New to Zen | Red Earth Zen

What is it

Zen is a form of Buddhism that dates all the way back to the Buddha himself.  There are a number of different schools within zen, but in general, it is a form of buddhist practice characterized by silent meditation and a continual effort to remain present with wherever you are. One of the most basic tenets of Buddhism is a belief in the  Four Noble Truths:

1. Life inevitably brings suffering.

2. Suffering is caused by desire, anger and ignorance.

3. There is a way out.

4. The way out is to awaken. 

The direction of Zen practice is to attain our true nature and help this world.

Red Earth Zen is part of the Kwan Um School of Zen which was founded by a Korean Zen Monk and Zen Master named Song Sahn, who came to the United States in 1972. Our school has a global headquarters in Cambridge, Mass, but there are hundreds of groups operating throughout the world. 

How does “practice” work?

Our typical daily practice consists of three parts: bows, chanting and meditation. Bows consists of 108 prostrations. The chanting is done partially in english and partially in Korean and during meditation we sit for 30 minutes, followed by a short reading or dharma talk. During retreats we add a few additional activities like walking meditation and interviews. Some of these activities may seem a bit foreign if you are new to zen, but what most people find is that once they give it enough time to become more familiar, they begin to see how participating in these actions as a group can aid your ability to meditate and remain present.

Why do we do it?

Each individual is going to have his or her own reasons for practicing zen. However, what brings us to the mat, is rarely what what keeps us coming back. For some, taking the time to practice each day will bring a greater sense of calm, for others the benefit may come primarily from the shared action of practicing together. For many of us the answer the answer is more simple, we take the time to practice each day because of what happens when we don’t. 

If you are new to zen practice, it may take some time to get used to. Please do not be shy about asking questions. We also encourage you to try some of the other local zen groups. You will find that the form differs from group to group and one may appeal more to you than another.

How does it help?

The world is a busy place. We are all busy. We all have stress, commitments, things to worry about. We need to get things done... in the words of our founding teacher, “Put it down. Put it all down.” In practicing zen we are engaged in letting go of the things that weigh us down and bring us suffering. When we meet together and practice together in our sangha, we help each other by providing support and reminding one another that regardless of what is going on, that this moment, right now, is where we need to be, not fretting over the past, or future. And all we need to do at this moment, is breathe.

© Dave Prior 2013