Zendo Etiquette


Brief Glossary of Zen Practice Terms

Dharma: Religious, secular, or natural law; the law of karma; Buddha or Tao; teaching; the Dharmakaya. With a lower-case ‘d’: phenomenon or thing.

dojin: wayshower, wayfarer; One who has been formally ordained in our Zen Order

dokusan/daisan: Personal interview with the teacher during formal practice.

hojo: Small area where dokusan takes place.

kinhin: The formal walk between periods of zazen. Usually 5 minutes.

practice: Training. Endeavours in the Zendo; zazen. To take the Eightfold Path; to follow the precepts; to turn the Dharma wheel.

samu: Maintenance of the centre                  and/or surrounds as part of formal practice.

sangha: community, fellowship, harmony. 

sesshin: To touch, receive and convey the heart-mind. An intensive Zen retreat of up to one week

sutras: Sermons by the Buddha Shakyamuni and those attributed to him; Buddhist scripture. 

teisho: The Teacher's Dhama talk.

zazen: Seated practice of focus on a single matter.

zazenkai: half-day meeting with sutras, chanting, zazen, kinhin, dokusan and Dharma talk.

zendo: Zen hall, Zen centre.


Zendo Etiquette      

What should I wear?

Wear loose clothing in darker colours (preferably black) suited to sitting in a cross-legged or your other preferred posture. Please avoid all perfumes, colognes and scented deodourants, as they can cause strong allergic reactions and physical suffering to other meditators. You should also try to avoid eating a large meal before you sit, as the extra food can inhibit abdominal breathing, as well as drowsiness.  All mobile phones should be switched “off” or to “silent” before entering the meditation room (Zendo). Before entering the Zendo, please put all bags, keys and jingly items into the shelves provided.Entering the Zendo:

When entering the zendo bow lightly with your hands in gassho (palms together, fingers up), and step in with the left foot first. The path you take to your seat should be just a foot or so in front of the row of cushions. Any turn you make should be made squarely in the corners instead of in a sweeping radius. Your pace should be respectfully metered and deliberate but otherwise normal.

If at any time you should pass in front of the altar, you should respectfully bow gassho. Walk to your seat, stand facing the bench or cushion, and bow gassho. After this, turn clockwise and bow to the sangha (group) before sitting.

At the designated time, a wooden fish or Moktok will be struck in a prescribed  manner in three rounds as a call to formal meditation. Immediately afterwards, a bell is struck three times, signaling the beginning of zazen. By the time the Moktok is on the second roll down, you should be seated and in correct posture. When the bell is struck for the third time, you should be completely "adjusted" so that you have no further need to move throughout the course of the meditation period.

The normal sitting periods are thirty minutes each with five minute walking meditations (Kinhin) in between. You should be settled into your meditative posture well before the bell has been struck for the third time. This position should be one of the recommended postures that you can maintain without moving for a prolonged period, with your hands held in the cosmic mudra position. If you must make slight adjustments to ease pain in muscles or joints, do so slowly and quietly. If you must cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and resume posture without offering any comment. Avoid any unnecessary actions like scratching that can be overcome by determination. If you must move because the position you have chosen has become unbearably painful, mindfully readjust yourself and resume zazen. Do this quietly and carefully to keep from disturbing others.

When the time comes to leave, rise following along with the leader and turn clockwise to face your seat. If you are using a cushion, fluff it back into shape and brush away any hair or dust. Bow to your bench or cushion, turn clockwise to face into the room, and bow to the sangha. Exiting the zendo is done in alternating sequence from front to back. Each person in sequence following the lead of the meditation leader.

Note: If you have any problems with the recommended Zendo Etiquette and sitting postures please adjust accordingly. What is important is that you are comfortable with your participation and meditative posture. Being Quiet and Mindful should be your foremost considerations.


Donations are not required, but should anyone like to contribute to the costs of running services and maintaining our centre, a donations box will be available to receive donations anonymously at the entrance to the Zendo."

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