Zendo Etiquette

Zendo Etiquette


When entering the zendo bow lightly with your hands in gassho (palms together, fingers up), and step in with the left foot first. The path you take to your seat should be just a foot or so in front of the row of cushions. Any turn you make should be made squarely in the corners instead of in a sweeping radius. Your pace should be respectfully metered and deliberate but otherwise normal.

If at any time you should pass in front of the altar, you should turn towards the altar and respectfully bow gassho. Walk to your seat, stand facing the bench or cushion, and bow gassho. After this, turn in the direction of the altar and bow to the person/seat directly across from your seat before sitting.


At the designated time, the han (a wooden plank drum) will be struck in a prescribed manner in three rounds as a call to formal meditation. Immediately afterwards, a bell is struck three times, signaling the beginning of zazen. By the time the han is on the second roll down, you should be seated and in correct posture. When the bell is struck for the third time, you should be completely "adjusted" so that you have no further need to move throughout the course of the meditation period.

The normal sitting period is thirty minutes. You should be settled into your meditative posture well before the bell has been struck for the third time. This position should be one of the recommended postures that you can maintain without moving for a prolonged period, with your hands clasping each other, or held in the cosmic mudra position. If you must make slight adjustments to ease pain in muscles or joints, do so slowly and quietly. If you must cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and resume posture without saying anything. Avoid any unnecessary actions like scratching that can be overcome by determination. If you must move because the position you have chosen has become unbearably painful, mindfully readjust yourself and resume zazen. Do this quietly and carefully to keep from disturbing others.


When the time comes to leave, rise following along with the leader and turn in the direction of the altar, to face your seat. If you are using a cushion, fluff it back into shape and brush away any hair or dust. Bow to your bench or cushion, turn clockwise to face into the room, and bow to the sangha. Exiting the zendo is done in alternating sequence from front to back. Each person in sequence following the lead of the meditation leader.

Note: If you have any problems with the recommended Zendo Etiquette and sitting postures please adjust accordingly. What is important is that you are comfortable with your participation and meditative posture. Being Quiet and Mindful should be your foremost considerations.