Buddhist monk in meditationKorean Zen Dance is an ancient practice rooted in Zen Buddhist philosophy. The purpose of Zen is to find one’s “True I,” to attain the indescribable Suchness—Enlightenment—and to end the suffering of humankind. Words cannot pin down its meaning, nor can rites, rituals, music, or dance. But every human ac­tion may be undertaken as an exercise toward

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According to the scriptures, when Gautama Buddha was still a prince in his father’s palace, he was entertained by musicians, singers, and dancers. But after his Enlighten­ment, new forms of music, dancing, and singing were devised to propagate the teachings and encourage the faithful. Unique among Asian Buddhist countries, Korea has maintained the ancient

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Since Enlightenment exists beyond words and concepts, the greatest hindrance to its realization is the human brain, which, in its ordinary state, never ceases to put forth its concepts of reality. The brain not only projects
a very partial view of reality onto the Universe, but con­tinually works to confirm its interpretations through in­ternal dialogue. Thus a person’s awareness of reality is imprisoned by language.

The use of a mantra

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While mantras help to eliminate ceaseless mental chatter, something else is needed to rein in the more abstract workings of the brain. For this the hwa-tou is brought into play. A hwa-tou is a question for which the rational mind cannot find an answer. The hwa-tou most com­monly used in Zen dance is Yimoko, a Korean word that means “What am I?” or “What

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Breathing is the basis for all human activity and death is the final exhalation. In Zen meditation, the tanjun area (midway between the navel and the pubic bone) is con­sidered the locus of one’s vital energy, or Ki. Consciously inhaling and exhaling with the muscles of the lower ab­
domen—instead of swelling and shrinking the chest— links the breath to the body’s center of gravity. This is the source of its vital energy and the place where spirit and body unite

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Zen mind is “everyday mind.” Enlightenment does not pertain to some other time or place; it must be here and now or not at all. It must be experienced in every situa­tion, in every moment, whatever one is doing. Zen danc­ers learn to live with all the elements of the training as part of their continual practice toward Enlightenment.

The practice doesn’t end just because rehearsal time is over.

It follows,

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