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25th October 2010, 19:54
The ZEN Philosophy...

25th October 2010, 20:08
Meen jy die onderstaande:


The initial Zen

In brief

My dictionary tells me that Zen is “a Japanese sect of Mahāyāna Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation”.

The word “Zen”

The Japanese word “Zen”, or “禅” (“ぜん”), is a deformation, through Chinese (“禪”, pronounced “chan” in Mandarin), of the Sanskrit “dhyāna” (“ध्यान” in the original script), meaning “meditation”.

Keep in mind that “Zen” is the japanese word. When insisting on authenticity (something I am emphatically not doing here), it is probably better to use the Chinese word “Chan”.


Buddhism is a philosophy, or a religion, that was founded by the Indian prince Siddhārtha Gautama, the first Buddha, presumably in the fifth century BCE. (The Sanskrit word “buddha”, “बुद्ध”, means “awake”, while “siddhārtha”, “सिद्धार्थ”, means “successful”.)
The Zen (Chan) branch descends from the semi-legendary figure Bodhidharma, heir of a line of Indian patriarchs starting from the first Buddha. Bodhidharma left India for China (sometime in the late fourth century CE) and started a new line of Chinese patriarchs. In that country, Zen Buddhism was highly influenced by Taoism. It was introduced in Japan sometime around the twelfth century.

Very succint description

Zen aims at achieving a state of mind named “Enlightenment” (“覺悟”). Exactly what Enlightenment is is not easy to describe, but very loosely described, it is the liberation from the material world and its dualism. Enlightenment implies Oneness with the Universe and abolishment of mental barriers separating the Enlightened from all other things.
The path to Enlightenment is simply called the “Way”. It is this path that the Zen adept seeks to find and to follow. Meditation, various mental exercises, can help; so can the short texts called “kōans” (“公案”). But there is no royal road to Enlightenment.

Patriarchs and other Zen Masters

“Patriarchs” is the name given to the six semi-legendary founders of Zen.
The first Patriarch was Bodhidharma (who left India for China), called “菩提達摩” in Chinese; he died around 532CE. Legend says that Bodhidharma sat and taught in a cave.
The sixth was 慧能 (“hui4neng2” in Mandarin, “えのう” in Japanese or “Enō”), who lived 638–713 .
Here we mention also a few of the other (later) historical Zen masters we will be alluding to, so we can refer to them more conveniently.

趙州 從諗 (“zhao4zhou1 cong2shen3” in Mandarin, “じょうしゅう じゅうしん” in Japanese, or “Jōshū Jūshin”) lived 778–897. He is at the origin of the famous MU.
臨濟 義玄 (“lin2ji4 yi4xuan2” in Mandarin, “りんざい ぎげん” in Japanese, or “Rinzai Gigen”) died 866. A Japanese branch of Zen is named “Rinzai” after him.
大慧 宗杲 (“da4hui4 zong1gao3” in Mandarin, “だいえ そうこう” in Japanese, or Daie Sōkō) lived 1089–1163.
無門 慧開 (“wu2men2 hui4kai1” in Mandarin, “むもん えかい” in Japanese, or “Mumon Ekai”), one of the last historical Zen masters, lived 1183–1260. He is the editor of the Mumonkan.


Enlightenment, in Chinese “覺悟” (“jue2wu4”, something like “awake-aware”) or sometimes just “覺”, is a central concept in Zen, right from its Buddhist origins (since the word “Buddha” means, precisely, “awake”). To reach an Enlightened (mental) state is the goal of any unenlightened Zen adept.
As has already been noted, the exact nature of Enlightenment is not easy to describe, and to do so would anyway be contrary to Enlightenment itself. But we can give some ideas for the benefit of minds still not free from dualism.
Enlightenment is a form of liberation: very roughly, liberation from the material world, but that is not an accurate description because it reeks of mysticism. To be Enlightened one must remove the mental barriers one has constructed and the dualism of one's vision. The Enlightened is One with the Universe.
Exactly how difficult Enlightenment is to each, is unclear. Superficially it may appear as a difficult quest, a life goal's accessible only to the happy few. But the answer, and the question itself, is contrary to Enlightenment: for Enlightenment is as difficult as you set it to be. You can travel as far as you will on the path, and never reach the end because there is no end: it is only when you know you have reached your goal that you are Enlightened.
Being Enlightened is a very much like understanding a joke[/URL]: often it makes no sense to spell out the terms of the joke. Either you “get” it, or you don't .
It is also worth mentioning at this point that Enlightenment is not madness or a form of madness.

Dualism, Logic, Words

Dualism is the general idea that two concepts, or two things, can be opposed to one another. This is a very un-Zen-like idea, one that prevents the Enlightened state of mind, in which all these barriers are removed and the Universe is One.
Logic and words are mental tools which mostly serve to strengthen the dualism of thought. Thus, while words (and even logic, to some extent) can prepare the seeker to Enlightenment (especially if they are used in unintended ways, such as in kōans), they cannot bring him to it. On the other hand, intuition, or direct perception of the Universe at peer with oneself, is a spark of Enlightenment.
This is not to say that dualism is evil: Zen is not about Good and Evil, for these are themselves dualistic notions. In the Avesta, Ahurā Mazdā, the embodiment of Good, fights his twin brother Ahriman (“adversary”), embodiment of Evil, and we are probably much more influenced by this mental picture than we care to admit. But Zen is simply elsewhere.
Furthermore, the very distinction between dualism and monism is again dualism: there is not a dualist Universe and a Zen one, or a world of logic and one of intuition, but merely two ways of looking at the same Tao. Zen does not oppose things, it unifies them.


Kōans, in Japanese “公案” (“こうあん”, something like “legal case” or “riddle”) are short stories (generally recounting the actions of Zen masters and patriarchs) used to train the disciples, to encourage them to set reason and dualism aside and reach Enlightenment through direct intuition. In a shorter and perhaps more appropriate definition, kōans are Zen jokes.
Historically, kōans did not take a great importance in Zen until master Sōkō and the Japanese Rinzai school emphasized them. The kōans of the historical Zen often picture a rather cruel attitude of masters toward their students: the idea is to corner the disciple into absurdity and force him, figuratively spoken, to explode and thus free himself. To my mind, the attitude is somewhat reminiscent of some of the strangest cartoons by Gary Larson, with their disturbing black humor.

The Mumonkan

The 無門關 (in Japanese, “Mumonkan”, or “むもんかん”) means the “gateless gate”. It is a famous collection, published in 1228 CE, of fourty-eight (or fourty-nine, the fourty-ninth having been added later) kōans (cases), each one followed by a “commentary” and a poem. The kōans were compiled by Zen master Mumon. He is the author of the commentaries and poems.
The term “gateless gate” refers to the nature of Enlightenment: one who passes into Enlightenment walks freely and knows no further barriers; but how can one pass through a gate that is gateless? The name is a mockery at dualism.
In view of what has already been said concerning words and the role of kōans, it will come as no surprise that the text of the Mumonkan often “makes no sense”. What may be more surprising, however, is that Mumon's “commentaries” and poems appear just about as incomprehensible as the kōans they are suppose to explain. But this should not be so much of a surprise either, for the commentaries play much the same role as the kōans: not to explain, but to Enlighten. Once again, Zen is not an exercice in hermeneutics.


The ideogram “無”, transcribed “MU” in English (it's actually “wu2” in Mandarin: “mu” or “む” is the Japanese pronunciation), has become much the same kind of hallmark-mantra of Zen as the sacred syllable “ॐ” (“ŌM”) has become for Hinduism.
This comes from a famous kōan, the first of the Mumonkan, telling of how master Jōshū answered to a monk who asked “has even a dog the Buddha-nature?”: Jōshū's answer was “MU”.
We could waste tedious hours trying to explain this MU. Basically, the Chinese ideogram 無 means “no”, “not”, “none”, “have no”, “lack”, “not to exist”; this is a pretty vague semantic field, but it seems anyhow that Jōshū is not merely stating that a dog does not have the Buddha-nature: rather, his reply is more something like “nothing exists”, or, even more closely, a denial of the dualism of “is” and “is-not” (or “has” and “has-not”).
According to Mumon's comment on this kōan, Jōshū's MU is the very barrier set up by the patriarch, which to go through one must uproot all the normal working of the mind: it is the gateless gate (and the MU ideogram is the first ideogram in 無門關).

The cypress tree in the courtyard

As for “MU”, this phrase is another answer of Jōshū's, in the Mumonkan (case 37): a monk asked him, “why did Bodhidharma come from the West?”: Jōshū answered “the cypress tree in the courtyard”, in Chinese “庭前柏樹子”.
(This has been translated in a great number of ways. The ideograms mean something like “courtyard / in front / cypress / tree / (child)”. Among the translations commonly found are “the cypress in front of the yard”, “that oak tree in the garden”, “the tree in the middle of the garden”, and even stranger things. The “oak” translation apparently comes from the Japanese reading of the ideogram “柏”, which may or may not have been the Chinese meaning at the time when Jōshū spoke this, or at the time when the Mumonkan was written, I have no idea. But really it doesn't matter.)
The answer is as deliberately absurd as the “MU”, of course, and quite comparable. But this time the emphasis seems different. Jōshū seems to be point out how inadequate words are to convey meaning; at the same time, he recalls in a humorous way the unity of the world.
Not only the answer but also the question merits further examination. The reason why Bodhidharma came from India into China is, of course, a very valid historical question, but it is also has a symbolic level which is like “what is the inner meaning of Zen?” or something of the kind. The same question appears in the fifth case of the Mumonkan: “Zen is like a man hanging by his teeth in a tree over a precipice: his hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no lib, and under the tree another person asks him, ‘Why did Bodhidharma come to China from India?’. If the man in the tree does not answer, he fails; and if he answers, he falls and loses his life. Now what shall he do?”
Concerning Jōshū's tree (not over a precipice), I am also reminisced of Douglas Adam's famous “answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything”, which is fourty-two, the only problem being that the actual question is unknown.
To bring about the next topic, I quote from Gödel, Escher, Bach (“A Mu Offering”):

TortoisePerhaps Zen is instructive because it is humorous. I would guess that if you took all such stories entirely seriously, you would miss the point as often as you would get it.AchillesMaybe there's something in your Tortoise-Zen.TortoiseCan you answer just one question for me? I would like to know this: Why did Bodhidharma come from India into China?AchillesOho! Shall I tell you what Jōshū said when he was asked that very question?TortoisePlease do.AchillesHe replied, “That oak tree in the garden.”TortoiseOf course; that's just what I would have said. Except that I would have said it in answer to a different question—namely, “Where can I find some shade from the midday sun?”AchillesWithout knowing it, you have inadvertently hit upon one of the basic questions of Zen. That question, innocent as it sounds, actually means, “What is the basic principle of Zen?”TortoiseHow extraordinary. I hadn't the slightest idea that the central aim of Zen was to find some shade.AchillesOh, no—you've misunderstood me entirely. I wasn't referring to that question. I meant your question about why Bodhidharma came from India into China.

Meditation and its role

As we have pointed out from the start, the very word “Zen” means “meditation”, so we might expect meditation to have a central importance in Zen. And certainly, meditation, and in particular “zazen” (sitting meditation) is the most visible part of Zen; but there is some doubt as to its importance (in reaching Enlightenment).
There is, or rather there appears to uninformed eyes to be, a quarrel among Zen masters, on the importance of meditation (and, parallel, on the way Enlightenment is reached). On the one hand, “gradualists” claim that Enlightenment is a progress, in whose steps meditation can be of help. On the other, “subitists” hold that Enlightenment (being the sudden realization that we are all Buddhas, whether we know it or knot), is an all-or-nothing phenomenon, and that meditation can only prepare the mind to be enlightened, not bring it about. As irreconcilable as these points of view may seem, they are not completely contradictory. Indeed, the path to Enlightenment is to be trodden in one's own mind: as sudden as the realization of the Enlightened state may be, its prior acceptance can be gradual. Each man's Way is his own, and for some it may be very progressive, and marked by meditation. The important point, in any case is not to mistake the meditation for Enlightenment. And the idea is not to think of nothing, for it is not by putting our minds to sleep that we chance becoming Awake.

Vriendelike groetnis
Silencio :wink_2:

25th October 2010, 20:12
A beautiful way to pray for others...

is to breathe in their suffering
and to breathe out your joy
with each exhalation, feel that you're expelling their pain...

with each inhalation, feel happiness filling the space created by pulling out their pain...

Do this as a means to end your own suffering, too...


25th October 2010, 20:15
The only problem that ever exists

is not accepting things the way they are

This is the cause of all suffering...


25th October 2010, 20:19
Perfection isn't found in everthing going right

but rather in accepting the beauty of what's happening moment to moment...


27th October 2010, 20:45
True Self vs The Ego

When the people of a certain village heard that the military was headed in their direction, and the person leading the charge was a commander most known for his cruelty, everyone fled... except for one old monk.

When the commander arrived, he asked the monk, "Why didn't you flee like the others? Don't you know who I am? I'm the one who can run a sword through you without batting an eye!"

The old monk looked at him steadily and replied, "My dear friend, I am the one who can have a sword run through me without batting an eye...

That was the moment the commander became a disciple and never acted again with cruelty...


27th October 2010, 20:55
A student came to his teacher to learn Zen

Before the lesson, the teacher poured tea into the student's cup, continuing to pour until tea was flowing onto the floor. Finally, the student asked why he continued to pour when the cup was obviously full. The teacher smiled and said...

"You come to me like that cup, full of your own self. When you empty your cup, come back to learn Zen."