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During Zazen, Shoulder Tapping Isn't Punishment: How to Learn Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Updated: May 21



How to Learn Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo


What is the Stick Used to Tap Practitioners' Shoulders or Backs Called?


For those unfamiliar with Zazen, the image of being struck with a wooden stick and experiencing pain might come to mind. Let's clarify the use of "hitting with a stick" during Zazen.


The stick used to tap the shoulders or back of practitioners is called "Kyosaku" in Japanese Zen Buddhism. It's an abbreviation of "Keikakusakurei," meaning "to awaken and encourage." In the Soto Zen tradition, it's called "Kyosaku," while in the Rinzai Zen tradition, it's called "Keisaku."


Originally, "Kyosaku" is a shortened form of two verbs: "Kyokaku" (to caution) and "Sakurei" (to encourage). "Keikaku" implies attention or warning, while "Sakurei" means encouragement. The purpose of using the "Kyosaku" is to awaken and encourage practitioners when they feel drowsy, have poor posture, or lack mental composure during Zazen.




You Can Request to Receive the "Kyosaku"


When feeling sleepy or restless, practitioners may request the use of the "Kyosaku," or the person in charge (Jikido) may decide to administer it. If you wish to receive the "Kyosaku," you should remain seated and make a gassho (palms together) gesture to express your request.


The Jikido lightly taps your right shoulder with the "Kyosaku." As the recipient, you should respond with a gassho, tilt your head to the left, and lean forward slightly. After receiving the "Kyosaku," return to your original posture, make a gassho teizu (palms together and bow), and continue with Zazen.


The one administering the "Kyosaku" is said to "give Kyosaku," while the recipient is said to "receive Kyosaku."



How to Learn Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo


How to Receive the "Kyosaku"


The person administering the "Kyosaku" lightly taps your right shoulder as a warning.

  1. Respond by making a gassho gesture and leaning your upper body forward to the left.

  2. After receiving it, return your upper body to its original position, make a gassho teizu (palms together and bow), and return to the Hokkaijo-in (cosmic mudra) hand position.


In the Soto Zen tradition, you receive the "Kyosaku" only once on the right shoulder.


However, in the Rinzai and Obaku Zen traditions, where practitioners sit face-to-face during Zazen, the person receiving the "Keisaku" bends forward, and the person administering it taps their back several times.


How to Learn Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo


Don't Worry About "Kyosaku" at Denchuji Temple


At Denchuji Temple, where we offer Zazen experiences, the administration of "Kyosaku" is not typical. Therefore, you can rest assured that you won't experience discomfort. However, if you request it, we're happy to provide it. At Denchuji Temple, Zazen experiences are tailored to the requests of participants (travelers), making it a private experience.


Let's Learn Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo


Why not experience this private Zazen with direct guidance from a Buddhist monk in English? Especially for beginners and families, it's the perfect opportunity to ask any questions and have an optimal Zazen experience. Why not make your Zazen debut with instruction from a genuine monk at a Zen temple during your trip to Japan? Let's learn authentic Zen experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It's sure to be a profoundly fulfilling experience that could change your life.



How to Learn Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo

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