from JulianWebsdale Website
Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that developed in China during the 6th century as Chán. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, northeast to Korea and East to Japan.
The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 (dʑjen) (pinyin: Chán), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative state".
Zen emphasizes the attainment of
enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight in the
Buddhist teachings. As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of
sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through zazen
and interaction with an accomplished teacher.
The Buddhist Scriptures, and the Zen equivalent, are records of so many men's achievement, a description of their experience.
Their use to us, if any, is to stimulate
our minds to the like experience, and Buddhism is only of value as
it serves to train its students to that end. For the like reason,
Zen is concerned with experience and not with its modes of
In Zen there is no authority for any man save his own experience, nor respect for a teacher save that he tries to assist his pupil to achieve his own.
The intellect will reason to its own
approval, and may clearly prove that Zen does not exist; the heart
knows otherwise, and the 'soul' or 'higher Self' is silent, knowing
what it knows.
Dr. Suzuki, speaking of the work of the Zen master, once said that,
But he goes on to say that this emptiness is no abstraction, but a dynamic force which motivates all other aspects of the Buddhist life.
Each aspect of the training should be ruled from the intuition, for all of it is designed to its development. Assume its existence, and then use it. Trust its whispering, its sudden flashes of an understanding which the reason may not follow at that time.
Developing the intuition amounts to no more than this.
Once the faculty is known to exist it
will shine the more in the darkness of our reasoning.
The first word is to 'see', and seeing has a meaning of its own in Zen. The artist is trained to see things as they are, which means that he must look at them, hard and long and without reaction. In the same way a Zen student learns to look at things, hard and long, but he finds that they are not as the artist sees them.
Hence the Chinese saying:
First, then, we accept things as they seem to be. Then we find they are not so, and we analyze them into their ever-changing and unreal constituents.
We learn to accept them as what they now seem to be, the actor without his mask, the situation stripped of its glamour, the laws of our being whether we approve of them or not. We begin to break up large and abstract concepts, and see their danger to the evolving mind.
What is this thing called the State, what is Peace, what, indeed, is Reality?
We do not know, and 'define' them merely
by a further batch of concepts. So we learn to be less fooled by
others' opinions, slogans, clichés, and ignorant, one-sided views.
We begin to think for ourselves, and increasingly to form no
opinions or views. We learn to distinguish our own reactions of
like/dislike from our decisions on true/untrue, and so distrust all
The eye sees now more deeply into the causing of all situations, and the almost inevitable effect of others' (and our own) persistent folly.
The heart of compassion sees what can be done, or cannot, but helps to the hilt wherever a fellow form of life has need. We learn to blame less, to take the responsibility for our own condition.
As Epictetus, the Stoic slave remarked,
With deeper and deeper seeing we detach ourselves from things and situations, while entering them according to the moment's need.
We can enter a mould without being caged in it, obey the laws and moral rules of our society without being bound by them.
We obey to be free by our obedience.
Such seeing leads in time to Zen seeing.
Seeing is experiencing, seeing things in their state of suchness
As the egotism dies with the ego, so does the intolerance. What is left is a busy minding of one's own business, an occupation for twenty-four hours a day. For there is no authority for such comparative excellence, nor for anything else.
No master of Zen ever claims authority
for Truth; he speaks what he knows, but the other must find it to be
It has been well said that Buddhism analyses the mind which analyses, and makes discoveries; and the deeps of the mind will react to the stimulus of the search.
The results may be unpleasant, as when a pond is stirred to the bottom.
There may be unwelcome psychic visions,
and upsets of many kinds. There will also be pleasant 'visions',
dangerous for their attraction but equally of no importance. There
will be sudden 'hunches' in the course of study, an intellectual
click when a missing piece of our understanding falls into
place. And as the intuition develops there will be flashes of deep
The effort to climb the ladder of progress ahead of one's fellow men, and therefore ahead of the norm of one's spiritual age-group, itself calls down a reaction of the stored-up Karma of the past. At any time there are accumulated effects of action awaiting adjustment in the scales of cosmic law, whether we call these consequences good or bad.
He who takes his future in his hands,
and moulds his own life accordingly, may be called on to pay these
debts more quickly, that he may be free.
This is true, though a paradoxical way of saying it. The Buddha's Middle Way as described in his First Sermon lies between the extremes of asceticism and self-indulgence, but it is a balanced path between all pairs of opposites, not only extremes but opposing views and complementary means of ever-increasing subtlety.
We must learn to see this process from,
as it were, the viewpoint of the 'higher third' which embraces both,
and is the hinge of the pendulum which swings between them. In time
we reach a point when we see that nothing said or done is 'right',
because it is partial, and therefore off the middle line.
First, that Wisdom and Compassion are inseverable. Wisdom is useless unless and until applied in compassionate action; love must be used with wisdom as its guide or it may do harm to the beloved. And Nirvana is Samsara.
Was ever a greater statement made in the long course of recorded history, and in the longer tradition of Wisdom not yet written down?
That the Truth, Reality, the Absolute, the utmost Heaven, Nirvana itself is here and now, and to be found, and only to be found in this, the job in hand - the very thought is staggering. But all this lies on a Middle Way whose width is nothingness.
We miss it a thousand times a day, but
when for an infinite moment of no-time we walk it, wholly and free -
such is a moment of Zen.
Where are we going, then? If nowhere, why this effort, why walk on?
The Answer is that we still walk on, on
a path that is trodden within, yet on steps which lie without - yet
where the treading is neither in nor out but just a constant
treading, just a joyful yet compassionate, relaxed yet strenuous
moving with the flow of life to its own inseverable identity of
every part in a living and unending whole.
The saint and sage are content with a hut and the simplest living, but their minds are content with nothing less than universal consciousness. Thus the present job and home comfort is good enough; Buddhism is a ceaseless enemy to selfish ambition for the aggrandizement of self. There is nothing more important than the job in hand; there never will be, though the job may change.
Zen wearies of abstractions, and always
the master brings the attention back to the here and now.
This when applied to the next thing to
be done removes so much of our worry, and the long sequence of
emotional reaction with which we plague our days. If we do not find
our enlightenment in what we are doing because it is the right thing
to do we shall never find it while doing something else.
If we happily flow we see, as science has seen, that things are really events in time and space, that events are minor or major whirlpools on the river of time. If we flow with the river, the ceaseless tide of our karma, we can digest it, as it were, as we flow, and feel no suffering.
Accept it and we are one with it; resist it and we are hurt.
The false 'I' forms as we stop from flowing, and to those still moving on we shout, as a child on its sand castle, to attract admiring attention. But life has flowed on and we just look silly, while someone else must do the job we left undone.
Life, then, is flow. It follows
that the seeking is the finding, the deed is the doing of it, the
means of the moment are themselves the end.
It dwells in all forms; it is the form:
Yet these are the words of the Heart
Sutra, at the very heart of Zen.
Thereafter usual life goes on as before, but not quite as before. Trees are once more trees, but differently seen. The wheel of rebirth still rolls, and men still suffer damnably. But it's all right now, it's all right. Karma adjusts each folly to its cause, compassion speaks and moves to heal the suffering.
But it's all right; we can get on with
the job in hand, which is another name for Wisdom and an excellent
name for Zen.