The Zendo


Zendo Etiquette

The Brooks Branch Zendo is a place of quiet meditation and contemplation so we ask that there should be no unnecessary talking in the zendo. If you need to ask questions or discuss something, you may do it outside, quietly, especially if there are already people sitting in the zendo. Also, please try to be on time. Five to ten minutes early is best, so you will have time to enter the zendo, arrange your cushions, and be in place for the start of the session.
If you arrive late, please do not enter while bows are being offered. You may enter when chanting or sitting meditation is taking place. Please enter quietly.

Place your shoes in the shelves to the right of the door. On Sundays it is common to leave the zendo and walk around the grounds during walking meditation, so an opportunity will be provided for you to retrieve your shoes.

When you enter the zendo, you should enter with your hands in gassho, which means to have them together (as in prayer) in front of you. Enter with your left foot first, step in, and make a bow from the waist toward the center of the zendo. Then, with your hands still in gassho, walk softly to an empty cushion.

Please note that one cushion at the far end of the left-hand row and two at the far end of the right are reserved for the teacher and two “officers” who perform various functions during the service.

It is customary not to cross the center of the zendo, but to move along the sides in front of the cushions. Should you need to adjust your cushions, you’ll find that there are more cushions on the shelves by the door, in addition to kneeling benches, traditional chairs and kneeling chairs. Before you sit, turn and face the row of cushions opposite you and bow again, hands in gassho. Then sit.

Should you arrive late, you may enter quietly at any time except when the han (wooden gong) is being struck, and when formal bows are taking place. At these times wait outside until everyone is seated, then enter quietly and take a seat.

During zazen (sitting meditation) please be as quiet as possible, and try not shift your position unless you really need to. Should you need to use the restroom, please wait until the next period of walking meditation. At that time you may step out of the line. When you return to the line, wait as it passes, then bow and step back in at the place you left.

During kinhin (walking meditation) please be careful to stay in step with the person in front of you. The kinhin line should move as a single entity. As the line returns to enter the zendo the leader will make a loud clap, at which time you should put your hands in gassho and keep them there until you are in front of your cushion. When the jiki signals, bow, and reseat yourself upon your cushion.

When formal practice is over please straighten and brush off your cushions so they are tidy for the next person. Do not bow when leaving the zendo.