Zen

Zen is the unsymbolism of the world.

The purpose of Zen is the perfection of character.

To teach Zen means to unteach; to see life steadily and see it whole, the answer not being divided from the question; no parrying, dodging, countering, solving, changing the words; an activity which is a physical and spiritual unity with All-Activity.

What is Zen in the art of helping? It is easier to say what it is not than more positively to describe the essence. It is to avoid the boosting of the ego through ‘good works’. It is to aid oneself and others in the pursuit of the good life; to discover and uncover new vigour and freshness in the art of living; to uncover the primal ability of love. Living in the here and now is a major ingredient.

The Zen ways and arts draw a bridge from real artistic creation in painting, architecture, poetry) to artistic skills like flower arrangement and gardening, and ultimately to all of everyday life. The religious is found in the everyday, the sacred in the profane; indeed the everyday is religious, the profane is sacred.

Zen is a way of liberation, concerned not with discovering what is good or bad or advantageous, but what is.

Zen meditation does not mean sitting and thinking. On the contrary, it means acting with as little thought as possible. The fencing master trained his pupil to guard against every attack with the same immediate, instinctive rapidity with which our eyelid closes over our eye when something threatens it. His work is aimed at breaking down the wall between thought and act, at completely fusing body and senses and mind so that they might all work together rapidly and effortlessly.

The Sermon on the Mount has (and very justly I believe) been compared to Zen in that it describes the undifferentiated consciousness of one who lives in the here-and-now with joy and without care.

The existentialist insight, in part, is that meaning is something we give to life. We do not find meaning so much as throw ourselves at it. The Zen insight, in part, is that worrying about meaning may itself make life less meaningful than it might have been. Part of the virtue of the Zen attitude lies in learning to not need to be busy: learning there is joy and meaning and peace in simply being mindful, not needing to change or be changed. Let the moment mean what it will.

The Zen attitude is that meaning isn’t something to be sought. Meaning comes to us, or not. If it comes, we accept it. If not, we accept that too.

There is a striking parallelism between science and religion on this point. It is my conviction that that other world is anchored in eternity and the eternal is different from everlasting. Everlasting goes on forever with changes, but eternity is beyond time. It includes time, but is beyond time. The second thing this other world is anchored in is spirit rather than matter, the matrixes of space-time and matter it is not subject to. The third thing is that it is perfect. Those points all converge on a mathematical point, which exceeds our capacity of our left brain to put into words, so it cannot be adequately articulated. Our articulations can be, as a Zen monk would say, fingers pointing toward it at the moon.

When a rebel army took over a Korean town, all fled the Zen temple except the abbot. The rebel general burst into the temple, and was incensed to find that the master refused to greet him, let alone receive him as a conqueror. “Don’t you know,” shouted the general, “that you are looking at one who can run you through without batting an eye?” “And you,” said the abbot, “are looking at one who can be run through without batting an eye.” The general’s scowl turned into a smile. He bowed low and left the temple.

To become conscious of what is unconscious and thus to enlarge one's consciousness means to get in touch with reality, and - in this sense - with truth (intellect-ually and affectively). To enlarge consciousness means to wake up, to lift a veil, to leave the cave, to bring light into the darkness. Could this be the same experience Zen Buddhists call "enlightenment?"

When you rob a person of his pain and suffering, you rob him of his life, his freedom, his independence; you keep him dependent on you; This is a trap for therapists and healers and Zen teachers, too.

[Zen] is not a kind of “self-actualization,” an expansion of the limited, isolated Me, of the empirical ego. Neither is it a regression, a return into that vegetative ooze of Oneness, before we became aware of our differentiation as separate egos. On the contrary, the Zen experience is the overcoming of the hallucination that the Me is the valid center of observation of the universe. It is a momentary, radical turnabout, a direct perception of and insight into the presence, into the transiency, the finitude that I share with all beings.

Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom.

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.

The ultimate standpoint of Zen, therefore, is that we have been led astray through ignorance to find a split in our being, that there was from the very beginning no need for a struggle between the finite and the infinite, that the peace we are seeking so eagerly after has been there all the time.

A zen master's life is one continuous mistake.