Monday, May 05, 2014


----- May 5, 2014 -----
Question: I am familiar with the story about the Chinese Zen master’s answer to the question whether a dog has Buddha-nature. It was “Mu.” What is the English equivalent of the word “Mu”?
Answer: That is an excellent question. English is difficult to equate with Chinese or Japanese because of their lingual cultural associations. Perhaps the nearest we in the West could come to “Mu” would be ”not” or “no-thing.” However, those are merely words, with little or no traditional relevance.
In Rinzai Zen The word “Mu” is used as a koan. It is assigned to a student by a master as an object of meditation. Its meaning to the student is considered a measure of the student’s realization. The writer Mumon said:
Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.

Question: Is there any harm in reading about Zen?
Answer: No, there is no more harm in reading about Zen than there is in reading about Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or Buddhism, as long as pop-culture, promotional writings are discounted. In reading the literature of any
philosophy, or belief, keep an open mind. Make no judgments. Do not qualify or quantify. At the same time learn to distinguish fact from fable, allegory, or propaganda.

Question: Can I attain awakening, that is, can I see into my true nature, by studying about it?
Answer: Can you learn to swim by sitting at a desk and reading about swimming? Of course not. To learn swimming you have to get wet; you have to immerse yourself. To learn Zen you have to immerse yourself in meditation.

Question: What is the best way, physically, to meditate?
Answer: Zen meditation is customarily done while sitting on the floor, with legs crossed, facing a wall. However, there are many variations, and no one way is best. If you are unable to cross your legs, don’t try to cross your legs. If you can’t sit on the floor, sit on a chair.

Question: If Zen has no rules or doctrines or deity, what can I believe in?
Answer: Believe in you.

Question: What if I have to sneeze when I’m sitting in zazen?
Answer: There may be all manner of distractions to interrupt meditation. There are traffic noises, sirens, airplanes, thunder. There are room-temperature changes, making you feel hot or cold. You may have dry eyes, or gas bubbles, or a dripping nose. A fly or mosquito may land on your ear.
Do your best to ignore such annoyances. Be aware of them, recognize them, but do not let them interfere with your meditation. Keep yourself focused.
If you have to sneeze, go ahead and sneeze.
Question: How long should I meditate?
Answer: Beginners should meditate no longer than ten minutes. That period can gradually increase—five minutes at a time—to a maximum of forty to forty-five minutes. In a Zen monastery monks may do zazen a greater part of a day. But their day is broken into sessions that are seldom longer than forty-five minutes unless the head monk loses track of the time. Any longer than that can be physically and mentally tiring.
Walking meditation (kinhin) is usually done for five minutes to ten minutes.

Question: Does zazen ever use mantras?
Answer: A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself again and again. Some individuals believe mantras have psychological and spiritual power. Mantras are common in Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu meditation. Some Rinzai groups may chant. But those chants are usually sutras, that is, texts considered to be discourses of the Buddha. Soto Zen usually does not use either mantras or sutras. I say “usually,” because there are always exceptions.


Post a Comment

<< Home