Tuesday, August 19, 2014



Beyond the Art of Hocus Pocus

In the 1870s a Texas cowboy claimed to have learned a deep secret from the Hopi Indians. It was a revelation concerning the mysterious healing power of rattlesnake oil. The Texan was Clark Stanley, and in 1893 he rose to instant fame at the World’s Exposition in Chicago when he sliced open a live snake. He dunked the reptile in boiling water, and when the fat rose to the top he skimmed it off and bottled it to create what became known as “Stanley’s Snake Oil.”
The stuff was promoted as a tonic, a liniment, and a miracle elixir that promised to be good for man or beast. It supposedly cured chronic pain, headaches, female complaints, and kidney trouble. The gullible public bought countless bottles of it.
          In 1906 federal investigators found that Stanley’s product contained mineral oil, beef fat, red pepper, and turpentine. It was a mixture that lubricated the skin and warmed the area but had absolutely no healing power.
          It was then that the term snake oil became a symbol of fraud.
Not only is a sucker born every minute, but a con man is born every thirty seconds to scam the suckers.

          And now we come to the widespread use of the word “Zen.”
On the Internet and in the news media “Zen” is a jazzy catchphrase often used to peddle:

Sports feats
Manufactured aromas
Poker advice
True love
Body oils                              
Phone cases
Computer software
Key chains
Facial makeups
Hair styles
Fingernail polish
And other scams

 “Every time I turn around these days there’s a new blog with Zen in its title,” states writer Sandra Pawula. “Zen is being linked to everything from copywriting, web design, and business strategy to personal development, food, and far more. Zen has acquired a colloquial meaning in modern life.  Maybe it’s the zip and zing of the actual word Zen that is part of its allure.”
Sadly, a respectable word has become contaminated. It has become a hint of mysticism and the supernatural. And in that usage it is as phony as Jesus’ face on a toasted English muffin.
So how about the real word “Zen”?
The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be roughly translated as "absorption" or "meditative state.”
Zen emphasizes insight into the essential nature within all things. It is more commonly known as Buddha-nature. Humans have it, birds have it, trees have it, stones have it.
Computer software and T-shirts do not have Zen.
During the 6th and 4th centuries there was a man named Siddhartha Guatama. According to the story of his life, he experimented with different teachings until he realized the answer was not in the notions of other philosophies but within himself.
Through inner reflection, called meditation, he comprehended who he was, what he was, and his relationship to all of existence. After achieving such awareness, Siddhartha Guatama, the man, became known as Buddha, the awakened one.
So, what does Buddhism have to do with Zen?
In a few words, Zen is a part of Buddhism.
In several more words, Buddhism is a many-sided organization; Zen is a way of life. Buddhism is a middle path between abstinence and excess; Zen is being. Buddhism offers rituals; Zen is unadorned. Buddhism emphasizes guidelines; Zen emphasizes self-reliance. Buddhism may be comforting because it offers direction; Zen may be frightening because individuals have to think for themselves.
However, because the practice of Zen is so straightforward most people feel it needs to be puffed up with promises and guarantees. So they create a cure-all of it and generate labels such as “The Zen of Better Golf,” or “Zen and the Art of Body Oils.”
Pity the poor word “Zen.” And pity the individuals who think Zen is a state of mind, or a destination, or a form of self-hypnosis, or a better way to ride a bicycle.
Zen is a path to your true self. It is you, being totally aware, right now, at this instant.
Zen practice is not about a trendy way to play poker.
Zen is being completely awake.
Zen practice is calming the mind by clearing it in meditation.
With a clear mind you realize what everything truly is.
By everything I mean flowers, trees, rocks, all of existence. Including yourself.


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