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Buddhist Zazen meditation: what surroundings are best for beginner meditation? Candles, inscense?

I went to a simple zen mediation center and I’m curious about its surroundings.

I understand that simplicity in setting is a often a good thing for beginners, but is there a certain role for the following things?:

plants (were very eastern in nature)
pictures
candles and inscense?

Thanks


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TeaimJohn P (I'm only a bug)MarkSP'angOutsideTheBox Recent comment authors
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Teaim
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Teaim

Zazen is a simple practice of sitting still and concentrating on the breath and posture, allowing the mind to return to its quiet nature-that’s it, nothing else. All the animates described in the answers above help to create a pleasant environment, but are not directly involved in the actual practice of zazen, and are not necessary. Anywhere that you can sit quietly is all you need. Please don’t get concerned with the extras, all those extras are nice, but are definitely not needed to practice. If you think that all the animates are of any real importance, you forgetting the… Read more »

John P (I'm only a bug)
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John P (I'm only a bug)

The offerings placed before the Buddha may create a lot of confusion for Westerners. The food offerings, candles, water offerings, incense, etc. we place in front of images in Buddhism are not for the image to physically partake. That would be foolish to think that an image would require such items. They are not offerings in the traditional sense but, rather, they symbolically represent inner and physical offerings we are supposed to offer others in this world. Each offering is viewed as the best and purest we can imagine which is what we would offer to an honored guest in… Read more »

MarkS
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MarkS

I agree with P’ang with one small exception. As a beginner it may be most useful to practice in a very quiet place without external distraction. After some period of time one should be able to sit in silence in the noisest of places.

Candles, incense and other things can become impediments to good practice or crutches for future practice if a beginner without proper instruction comes to rely on their use.

P'ang
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P'ang

Most Zen centers give careful thought to the meditation hall and other rooms/buildings. Some things that you might see in a Zen hall include: Altar. Everything on the altar has a specific meaning. The four elements (air, fire, water, earth) are represented by incense (air), candles (fire), water bowl (water), and rice offering and/or plants (earth). There is also a statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, to remind us of our true nature. Plants or flowers also celebrate the Buddha nature inside each of us. Many Zen halls also have a bell or gong, to call sentient beings to practice,… Read more »

OutsideTheBox
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OutsideTheBox

Al you really need is a quiet place to sit. Try not to take any form of drugs (prescription, recreational, or over the counter). It is not possible to meditate when using them.

Sophrosyne
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Sophrosyne

Altars are for inspiration and a reminder of the goal of Buddhism. Pictures represent our lineage, especially the root teacher Shakyamuni. His attainment is what we all aspire to. Plants can be simply for decoration or are used as offerings. Flowers typically represent generosity (the giving of something beautiful), but they can also represent impermanence (a flower is fragile and will eventually wilt and die). Candles represent illumination and wisdom. Incense typically represents moral discipline. It is often said that the morally upright person is ‘perfumed’ with virtue. Of course, none of this is necessary for Zazen. All you need… Read more »

Frédéric B
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Frédéric B

Simply a quiet place, in order to meditate without problem. Silence is the best way to meditate.

Money
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Money

i’m sure they were for inspiration and reflexion, but not likely for zazen. as i understand it, while sitting zazen you are supposed to focus on an undecorated wall, or something that will help you to calm your thoughts.. candles, etc are more of a disctraction i would think (at least for a beginner)

but don’t take it from me … i’m no zen buddhist.. i don’t even play one on tv.