Bai Zhang’s 12 Meditation Steps

“Do not give rise to good and bad thoughts. When a thought arises-–-be aware of it-–-awareness dissolves the thought. When this method is applied over a long period of time—all thoughts are forgotten and oneness is attained.”

-Bai Zhang

Zuo Ch’an Yi, The Seated Meditation Regulation text, may have been one of the first lists of instructions regarding seated meditation. This is thought to be one of the texts that Zen Master Dogen referred to when he was creating his own set of meditation rules.

Zen Master Baizang gave the following instructions in this text regarding how to meditate. I think this list is still relevant today:

1) Regulate food, water, and sleep.

2) A quiet room and loose clothing.

3) A thick cushion.

4) Adopt an awe-inspiring deportment that makes everything ‘equal’.

5) Assume the full-lotus – right-foot over left thigh, left-foot over right-thigh.

6) Assume the half-lotus – with the left-leg laid over the right-leg.

7) Left-hand should be placed on the right-hand with thumbs touching.

8) Adjust the posture forward and backward and settle whilst regulating the breath.

9) Align the spine with the shoulder and pelvic girdles. of r10) An aligned posture allows the breath to be full and deep.

11) The ears should be aligned with the shoulders; the nose with the navel. The tongue should touch the palate and the lips and teeth should be closed.

12) Eyes should remain slightly open to avoid drowsiness.

It’s important to have some kind of structure. If our meditation is too open ended, too relaxed, then we might not meditate at all. So, instructions like these are important. And, even though this is a very old list of instructions, it still has plenty of relevance for those of us that are meditating today.

Bai Zhang said that meditation is the single most important teaching in Buddhist practice. I tend to agree with that. Meditation benefits the self and all other beings as well.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

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