Hakuin Ekaku: “Song of Meditation”

(ca. 1718)

“Zazen Wasan” (“Song of Meditation”) was written in the early eighteenth century CE (ca. 1718) by the Japanese Zen master Hakuin Ekaku, the first Buddhist master in history to put forth the idea of common Zen, the Zen practiced by the ordinary masses, to make the complicated and mysterious Zen thinking and practice understandable in plain, everyday terms. Zazen is a term of Zen Buddhism that means seated meditation. The disciples or practitioners of Zen Buddhism are required to sit in a room, with their legs crossed and back straightened, breathing naturally and emptied of all worldly disturbances. In this process, all logic and rational thinking must be abandoned, and the mind must be in a state of focused relaxation. To Hakuin, the mission of Zen is to help people discover their true Buddha nature, to walk on the right path of life, to realize the root of their suffering, and to finally achieve enlightenment. In this song is conveyed the idea that songs are one with the...

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Yoritomo (left), the ruler under whom Zen was established in Japan (Library of Congress)

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