Thursday, January 28, 2010

Zazen: The Kata of Life & Death

In my latest posts, I have written about Kata as a means of understanding life. Zazen is also a Kata. It is the Kata of Life and Death.

Nonin, during his Dharma talks (Buddhist sermons), used to always remind us that it is not so much important that we understand all that he says, just that we hear it, let it settle into us and then let it go. Please do this as you read.

As you are aware, the term Karate is based on the Buddhist Heart Sutra which talks about 'Emptiness is Form, Form is Emptiness' ...and I have discussed this previously. For a quick reminder, Emptiness is the source of pure potential from which Form arises. Form arises from Emptiness and returns to Emptiness...and is always Emptiness, except it is now form.This is witnessed in your breathing.

How do you know you are alive? You are breathing, but more specifically, you have an inhale, right? Without an inhale there is no life. The proverbial 'Breath of Life' is your inhale. This is when you take Form. Form comes not only in your physical body, but it is the state of mind you have along with all the stirring of emotions you feel.

During Zazen, you are to be aware of this Form, as it is....then......let it go with the exhale. This is your return to Emptiness. Notice what happens to your body, mind and emotions when you exhale completely and just let go...or 'die'. It is usually very relaxed, is it not?

Learning to be your exhale and letting go (die) into relief is very important. For one it is very relaxing and why many bodyworkers and therapists teach a cleansing breath with a big exhale. For another and more important reason it connects you to Raw Pure Potential...Emptiness.As you connect with your exhale you can feel the 'letting go' as well as the potential arising of the next inhale.

My question for you is...'What Form are you going to take with your next inhale?' You have a choice as to the Form you assume. Are you going to use your inhale for compassion or hatred? Goodwill or vengeance? Tranquility or Anxiety? Your Intention sets your Form.Each breath you take is a chance to 'reincarnate'. It is a chance to make changes.

Just like your Empty Hand can shape-shift (reincarnate) and make a punch, spear hand or claw, your Empty Form can shape-shift (reincarnate) into Tranquility, Calmness, Peace and Goodwill. It can shape into good health, better relations, or even a deeper understanding of the human condition.

Hands palm to palm,


  1. How about a dog? Can I be a dog? Great post Shinzen, it kindof mirrors the post I just did.
    Thanks for tuning to my vibe channel.

    Yours in Budo,
    Nagarjuna... ;)

  2. I tended to see in and out as one inseparable motion. This post is a nice way to make something of both.

    nnnnhaaawzwaa blbl

  3. LOL!!! Ta-Wan; you must be running with crazy clouds again.