FAQ

General:

Yes you can. But you will serve your experience best by arriving a minimum of 30 minutes early, to orient yourself with the setting and teaching form. If possible, please inform the Center by email at zen.center.regensburg@gmail.com, to inform them of your visit, so that someone is ready to greet you. (We cannot promise that there will be guided attention on every single night that people wish to visit. We will try our best!)

The Zen Center Regensburg is a Zen temple functioning as closely as possible to traditional Zen temple practice and life. As such, there is some formality around the practice like bowing when you enter or leave the Dharma Room, the posture of seated medtation, etc. You can learn all that by just watching what other people do and follow them.

Also there are introduction classes that you can visit, where we explain everything in detail. Please enquire through our email address when the Introductory Class will be held — due to the staffing situation here, we must arrange for volunteers to be present. A minimum 10 EUR donation is gratefully accepted from you for this action-packed class.

We have plenty of mats and cushions of various sizes and densities. Unless you have some special physiological hindrance which requires special equipment (like a specialized sitting-bench), we do not recommend you bring anything.

We recommend loose-fitting clothing, as you will be sitting cross-legged on the ground. The use of shorts or mini-skirts is not recommended, as this will hinder your sitting posture experience. Shorts are not recommended. During retreats, the Zen Center will lend participants traditional temple clothing for the duration of the retreat. This helps to create a “neutral” practicing atmosphere that keeps the focus on the practice, not unlike symphony orchestra performers dressing all in uniform black-and-white outfits. You get the point.

The only “mistake” in Zen practice is to hold your thinking, feelings, or opinions. This is true for life, for relationships with others, and so it is true for practice together in the temple.

Bowing is a breathing-practice. It establishes our breathing low down in our center, out of the hustle-and-bustle of our thinking-heads. Bowing lowers the ego, and calms down the mind. As we lower our whole body to the ground, the chest is collapsed, and air comes out; as we stand up again, expanding our thoracic cavity, the air enters inward. That small gesture already helps to bring the mind into a more peaceful state. In bowing, my Small I bows to my Big I. It is not a religious or sectarian meaning.

Zen means observation, investigation. There is no “belief system” or dogma to be learned or accepted — there is only the radically pure seeing into our True Nature, which is always pure and clear. Intentionally, we do not do any “counseling” or advising during the retreats, except for the occasional “nudges” which Sunim might give during certain points of the sitting or bowing practice. If a problem appears during retreat that is causing a disturbance for your practice, you are welcome to post a request on the Community Board to speak with the Teacher. If it is possible, a short meeting might possibly be arranged. But Sunim will definitely not be available for any intellectual or conceptual chats — these have no place in a traditional Zen retreat. We also discourage the use of pers writing-journal and books during retreats.

The Buddha’s teachings are offered freely. We are not transaction-based, like a health club or martial arts studio.

But someone needs to help with electricity, water, heat, light, food, and insurance. Please, give what you can. If you are absolutely unable to pay for the retreat, please communicate this to the staff before arriving for the retreat. This is NOT a matter to be worked out after your arrival.

If you come once or twice a month for practice, then putting something in the donation box (like 10€) is enough. If you come once a week or more often we suggest to make a membership. That way you don’t have to worry about how much to give and we have to worry less about our rent 🙂

We also accept offers of volunteer-help, donations of needed foods or materials or skills. Connect with a temple member if you have questions.

See more infos at: Support

Only go straight, don’t know. If you’re still not clear about it, then go ask a tree. This tree will have a very good answer for you. 

Zen Center Regensburg is an international meditation community. We wanted to make the website understandable for as many people as possible. Yet, with most people getting their web contact through smartphones, etc., we made the difficult decision — for space and aesthetics — to limit expression to as few words as possible.

We have a majority of friends coming for retreats from Greece, Korea, the UK or the USA, among other places, who don’t speak German. There are some people in Asia who have criticized Sunim for not presenting more of his teachings here in Korean. You can’t win everything.

Our limited non-paid staff is working on translations, but it takes some time. If you want to support that, you can gladly make a donation for that purpose — either of your skills or towards a fund which would be explicitly dedicated to translating all of these teachings into German (or any other language you choose). One reason that Regensburg was chosen to be the center of Hyon Gak Sunim’s teaching and practice life is that, as a university-town, there would be familiarity with a more international mode of communication.

Practice:

Zen is not just about sitting meditation. There are many technologies to Zen: sitting meditation, walking meditation, bowing meditation, mantra meditation, eating meditation, work meditation — why not chanting meditation? Every human culture uses the voice as a tool for people to gain deeper clarity and insight into their True Nature.

A truly excellent answer to this same question was given by Hyon Gak Sunim’s Teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, in the  classic book, Dropping Ashes on the Buddha.

Here is a link to that teaching, right out of the horse’s mouth:

“Why We Chant”

“Body-sitting is not so important,” Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say. “Mind-sitting is very important.” The posture is not of the greatest necessity: lotus, half-lotus, Burmese, horsey-horsey, or sitting in a chair. These are all possible. You are also allowed to quietly stand up during sitting meditation if you are experiencing insufferable pain and agony of some (physical) kind.

Lots of moving and adjusting will not help your practice, and it will disturb others. Maybe the guy sitting right next to you in the movie theater will feel a lot better about his movie experience if he can just slowly munch through a loud, plasticky bag of potato chips and slurp his oversized Coke. Will that enhance your own movie-going experience. The same applies for our Dharma Room etiquette. We don’t need to be wooden robots, by any measure. But having clear body-awareness helps your own meditation’s growth and the practice of others.

Mahamudra is the “method” taught in our Zen tradition. (We do not encourage so-called “yoga Audra” or “Dhyana Mudra,” for example.)

Mahamudra: Place the hands above or in your lap, the left hand facing palm-up resting in the right hand, and connect the tips of your thumbs gently. This is placed in front of your “center,” or dan jeon (Jap.: Hara). It’s a very natural resting position for your arms. Far more than that, the resting of your fingertips together at the gravitational-center of your body/mind is a kind of “trick” to attract the subtle strands of thinking-consciousness down to the breathing-center.

An eminent teacher once said, “When you meditate, keep the front door and the back door open. Let your thoughts come and go, with no hindrance. Only, don’t serve them tea. Because then they will want to stay.”

It’s very simple: You just return your attention to your breathing, to that natural rising and falling flow of inhalation and exhalation that happens automatically. When a thought comes and drags you with it (and that will happen a lot of times), just notice that, let go of it, and return to your breath again.

Then, as Zen students, we engage the natural question, through the breath: “What/who sits here? What/who sees my breath… happening? What/who sees these thoughts, appearing and disappearing? Where does this thinking arise from?” We do not “ask” this conceptually, or with our thinking-mind: it is the natural questioning, watching that we have about life and death. What am I? Only don’t knowwwwww…

(An important point: We do NOT teach people to “concentrate” on the breath, or “focus” on the breath.Both of these actions have tension, holding, and cannot be maintained for long. “Awareness” of breath is NOT the same as “concentrating” or “focusing” on breath.)

It’s like learning how to surf. You get on your board and try to stay there. If a wave comes that throws you off, you just get back on. By doing that over and over again your stand will get stronger. You will not arrive at stability on the board through tensing up, or on “focusing” on the wave or “concentrating” on the board. There is just this soft, natural awareness of the flowing wave of breath that we return to, which brings us back to right-here-right-now.

Try it!

It’s normal that your knee or back will start to hurt a little. In the beginning try to continue meditating, very often it passes away again.

If the pain becomes too problematic, half-bow once as a silent-courtesy,, stand up carefully and walk behind your cushion until your knees/back, whatever, are better again.

Follow the group — not too slow, not too fast. Eyes are relaxed, gazing downward and in front, not sightseeing around the room.

Carry them in front of you, at about belt-buckle level, fingers interlaced, so your arms don’t swing back and forth. This brings natural, soft attention down through your fingertips into your “center,” or dan jeon/hara, the energy-point of our breath-roots located just below the navel.

Except for some unforeseen emergency, we only get up to use the bathroom during walking meditation. Just bow before leaving or entering the Dharma Room and then later retake your position in line, so you can enter there when you come back again. This keeps the appropriate mindfulness-atmosphere in the Dharma Room and among your fellow-practitioners.

If, due to some emergency, you need to leave the Dharma Room for the bathroom (or some other reason), you will not be permitted to re-enter until the next walking meditation period. This is done, well, for the very same reason that we are not permitted to freely come and go from a concert hall during a classical music program: only during intermissions. Constant movement disturbs the atmosphere, and encourages an unsettled mind to make more things to attach to, instead of the deep “music” of our True Nature.

Still having questions?