fours” position.
6. Sit back on your heels and come to a vertical position with your hands in hapchang, resting on the balls of your feet again.
7. Return to the upright standing position.
108 Prostrations Form:
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