New Way of Zen Mediation in COVID-19 Era

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Date and Time: Saturday, March 6, 8:00 p.m.– 9:50 p.m.
Place: Zoom call to Dokuonji-temple from each home
Mentor: Chief Priest at Dokuonji-temple in Yokosuka
Participants: 7 JICA Tokyo Participants from India, Solomon, Burkina Faso, Bhutan, and Syrian and 2 staffs; Yokohama National University students from Vietnam; 1 Tokyo Institute of Technology student from Greece
KSGG members: 16 KSGG members
Language: Japanese and English

Around 60 people including KSGG members from five continents participated in Zoom Zen meditation (or zazen) meeting, as it was difficult to have real zazen at a temple due to the COVID-19 calamity. The meeting consisted of four sessions:two 30-minute zazen practices, Q&A led by the chief priest, and exchange of impressions among the participants. The chief priest Fujio explained the process in both English and Japanese. A professional interpreter helped them communicate in English during the Q&A and exchange sessions. Shintaro Sawada of KSGG said the participants would sit in such natural surroundings as breeze in summer night and sound of autumn insects if this zazen were an actual on-site meditation at Dokuonji. As per Priest Fujio’s instructions at this on-line zazen, the participants warmed up themselves with stretching exercise (Douzen or Zen Meditation through Movement), which was somewhat similar to yoga or qigong. Sitting posture in zazen is very important, according to the explanation of how to sit by the priest. The participants adjusted their posture, then the priest checked their posture on the screen. They began a zazen session after learning breathing method. They checked out their sitting posture by themselves when warned by the priest with a bell sound, which replaced a beating with a stick ( keisaku) as the priest was not able to use it over Zoom. Under Fujio’s instruction the participants recited the Heart Sutra( or Han-nya Shinkyou, a popular Buddhist’ mantra), they bowed each other, putting their hands together. I felt a sense of unity among the participants on the screen. When the Zoom zazen finished, some participants said happily they could have relaxed pretty much, and others followed. A foreign student studying in Japan distributed his comment on the zazen. He said, “It will give me mental peace and help me for [sic] doing my study successfully.” His words evidently showed how much the participants enjoyed the on- line zazen.