How To Find Yourself: Practicing Zazen

Zazen is a matter of training yourself to become
a Buddha; rather, to return to being a Buddha,
for you are one from the beginning.

Let us discuss a classic of Zen literature: a traditional series of pictures called In Search of the Missing Ox.

Search For The Ox: How To Find Yourself

In Buddhist literature, the ox is likened to one's own True Nature. To search for the ox is to investigate this True Nature. The first stage in the sequence is the starting of the investigation.

Consider young men or women on the threshold of their lives. In their imaginations they expect many things of their future, sometimes in a joyful mood, sometimes in a pensive one. But what may be in store for them in life is not known to them until it actually happens.

They probably do not know what they really want from life, but in their naivete they may think that they should work for others, denying themselves, even at the cost of self-sacrifice. "I must grapple with something serious. I want to know how the world is constituted, what my role in it should be. What am I? What am I to expect of myself?"

how to find yourself, sitting zazenSo they may think. Then, perhaps, these young people will start studying, shall we say, the philosophy of economics, and when they think they understand the power structure of the modern world they may rush off into some sort of activity with the goal of righting the wrongs of society and civilization. Others will take up the study of literature, philosophy, psychology, medicine, and so on.

Whatever direction they take, however, they tend to find that an intricate traffic network has been set up there, which quite often leads into some sort of complicated maze. Working in a situation that they did not originally imagine, habituation sets in, and before they know what has happened their path in life has become fixed.

What is Zazen

A feeling that something is missing will make some of them knock at the door of religion.


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Zazen is a matter of training yourself to become a Buddha; rather, to return to being a Buddha, for you are one from the beginning.

Now imagine you are standing at the door of Zen in search of your true nature: you are at the stage of starting the search for the ox.

Finding The Footprints, Practicing Zazen

Practicing zazen and reading Zen literature, you have acquired a certain understanding of Zen.

At the first stage, when you started your search, you may have doubted whether you could attain your objective by going in this direction, but now you are confident that if you follow this path you will eventually reach your destination.


This article was excerpted from

A Guide to ZenA Guide to Zen: Lessons from a Modern Master
by Katsuki Sekida.


Reprinted with permission of the publisher, New World Library. ©2003 www.newworldlibrary.com

Info/Order this book.

More books by this author.


About the Author

Katsuki Sekida (1903–1987) began his Zen practice in 1915 and trained at the Empuku-ji Monastery in Kyoto and the Ryutaku-ji Monastery in Mishima, Japan, where he had deep experience of samadhi early in life. He became a high school teacher of English until his retirement, then he returned to a full-time study of Zen. He taught at the Honolulu Zendo and Maui Zendo from 1963 to 1970 and at the London Zen Society from 1970 to 1972. Then he produced his two great works, both published in America and Japan, Zen Training in 1975 and Two Zen Classics in 1977.

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