Now is the Time to Practice Zazen: A Message from Soto-shu Headquarters

Dear Sangha members,

We really hope you, your families, and everyone around you are safe. All of us together are having real difficulties during this time due to COVID-19, and the isolation we are experiencing.

We offer a message (below) from Rev. Shunei Oniuda, the president of Administrative Headquarters of Soto Zen Buddhism in Japan (Sotoshu Shumu-cho). We have published this message online at Soto Zen Net ( as well.

We also offer a short new video that instructs viewers in chair zazen, led by our director, Houston Zen Center Abbot Rev. Konjin Godwin: Now is the Time to Practice Zazen

We hope that the message and video can be of use during these difficult times.

Thank you for your practice. Please let us know if you need any other assistance. 

Deep bows,

伊藤大雅  Taiga Ito


Soto Zen Buddhism International Center

633 Fallon Ave. San Mateo, CA 94401

Tel: 650-344-4021 / Fax: 650-344-4022

A Message from the President of Shumu-cho: Administrative Headquarters of Soto Zen Buddhism 

Rev. Shunei Oniuda, President of Sotoshu Shumucho

I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences for those who have lost their precious lives from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and offer a prayer that they may rest in peace.

For those who have been affected by this illness, I pray that they will recover as soon as possible, and I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to their families and relatives who have also been affected by this illness.

Also, my thoughts are with all those experiencing tremendous difficulties whose lives have been affected by the spread of this epidemic and the need to stay home.

In the Kamakura Period of Japanese history when Dogen Zenji was teaching, there were times when cool summers caused by climate change often brought poor harvests. There were outbreaks of plague, and, during the Great Kanki Famine (1230-31), it is said that about a third of the population of Japan perished. In times such as these, Dogen Zenji emphasized that these were the very times to not neglect the Buddha Way.

With the spread of the novel coronavirus infection, many people are upset. They are frightened because of the spread of the infection and anxious because their own lives are at risk. It is in such a time that the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, Dogen Zenji, and Keizan Zenji are necessary.

Shakyamuni Buddha taught right view, right speech, and right practice in the face of the sufferings of sickness and death. It is necessary to have correct and current information about the novel coronavirus infection to insure that harmful rumors and discrimination do not occur. It is also necessary to take care so that we do not become infected by this virus and other people are also not infected.

Even if people are agitated or anxious in the confusion caused by others who are fearful and buy up or hoard food and other goods, let us act calmly. Let us act in accordance with the spirit of Dogen Zenji’s teaching of the intention of first saving others before ourselves and in accordance with the Bodhisattva’s Four Embracing Actions.

By doing our best to disinfect our hands and maintain proper etiquette when coughing and sneezing, we are preventing not only our own infection but practicing good hygiene so that others are not infected. This is to naturally practice the way of benefitting others.

Also, Keizan Zenji taught that we should have compassion and love for all things, that we should sympathize with others’ sufferings as if they are our own, and that with the mind of compassion we should be diligent in the practice of zazen. I encourage you to endeavor to practice zazen during this time that we must spend quietly at home.

Published on Soto Zen Net ( on April 3rd, 2020

Translated by Soto Zen Buddhism International Center