Category: History

Kapok fiber: a sustainable cotton alternative

Derived from the pods of the ceiba pentandra tree, kapok is a fluffy, cotton-like natural fiber that has historically been used in upholstery, furniture, and meditation cushions. Its soft, buoyant composition (weighing one-eighth the weight of cotton) makes it both comfortable and supportive to sit on. In addition to these qualities, kapok has also become… Read more »

Moktak and Chukpi: Korean instruments for meditation

The moktak and chukpi are traditional Korean percussive instruments used during meditation. We are pleased to make them available here at Still Sitting.  The moktak is a drum similar in shape and timbre to the Japanese mokugyo, sometimes called a “fish drum.” The chukpi or “bamboo clacker,” is slapped against the hand, emitting a loud… Read more »

Rinzai Gigen and Shogun Zen

According to the Zen tradition, awakening can arise from the most shocking and unexpected places: a terrifying shout or a blow to the shoulder. While hard to imagine today, it was sometimes these unconventional methods that Linji Yixuan, known as Rinzai Gigen in Japan, utilized in his teachings. Rinzai Gigen, an iconoclastic Chinese Zen monk,… Read more »

Who is Bodhidharma?

In Buddhist lore, few figures loom as large and enigmatic as Bodhidharma, a man whose fierce scowl, framed by deep vermillion robes, is pervasive from East to West.  Revered for transmitting the teachings of Chan Buddhism, the predecessor of Zen Buddhism, from India to China and becoming one of the patriarchs of Zen and Shaolin,… Read more »

What are mala beads?

If you do meditation or yoga, you’ve probably seen mala beads before. These beautiful beads, often worn around the wrist, are not just fashion accessories; they can hold  spiritual significance and serve as an aid to mindfulness practice. Mala beads have a rich history deeply rooted in the religions of India, including Buddhism and Hinduism.… Read more »

The Bodhisattva Jizo: A Guide For The Weary

Small stone statues dot the Japanese countryside. You will see them along roadways and trails; they appear tucked away in small shrines. They show up in manga (Japanese comic books) and popular films like My Neighbor Totoro. The diminutive bald figure, often rendered with baby-like features is comforting, cute even. This is Jizo, a Buddhist… Read more »

The Ornate History of the Rin Bell

The history of the rin bell is deeply intertwined with meditation practice. During meditation, everything around you is involved in the experience – from your meditation cushion to your surroundings. Indeed, silence itself is an integral part of the meditation experience, but sound is as well. The rin bell acts as a stark counterbalance to… Read more »

Who is the Bodhisattva Kuan-Yin?

In the pantheon of Buddhist deities, the bodhisattva Kuan-Yin (also Guan-Yin, Guan-Yim, Kuan-Yim, Kwan-im, and in Sanskrit, Avalokiteshvara) occupies a special position of honor and affection. This is especially true in the lay Buddhism of China, Japan, and to a lesser extent Vietnam.  The Goddess of Compassion, Mercy & Kindness The reason for Kuan-Yin’s popularity is… Read more »

The Sleepy Sit: Staying Awake While Meditating

Staying Awake While Meditating When we lived at the Mt Baldy Zen Center we began our day at 4 a.m. with a pucker-inducing dose of hot lemon tea, followed by almost an hour of chanting. Both tea and chanting helped keep everyone awake while meditating. Monks and nuns of all types get up before dawn… Read more »

A Look at the Earliest Buddhist Statues

This guest post by Robert Cain takes us on a tour of some of the earliest historical instances of Buddhist sculpture.  Sculpture is the visual art form most closely identified with Buddhism. The types of Buddhist statues that we see today took time to develop, and changed significantly along the way. This post will highlight some of… Read more »