Zen Training at Engakuji


**BUMP–Registration will close in the next couple of days**

Engakuji (円覚寺), one of the major temples in Kamakura and training site of D.T. Suzuki, is holding its Spring Student Zazen Training Session from March 4-6. Application is open to anyone (including non-students).

I attending the Fall training session last year with almost no prior experience and found the weekend intense but very rewarding.

More details on the website (Japanese) here.

If any readers in Japan are interested in attending, please fill out this application form and send it to the temple via fax or mail. The sessions tend to be popular so I suggest applying as soon as possible. Neither prior experience with meditation nor advanced Japanese skills are necessary but having one of these is helpful.

I’m happy to answer any questions/concerns in the comments section.

3 thoughts on “Zen Training at Engakuji”

  1. Hi Benjamin thank you for posting this! I had a couple questions:

    1. What are the sleeping arrangements and meals like?
    2. Everyone really wakes up at 4 AM?
    3. How did you feel when you finished last year?

  2. During zazen, are they strict about everyone being in seiza all the time? I can’t last more than 5 minutes.

  3. @almond

    Sure thing!

    1. You’re allotted one futon and two blankets during the winter. The men and women stay in separate rooms. Meals are simple, generally consisting of rice porridge (お粥), pickled radishes and plums, miso soup, and barley. You can eat as much as you want, but you have to do it fast and according to procedure (作法).

    2. Yup. 4:30 in the Winter. It’s easier than you think it is.

    3. I felt great! All of my senses were on fire after leaving the temple and I noticed a lot of things for the first time that had been right in front of my nose for months, including several really cool shops in my neighborhood.

    I also realized just how much most people don’t really pay attention to what’s going on around them, including myself. As I walked through Tokyo station to transfer to my train home, I was struck by how many people there were hurrying around, cutting each other off and generally getting in each others way. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen in the temple.


    In Rinzai Zen temples in Japan, you’re generally expected to sit in either full-lotus (cross legged with each foot up on the opposite thigh) or half-lotus (one foot up, the other foot tucked behind your knee). Either way, both knees should be touching the ground so that you form a stable tripod. This way, the only part of your body that is moving is your abdomen.

    That being said, if you really can’t sit in either of these positions, no one is going to stop you if you sit in 胡座 (Indian-style, cross-legged). Plus, if you’re wearing a hakama, no one can tell how you’re sitting.

    There is a lot of sitting in seiza, but not for zazen. Seiza is for chanting, listening to sermons, eating, and other periods of wait. For me, it’s the hardest part of the 座禅会 by far. If you’re not used to sitting in seiza, you’re allowed to put a couple of cushions in between your calves and butt, which takes the pressure off your knees. In the long run, it’s expected that you’ll eventually ‘graduate’ from this, as I am slowly doing.

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