JAPANESE TYPES OF MEDITATION
Probably the most typical and best known of Japanese meditation is Zen meditation. "Zen" is the Japanese word derived from the Chinese "Chan", which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit "Dhyana", meaning meditation.
Zen Buddhism was developed by the Indian monk Bodhidharma at the Shaolin Temple in the 6th century in China, and later spread to and became popular in Japan. It is no surprise, therefore, that Zen meditation is widely used in advanced Shaolin Kungfu and advanced Karate.
The aim of Zen meditation is to achieve a state of no-mind, which is actually mind in its purest, universal form, without any distortions and disillusions. A remarkable feature of Zen is its great emphasis on doing, and its utmost disregard for theoretical knowledge. The aspirant sits in the full or half lotus posture in zazen (sitting meditation), and let his mind be void.
If thoughts appear in his mind, he is to throw the thoughts away; or, if he fails to do so, just note the thoughts or mental images without any conscious thinking on them. In this way, satori is achieved, that is, a clarity of mind that sees things as they really are.
A Zen master applies this satori in all his daily living, not just when he is in meditation. A student once asked a master what Zen was. He replied, "When I eat, I eat; when I sleep, I sleep. That is Zen." In other words, the Zen master is always mindful of what he is doing now.
A unique method, besides zazen, to help a student to achieve satori is the use of koans. A koan is a question that is non-sensible to the ordinary thinking mind, such as "What is your primordial face?" Using knowledge or intellect to solve the question is futile, because there is no logical answer to such an "illogical" question.
The student meditates on the non-sensible koan until it drives him to a feverish pitch, as he cannot find any intelligent answer to the question. Then, in a flash of insight, he realizes that ordinary conscious thinking cannot give him the answer: he achieves satori. He discards his ordinary thinking mind, and achieves no-mind.
In Western psychological terms, he by-passes his ordinary conscious level to reach his deeper sub-consciousness. The answer he had been trying very hard to find may now suddenly appear to him apparelled in celestial lights. He does not merely think of the answer; he knows by direct inner experience.