Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Principles of Zen II
In an earlier talk we considered several so-called principles of Zen. Rather than overwhelm anyone with a full load of these concepts in one talk, I’m presenting them a few at a time. Whatever name I give them, I’m sure you can recognize each through your own Zen practice.

Zen is seeing into one’s true self.
What is true self? I suppose that could qualify as a koan.
I can’t tell you what your true self is. True self is for you to know or else for you to find out. No one can tell you what you are. Your true self may have something in common with other humans, yet each human is unique. You are you and only you.
Nor can any guru or priest or minister pinpoint your true self. If any such people say they can, write them off, and keep your money in your pocket.
          Seeing into your true self is recognizing your inborn Buddha-nature. According to the Dalai Lama, a human being is capable—through training and through practice—of gaining the highest enlightened mental state. That is to say, through meditation, a human being can become enlightened.
          By now we know that meditation refers to contemplation of both the body and the mind to the point where you recognize who and what you really are. In Zen jargon, this is known as total awareness. Such mental attending to the body calms it. As for the mind, meditation allows the brain to stop clinging to thoughts and emotions, and to be open to ever-new impressions.

Zen is freedom from illusion.
          Once you discover your own Buddha-nature the misconceptions that have been planted in your life become evident. They don’t go away. Zen is not a form of hocus-pocus that makes things vanish with the wave of a wand. What happens is that the delusions become apparent. You see them for what they are, and in really seeing them you are able to deal with them.
As an example, in doing your meditation, once you realize that your thoughts may be galloping off in all directions, the very fact of that realization puts those thoughts out of mind, and you don’t have to deal with them.
Illusion. Delusion. Two different words that sound similar and whose meanings cross over but which are quite different in meaning. An illusion is a mistaken perception of reality. It’s a misguided concept or belief. A delusion is a deception of the mind, or a judgment. Delusions can lead to illusions.
Buddha-mind cuts through both. Upon awakening, there are no illusions, no delusions. There is only clarity.
It’s interesting—no, it’s a pity—that for some people a glimpse at clarity can be scary. They say take it away, I can’t deal with reality.
To a Zen person, clarity—freedom from illusion—is not a dream. It is life itself.

Everything exists according to its own nature.
Labels such as worth, beauty, and value are human tags. They were created by humans in their own heads to categorize, to qualify, to quantify.
Who can pass judgment on another human being, saying they are bad or they are good? You may not care for someone’s behavior, and for that reason choose to dislike who they are and what they represent.
I have never cared much for most of what Richard Nixon did. To be frank, I have always disliked the guy for almost everything he did. But the way I feel about him doesn’t allow me to say he was bad. He was what he was, and I accept that, even though his actions go totally against my grain.
You may question the motives of Newt Gingrich, or Jerry Falwell, or even Mother Teresa. Yet, those individuals are what they are, and what they are is what they choose to be. It is their nature.
To label someone as bad or good is pointless. Not only pointless, but frustrating to the one who is doing the labeling. What is, is, and you can’t do much about that except look after your own nature and be the best possible you.
Other people are going to go on being what they are regardless of how you feel about them. If you don’t like someone for one reason or another, you can simply disregard them.
The ginkgo tree, or maidenhair tree, is a fascinating plant. It is much the same today as it was in the Mesozoic era, sixty million years ago. It bears edible fruit and nuts. Its leaves are fan shaped, and in the fall they turn a brilliant gold or yellow color. Since ancient times it has been considered a sacred tree in Chinese temple gardens because of its longevity and its beauty.
As a side note, extreme examples of the ginkgo's tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where six trees that were growing a couple of kilometers from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast. While almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were destroyed, the ginkgoes survived and were soon healthy again. Those trees are alive to this day.
Someone might say that is good.
Ginkgo trees are either female or male. The two genders are indistinguishable except to a botanist, yet the male of the species gives off a revolting smell.
Someone might say that is bad.
Does a ginkgo tree’s tenacity or its color make it good? Does its smell make it bad? No. The ginkgo is what it is, and if some people don’t like ginkgoes, they have the option to disregard them.
Just as ginkgoes disregard people.
People will go on in their own way, and ginkgoes will go on in their own way because each exists according to its own nature.


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