No Zazen for Children

"No Zazen for Children" number 86 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

I don't know. I have no children. I am supremely unqualified to say. Other than, once long ago, I was a child.

I have an idea that I would have benefited from zazen as a child. It is just an idea but maybe I wouldn't have benefited. I see my Zen practice as primarily made up of zazen and precept study/practice. As a child I was indoctrinated into the Christian cosmology by traditional Sunday school and traditional prayer. Till I was six or seven, all this was just absorbed, then I rebelled. I see a corollary here. Likely I would have taken the same path if it had been indoctrinated into a Zen practice instead of Christian practice.

I know someone who lives with two Zen Masters who are in the form of children. I'm sure that he would not agree with Aitken Roshi.

Aitken Roshi suggests that maybe one should wait till they are thirty-five before "beginning Zen practice". Yamada Koun Zenshin (1907—1989) was Aitken's teacher and was married to pediatrician Dr. Kazue Yamada. Kazue started all this by saying to Aitken "Don't let them even try. Send them outside to play."

Do we think Aitken Roshi and Dr. Yamada are suggesting no religious practice of any type till thirty-five and just play? Does this imply that one could be too old to practice Zen?

Dogen's Fukanzazengi (The Way of Zazen Recommended Universally) does not qualify any age at which to start practice.

My simple understanding of the historical context of Zen practice was that children stayed with their families till adolescences before going to live in the Zen monasteries. Male children only. So children did not routinely have a Zen practice. In those days, children would have had the opportunity to see Zen practitioners in their communities and it would have been natural to be curious. I can envision the children playing at imitating the monks but it probably was a boy thing. Cultural crap being what it is.

I am fifty-two and am only still beginning to practice Zen. I hope to continue beginning. I can not see when it would too early to begin beginning.

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on
Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.