Saturday, May 2, 2009

Me to You

"Me to You" number 35 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.


Why isn't this stuff more actively taught beginners. No one has ever said anything to me about how to
gasshō. I've learned what little I know, which is wrong, from watching others. Now with such few words of guidance, gasshō becomes fresh.

Excerpt from technical notes on gasshō from the internets. Check link for more details.

THE FIRM GASSHO. The most formal of the gasshōs, this is the one most commonly used in our daily practice. It is the gasshō we use upon entering the zendo, and upon taking our seats. We also use it at least sixteen times in the course of a formal meal, and during all services. It is made by placing the hands together, palm to palm in front of the face. The fingers are placed together, and are straight rather than bent, while the palms are slightly pressed together so that they meet. The elbows are held somewhat out from the body, although the forearms are not quite parallel with the floor. There is about one fist's distance between the tip of the nose and the hands. Fingertips are at about the same height from the floor as the top of the nose. This gasshō has the effect of helping to establish an alert and reverential state of mind.

THE GASSHO OF NO-MIND. This is the next most commonly used gasshō . It is basically used in greeting one another or our teachers. In this position, the hands are held a little more loosely together, with a slight space between the palms, although the fingers still touch. The elevation of the elbows from the floor is not so great as in the Firm Gasshō; forearms should be at approximately a 45-degree angle to the floor. This gasshō has the effect of deepening one's state of samadhi.,_by_Maezumi_Roshi

What is the point? What is the point of this web log? What is the point of this particular posting?

The point is not to make progress nor is it to get something out of this practice. Examining and questioning is enough. This is the practice of Zen. In the article referenced above, there is a story about a Zen Master who often admonished his students with "Don't expect anything from
the Three Treasures." When caught bowing, a student asked him what he expected to get out of bowing. His reply, which applies not just to bowing, was "Don't expect. Just bow."

So it is in that spirit I post here. Just keep going, keep going.


  1. hi Will

    I think the only instruction I ever received in "How to gassho" was in Rochester. We were told that, during ceremonies and doing gassho, "the arms should be almost parallel to the floor". an energetic pose I guess!

  2. Sometimes I feel a little more instruction in the basic would be helpful. I know it would for me and I look around at beginners and I want to reach out and help. But I'm a little shy.

    When ever I learn some little refinement of the basics, my appreciation for the practice deepens.

    Basics of posture, mudras, and kinhin would go a long way to smoothing out some of the awkwardness in our little zendo.

    Maybe I'll have to overcome my shyness.