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Zen Philosophy

Zen Philosophy

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Published by: gear123n on Sep 28, 2011
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 WHAT IS ZEN?
 "Lightning flashes,Sparks shower,In one blink of your eyes,You have missed seeing."A Hindu story tells of a fish who asked of another fish: "I have always heardabout the sea, but what is it? Where is it?"The other fish replied: "You live, move and have your being the sea. The sea iswithin you and without you, and you are made of sea, and you will end in sea.The sea surrounds you as your own being."So the only true answer to the question "What is Zen?" is the one that you findfor yourself.
ZEN PHILOSOPHY
 There exists a great interest in the West about Zen, particularly since World War II. Yet there seems to be a general haziness about the origin of Zen, what itbelieves, and the disciplines of Zen. The fault is not entirely with the interested-but-uninitiated. The fault lies also with Zen as a deliberately inscrutable teaching,made even more enigmatic by its interpreters, who spend many years writinginnumerable books to explain what they insist is utterly inexplicable. Their explanations are frequently interrupted to warn the reader that, in the words of Lao Tzu, "they who tell do not know; they who know do not tell."Many people think of Zen as a Japanese development, manifest in their Nohplays, in their flower arrangements, in their dances, in their tea ceremonies, intheir art, in their archery. And if they think so, they are within the area of the truth.Some think of Zen as a Chinese interpretation of the Buddhist concept of thestate of enlightenment, or of being "awakened," transported and adjusted toJapanese culture. That, too, is within the area of truth. And then there are somewho think that Zen Buddhism goes back to the days of the Buddha in India, whenhe began to expound Zen, wordlessly.According to legend, when Buddha was growing old he convened his disciplesfor an important discourse. And when they gathered and sat down silently,reverently waiting to hear their aging Master speak, the Buddha arose, cameforward on the flower-decked platform, looked over his audience of disciples andmonks, then bent down and picked up a flower which he raised to the level of hiseyes. Then, without uttering a word, he returned to his seat. His followers lookedat each other in bewilderment, not understanding the meaning of his silence.Only the venerable Mahakasyapa serenely smiled at the Master. And the Master 
 
smiled back at him and wordlessly bequeathed to him the spiritual meaning of hiswordless sermon. And that, according to legend, was the moment Zen wasborn.Nearly a thousand years passed from the legendary encounter of the Buddhaand the venerable Mahakasyapa until Zen, transmitted from generation togeneration, reached Bodhi-Dharma, who introduced it to China. And still another century passed before a Chinese philosopher and theologian, Hui-neng, whodied in 713 A.D., established Zen as a sect of Buddhism.In China, the mystic experience of the Buddha's enlightenment was influenced bythe teachings of Lao Tzu. While the seed of Zen came from India, it grew inChina and was transformed by Taoism. But it did not reach full flowering until itcame, with Chinese Buddhism, to Japan. In Japan, Zen was crystallized into asystem, although its adherents insisted that it could not be taught, and arguedthat there could be no dependence on explanations, on sermonizing, or on anyformal creed or ritual.Since Zen was adopted and adapted in Japan, it has gone through a number of transformations. For historical reasons, and because of its presumable nihilisticimplications, Zen became popular with the intellectual classes in Japan, and itsfollowing increased to nearly five million toward the end of the Second WorldWar.The name "Zen" is Japanese. It derives from the Chinese Chan'an-na, which is acorruption from the Buddhist Dhyana, meaning Meditation.Zen means waking up to the present moment. That is, perceiving this momentexactly as it is, rather than through the filter of our ideas, opinions, etc. One wayto practice this is to ask yourself a Big Question, such as "What am I?" If you asksuch a question strongly and sincerely, what appears is "Don't Know." This don't-know is before thinking. If you keep it moment to moment, then everything isclear. Then, each moment, whatever you're doing, just do it. When you're sitting, just sit; when you're eating, just eat; and so on. According to Zen, existence isfound in the silence of the mind (no-mind), beyond the chatter of our internaldialog. Existence, from the Zen perspective is something that is only happeningspontaneously, and it is not just our thoughts. All of life that we perceive isconstantly in a state of change. Every atom in the universe is somewheredifferent every millionth of a second.What then is existence? Zen says that it is instantaneous. Since the earth isconstantly moving, and our thoughts and our bodies are constantly in a processof fluctuation, then what we really are, can only be experienced in each moment.Think of a view. Is it what it was a second ago, or what it is now? In fact themoment we say the word “view", the view has already changed into somethingnew.In fact, anything that we can explain, according to this viewpoint, must be past-tense. Even if it’s about our most immediate feelings and thoughts, it is not thesame experience the second after it passes through our minds. Researchersestimate that our minds perceive 12,000 separate impressions every second.This is in terms of everything that we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
 
So, what is our reality really? Isn’t it always a very limited view of what we areeven actually experiencing around us? And that which we are aware of, is onlyour own minute impression of the world itself. Are any of our views then actuallytrue in the absolute sense of the word, or are they all just our subjectiveimpressions, based on an individual experience of what we are perceiving?For example, a person may think that the Sun moves through their sky, and thatthe earth is stationary. Is this actually true? It may seem true for a person at themoment they make the observation, but how true is it from an absoluteperspective of the universe? Can we even know what is the absoluteperspective? In this example, from another perspective the earth appears totravel around the Sun.Obviously, with this in mind, there are an infinite number of viewpoints possible ateach moment, from an infinite number of perspectives; therefore there are aninfinite number of existences, and in any absolute sense, existence itself isinexpressible. Can we actually experience existence then? Perhaps from the Zenperspective the question is, "Why do we not experience it?"Zen says that if we entertain no personal version of what we think existence is, inother words, if we hold no subjective interpretation of what existence is, at themoment we are free of any notion at all, we will experience existenceinstantaneously, spontaneously.Do you see this point? Zen says that we don’t really experience existence,because we are too busy experiencing our own subjective, version of existence.How then can we experience existence itself? If we don’t create existence, thenexistence simply IS. The problem is, that we are usually trying to create our ownmodel of the world. Whatever existence we create, it will be an extremely limitedview, and that isn’t existence itself.In Zen a less subjective awareness is cultivated through silent meditation, andcontemplating on certain sentences, known as Koans. A koan is defined in "TheThree Pillars Of Zen" as, "Formulation, in baffling language, pointing to ultimateTruth. Koans cannot be solved by recourse to a logical reasoning, but onlyawakening a deeper level of the mind beyond the discursive intellect."An example of a Koan would be, “The sound of one hand clapping”, or perhapsyou remember this one from grade school, “Does a tree that falls in the forestmake a sound if there isn’t anyone there to hear it?," and so on.Through these more abstract thoughts, the Zen student may find that theygradually suspend with their reasoning altogether (this is called no-mind), andthis clears the way for an actual experience of existence itself.Unanticipated, spontaneously, without warning, the student may suddenlyexperience that 'Peace' beyond thought, words, or description. All that anyonecan really say who has experienced this is, “All is one, and one is all”. This iswhat Zen calls the experience of Nirvana, or Enlightenment

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