Sanzen is an interview with a Zen teacher. It involves two people attempting to meet unconditionally without any games.
There is a formal aspect to sanzen – the student makes bows at the beginning and end of the encounter. Between these bows, however, is utter freedom. Yasutani Roshi teaches, “Without this individual guidance we cannot say that our practice of zazen is authentic.”
Although there may be some mention of practical aspects of Zen, sanzen is primarily orientated towards the goal of Zen practice. The teacher will be embodying, possibly expressing this direction, the student will be attempting to rise to the same level.
It’s wrong to think you get anything out of sanzen. The old text says “The man of the world gains something every day; the man of the way loses something every day.” At times you may feel confused, anxious or resentful of what you encounter in sanzen. If you continue with your practice, however, things will come into focus. Even when you feel like you have nothing and know nothing, it is important to enter the sanzen room.
What happens in the sanzen room is confidential. Neither the student nor the teacher speak to others about the encounter. Obviously no sexual or romantic advances are ever appropriate from either side.
Within the space of sanzen, the student has the opportunity to express their understanding in absolutely any way that seems true to them. The teacher’s job is essentially to save the student time. Years can be wasted in spiritual dead-ends. The only person we know of who attained the way completely by himself was the Buddha.
Some students benefit from occasional sanzen, others find frequent encounters accelerate their rate of progress.
Person-to-person sanzen is available at our dojo when Daizan Roshi is in attendance, and at retreats and other events.
Y ou don’t have to be in London to join Zenways and seriously engage in Zen practice. For centuries, serious students have fulfilled their responsibilities in the world while maintaining contact with their teacher at a distance.
One of the three greatest works of Zen literature is the collection of letters of Daiye Soko (1089-1163AD), the sanzen or private practice letters that he wrote to his many remote students.
These days we have the opportunity for more direct encounters. Remote Zenways students may do sanzen via Skype at 7-8 am UK time every Monday morning. The username to search for is daizan100. If you haven’t contacted us before, be aware that there may be a queue. You can add yourself to the queue by giving Daizan a missed call on Skype or by sending an instant message saying you’d like to be added to the queue. Then you do your meditation while you wait. Please be patient.
You are welcome to come to remote sanzen a few times while considering whether you wish to become a Zenways student.