The left hand is placed on top of the right hand, palms facing up. The thumbs are joined in extension of one another with light pressure and the two hands, placed on the upper part of the thighs, are in contact with the abdomen.
Every detail of the posture has a deep meaning. The parts of the body are interdependent and influence each other. The posture has great stability and one can remain immobile for a long time. Unconsciously and naturally, we stop acting by the will of the ego and in this way the cosmic life can enter us.
To practice zazen, one must sit on a round and consistent cushion (zafu), with legs crossed in the lotus or half lotus position. The pelvis tilts forward, in such a way that the knees rest on the ground. From this base the spine is straightened, you have to push towards the sky with the top of the head. Chin tucked in, neck stretched, shoulders naturally relaxed. The eyes are closed, the look placed on the ground one meter in front of oneself.
"Our exhalation is that of the entire universe.
Our inspiration is that of the entire universe.
At every moment we make the great unlimited work come true.
Making this come true is making misfortune go away
and that absolute happiness be generated"
Kodo Sawaki (1880-1965)
During zazen breathing is essential; it is calm and establishes a slow, powerful and natural rhythm. The exhalation is long and deep. Teachers often compare it to the mooing of a cow. The shorter inspiration comes naturally.
This slow, calm and deep exhalation sweeps the complications from the mind. The spirit becomes clear as a cloudless sky.
The attitude of the spirit
Just as correct breathing can only arise from a correct posture, the attitude of the spirit naturally results from a deep concentration on posture and breathing. In zazen, images, thoughts, mental formations arising from the unconscious pass like clouds in the sky and naturally vanish. By not feeding personal thoughts, the hishiryo consciousness arises, above thought. It is the return to the original condition of the spirit.
Master Wanshi says:
"When in the silence all words are forgotten, this arises before you with all clarity. This is the reality of life that pervades the entire universe.
Without trying to reach the truth or cutting off illusions, without running from anything or running after nothing, the universal consciousness manifests naturally. Thus an intuitive, original consciousness, radically different from the habitual consciousness of the self, becomes a reality.
"When the spirit is not attached to anything,
the true spirit appears"
Zazen is aimless, endless, above personal gain: mushotoku. Mahayana Zen emphasizes the altruistic aspect of the practice. Zazen is practiced for and with all existences and all existences practice with us.