Practice Manual

Ritual of Intention

Three strikes of the ching bowl signals the Ritual of Intent. Attendees take their place standing at their cushion/chair.

The Session Leader/Attendees bow to each other. (A member strikes the moktak or hand ching.)

The Session Leader/Attendees bow to the altar. (A member strikes the moktak or hand ching.)

Three candles placed in a triangle formation directly in front are lighted from left to right then center.

Then the Leader lights the incense from the center candle and offers it three times and then waves it in the the ten cardinal directions.

Session Leader/Attendees bow to the altar. (A member strikes the moktak or hand ching.)

Session Leader/Attendees bow to each other. (A member strikes the moktak or hand ching.)

All Attendees now take their place on a cushion or chair facing the Session Leader. 

Meditation sessions last for approximately 30 minutes.  The ching bell is struck to signal the end of the meditation session.

There is a short social break.

The ching bowl is struck to signal the Dharma talk.

Dharma talk is given by the Priest or who they might designate.

The ching bowl is struck 1 time at the end of the Dharma talk session.

Sharing the Merit

Showing our gratitude and generosity, practicing the way or awareness which gives rise to benefits without limit, we vow to share these benefits of our practice, service and gifts to all beings.  Let us be reminded that a life of engagement and compassion is supremely important.  Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.  Each of us should strive to become aware of our connectedness to others, and not squander the gift of realizing the wisdom of Engaging the Dharma. Sva Ha

The ching Bowl is struck 3 times to end the practice session.

The Three Jewel

I go to refuge to the Buddha, the teacher

I go to refuge to the Dharma, the teaching

I go for refuge to the Sangha, the taught

I take refuge in the Buddha

I take refuge in the Dharma

I take refuge in the Sangha

I have taken refuge in the Buddha

I have taken refuge in the Dharma

I have taken refuge in the Sangha

The Three Pure Precepts

Cease to do harm

Do only good

Do good for others

Daily Renewal & Affirmation

Harmony is my mantra. All things reside in the ceaseless flow of balanced becoming; they are impermanent and selfless.

Knowledge of interdependence is made known through my mindfulness of the dependent origination of all things. I sit in watchfulness. The universe is limitless; my awareness is manifest.

Knowledge of interconnection is made known through my mindfulness of the dependent origination of all things. I sit in awareness. The universe is infinite; my practice is expanding.

My awareness, thoughts, words and actions rise and fall by the dictums of causality. Emerging from the process of dependent origination, I am an expression of the Universe.

I have no fear, for I can never be separated from anything. Mutability is the foundation upon which I am built. Seeing the need wherever it may be, I am here to fulfill it.

My obligation is to all sentient beings. My altruistic hand embraces everyone with equanimity. I am a Social Self.

I reside in the present and embrace liberation.  Honoring my vows of refuge to promote human flourishing, I dedicate my life to help realize the best world for all sentient beings.

Mindfulness (sati) Meditation

Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word sati.  Sati is a verb. For an Engaged Buddhist mindfulness is practiced moment-to-moment. Sati is the action of being mindful (aware).  Mindfulness is the moment when you become aware of something, that moment before you name and categorize an event.

A goal of mindfulness (awareness) meditation is to experience things as they happen without biases. Mindfulness is developing a non-judgmental awareness that allows us to deal with situations from a position of equanimity.

Meditation Techniques

Bell (Ching Bowl)

Bell meditation is a focused mediation that is practiced with the eyes gently closed.  The meditator focuses on the sound of the bell as it is struck and then fades away. This technique can be done with a group, or practicing at home.

Zazen (Mindfulness Cultivation)

“Sitting in Mindfullness” is from the Chinese Chan/ Japanese Zen tradition.  This mediation is preformed with eyes open and settling the gaze approximatlely three feet in front. “Stopping” our thoughts is not the goal of zazen, instead it is to make us more aware of the directions our thoughts take. We don’t label or judge, we recognize and apply self honesty so that we can practice to refine our dispositions.


A focused meditation done with eyes open and gazing at a candle flame.  The red smoking tip of the incense stick is also appropriate.  The candle flame flickers from causal factors, the incense smoke curls from other causal factors.

Encompassing Mind

This visualization mediation helps us develop a deeper realization of our interconnectedness and interdependence.   It is preformed with the eyes gently closed.  We bring our attention to our center (just behind the bellybutton) and focus on our impermanent self. A hand ching is struck and we visualize the mind moving outward encompassing first the room, the house, the neighborhood, the city, the state, the country and out into the Universe.  Another strike of the hand ching brings our awareness back along the same path.  The goal of this mediation is to keep the mind in an expanding state of awareness.

Walking Mediation

This is zazen while standing and moving. Posture, breathing, and moving slowly and mindfully are at the core of this technique.  There is a formal walking mediation and a casual one.  

Formal waling mediation—Much like zazen we want to achieve a balanced mind body. Feet should be together, body erect but relaxed and the chin tucked in.  Hands, in the one-point mudra are held in front of the bellybutton to remind us of centering ourselves and thinking “weight underside.” The fish or moktak is struck and with knees soft (slightly bent) the first step is taken with the left foot and the right is brought up parallel to the position of the left. Next strike opposite forward first and repeat. 

Casual walking mediation—The difference is in posture, not the commitment to practice.  This is walking mediation anywhere with mindfulness. Taking a walk in the park, to your car from work, walking the dog, there are many opportunities during the day to get in a bit of mediation. Walk with good posture, breathe naturally, and practice awareness.

Dynamic Breath

This mediation technique helps build breath control and a deeper sense of mind-body.  The breathe is guided by the striking of the moktak or wooden fish, or clapping two blocks together.  Everyone begins with a deep inbreath through the nose, deep into the diaphragm. Blocks or fish is struck signaling the outbreath. Mouth open exhale slowly. Strike, inhale repeat.

Mediation on Altruism

This self minded visualization practice helps develop our altruistic (compassionate) intentions for everyone, regardless of our emotions for them. We begin by visualizing being altruistic to ourselves.  Then visualize someone you love, then like, then tolerate, a stranger, someone you are neutral about, dislike, and finally hate.

Healing Breath

This Daoist inspired mediation technique helps develop greater energy while at the same time imbuing a sense of deep calm in the practitioner.  It is a visualization practice done with eyes open or closed. With the inbreath the color “white” is visualized as being drawn down to the center, energizing the body. Exhalation is “blue” as the mind relaxes.

Meditation Postures

Sitting in a Chair – Sit on the forward 2/3s of the seat.  Place feet hip-width apart, soles flat on the floor.  Keep your back straight and your chin slightly downward.  Your chair should be similar to a desk chair, not an over stuffed one.  You may want to place a cushion in the back that allows your back to remain straight, or a pillow at your feet.  

Seize (Japanese kneeling) – Kneel with knees approximately three fist widths apart.  Soles of the feet are up.  Arrange a safe between the legs (or use a wooden seiza bench) and sink slowly straight down on it.  

Half-Lotus – The dominant leg is tucked to the inside of the non-dominant thigh.  The other foot is tucked into the right thigh at the knee. 

Burmese – The dominant leg is tucked to the inside of the non-dominant thigh.  The other leg is placed parallel.   

Intentional Practice

Similar to any artistic endeavor, in the act of intentional ritual practice we manifest that which is known to us intuitively and subconsciously in the form of a visible and tangible reality.  In this way the outward display of our actions tends to make the common experience among others a more intense recognition of our respect for the social element of a Buddhist Practice.    The idea of a ritual practice is not easy to explain because it is so fundamentally reliant on personal experience, and so intimate, that talking about it tends to move us further from viewing a relevant contemporary expression of Buddhism that avoids any religious overtones.

Many Americans come from religious traditions in which the experience of ritual practice has become just another collection of meaningless gestures and symbolic acts. Because it doesn’t fit nicely into our scientific worldview, we may have the tendency to reject it altogether.  As we study Buddhist Practice we learn to move away from attachment to meaningless behavior that has no relevance to actions that directly promotes human flourishing. But in actuality, whether we realize it or not, we are immersed in secular ritual all the time outside the framework of a belief system.  In a way, Buddhist intentional practice is similar to these secular everyday rituals.  When we observe life around us we awaken to how repetitive behavior is an integral part of all life not just for humans: from bees, wolves, cats, birds, insects right down to bacteria.  Repetitive behavior is an inherent aspect of any social interaction.  It is difficult for many to recognize intentional acts of a sacred practice that does not address a divine being.  The question we have to consider in a non-theistic Buddhist practice is, “What is the ritual about if the Buddha is not a divine being?”

Our intentional ritual practice is an affirmation or refinement of the common experience of a community.  When we gather as a Sangha for community practice we are emphasizing the interconnectiveness, and respect for our Buddha Nature, that is inherent in each of us.  We are bowing to this reality through our common actions showing respect.  Nothing mystical is happening, just realization of no separation between self and other.  Intentional practice is skillful means, like zazen and all the other areas of Buddhist practice and training.  When we practice together formally, it is not the words we recite, it is not the ideas we have about it.  It is about just being in the moment with the thoughts behind the words and actions that we can create a moment of awareness of what the dharma can express, as we sustain a tradition of a life practice that we have chosen to follow in order to pass it down to others.  The bow, the bell, the incense, the words are reminders of the treasure that can be ours when our mind is ready to open to how we are in this vast Universe known as Dharma.

The Rt. Rev. David Shen-Xi Astor, Sensei (Xi-Ken 曦肯 OPB, Shi Qian-Xi 乾曦 DWZS) Prior, Senior OEB Chaplain & Spiritual Advisor. Under the dharma name of Xi-Ken, David Astor was ordained and conferred a Zen Cleric in the Order of Pragmatic Buddhists (OPB), in May 2010, at the Place of Peace Temple at Furman University, in Greenville, SC by the Ven. Dr. Eubanks Sensei (Shi Yong Xiang) his root teacher.  David Sensei’s root ordaining lineage is both Ch’an and Soto Zen through Ven. Ryugen Fisher Sensei who received dual Dharma Transmission from Ven. Holmes Welch and Rev. Zengaku Soyu Matsuoka Roshi, but also uniquely American through it’s pragmatic perspective. Shen-Xi took final Professed Monastic vows in OEB in March 2016.  Shen-Xi has also been received and recognized as a Zen Priest in the Dharma Winds Zen Sangha/Order of Hsu Yun-zatma by Rev. Yao Xin Shakya a transmitted Zen Priest & Master of the YunMen Lineage of Zen (Ch’an) through the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun.  Shen-Xi was confered with the Dharma name of Shi Qian-Xi by Rev. Yao Xin Shakya in honor of this transmition, and was also given full authorization to teach the Dharma of Shakya, Huineng, Linji, Hanshan and Hsu Yun in the YunMen Zen lineage of Shi MiaoXin Fo Yuan.  

Prior to these affiliations and years of formal training, he also studied as a non-resident  student with a Soto Zen master in New York.  As a Zen priest, Dharma Holder, itinerant monk, pastoral minister and Interfaith Chaplain, Shen-Xi is engaged full time in his community outside the walls of a traditional monastery residence.  But like many Americans, David Sensei was raised in the Christian tradition which led him to first follow the spiritual path as a Franciscan monk in a monastery (house of formation & seminary) near Chicago.   He received a BS degree in mathematics and computer science from the University of Illinois Chicago, and pursued graduate studies in psychology, sociology, and law at DePaul University.  He holds a Level-I Certification as a Mindfulness Meditation Therapist.  In addition to his community work, his time is spent in research, international teaching and writing, as well as being engaged in a prison ministry.  David Sensei is a member of the Inter-faith Conference of Washington D.C.  David Astor is author of Pragmatic Buddhist: Reflecting Contemporary Vitality. 

©️ OEB 2019

Members & Guests have permission to copy and paste this Practice Manual. This will allow you to bring it into a document format of your choice.