Classroom of the Elite: What Is Zazen and Why Were the Students Practicing It?

Classroom of the Elite: What Is Zazen and Why Were the Students Practicing It?
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The third season of Classroom of the Elite is finally starting, and we on Fiction Horizon will be covering the story for you as usual. Volume 8 of the light novel series is where this season starts, and fans of the original written work know that this means the series starts with the Mixed Training Camp event. A lot is going to happen during this event, and as we have explained in our earlier article, the students will have to follow a strict schedule, as the event is one of the school’s more demanding ones. At one point, the students had to practice Zazen. What is Zazen, and why did the students have to practice it? Keep reading to find out!

  • Article Breakdown:
  • Zazen is the name of a Zen Buddhist tradition; it is, in fact, a complex meditative technique that trains both the body and the mind. It is a part of Japanese culture, although it is not practiced by everyone.
  • During the Mixed Training Camp event, the students had to follow a strict daily schedule that involved various activities, as dictated by the school. Their activities were outlined from morning to evening.
  • One such activity included practicing Zazen in the morning, so the students had to gather in order to do it. Some of the students had never done it before, but it was how their day started.

What is Zazen?

Zazen is a meditative exercise that is typically the main practice of the Zen Buddhist tradition. This is intended to calm the body and mind and prepare the ground for mystical experiences such as Kenshō or Satori. In Sōtō, zazen is often equated with enlightenment.

Zazen can be performed in the lotus position, in the half-lotus position, in the so-called Burmese position, or in the heel position. Zazen is practiced in an upright, stable, self-resting posture that maintains a harmonious relationship between tension and relaxation. The hands are often held just below the navel in what is known as meditation mudra, with one hand resting with its back in the palm of the other and the tips of the thumbs touching above it. Zazen can also be practiced on a chair if physical conditions do not allow sitting on the floor. In this case, too, the posture is upright, and the back is free of any support.

During Zazen, the body is not moved because the external physical discipline supports internal mental observation and concentration. The meditation exercise has different variations, but it is always carried out with complete mindfulness. It represents, at least at the beginning, a physical and psychological burden for the students. Through self-observation of the body, its posture, and breathing, the practitioner connects with the present place and moment. Since body and mind are not separated, posture has a direct influence on feeling, thinking, and the physical and psychological state.

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The life experiences and subconscious that are also manifested in the body appear in this state of mind and can be released. However, Zazen has no defined goal and no meaning beyond the act of sitting itself. That’s why there are traditionally hardly any general instructions other than the advice on mindfulness. Zazen is often called “practice” for short to emphasize the move away from theoretical preoccupation.

During Zazen, the master often gives instructions to the students. Such instruction is called Kusen.

Why did the students have to practice Zazen?

Well, as we have said, the Mixed Training Camp event was not just a holiday – it was a rather demanding event in which the students had to give it their all, as usual. They had a strict schedule they needed to follow, and in that aspect, the school demanded a lot from them. Zazen, as we have explained above, was one of the things on that schedule.

Namely, during the early morning, the students would gather for exercises, and it was decided that they would be practicing Zazen. Although Zazen is part of Japanese culture, not everyone practices it, so when Hideo Sotomura arrived at the location where the practice was to be held, he commented on how he had never done it; the instructor then scolded him for his dialect, commenting on how Zazen has several important aspects and how manners, morals and considering those around you is part of Zazen.

Sotomura’s behavior was not in line with this, so he was scolded because of that, but the practice continued, and the students did their tasks. This was part of their morning schedule during the event, and that is why they actually did it. We wanted to explain this to you, as a lot of Western fans might be confused about the nature and importance of Zazen, so we have provided you with details about what Zazen is, and why the students actually practiced it. With this, we are concluding our article.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

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