Contemporary Zafus are sewn from three pieces of heavy cloth, usually colored black: two round swatches of equal size for the top and the bottom of the cushion, and a long rectangle that is sewn into gathers in between. They are typically filled with either kapok or buckwheat hulls. Zen Buddhist practitioners traditionally sit on a zafu when engaged in sitting meditation. The cushion raises the hips, making the entire range of cross-legged sitting positions more stable for the meditator.
The zafu is both a utilitarian accessory and a symbol of zazen practice. Before and after sitting on the zafu, Zen practitioners perform a gassho bow to the cushion, to fellow practitioners, and to the teacher. In many practice places, there is a prescribed form for respectfully handling zafu while walking in the meditation hall, or zendo.
A zabuton (座布団) is a rectangular cushion, about 76 cm (30 inches) by 71 cm (28 inches), that is often used under a zafu cushion to provide comfort and support when engaged in sitting meditation. The outer cover is typically made of a heavy duty fabric and has a zipper along one side so that it can be easily removed and washed. Inside the cover, the batting is enclosed in a natural cotton casing.