Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What is Zen?

"Zen is an experience, and trying to describe an experience is like trying to drink water with a fork." -Alan Watts

Along with Alan Watts, Shunryu Suzuki was one of the most important figures in popularizing Zen in the West.


His book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," essentially tries to explain the concept of unconditioned reality. Beginner's Mind, is the optimal mindset to have. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."
Unconditioned Reality:
"As soon as you see something, you already start to intellectualize it. As soon as you intellectualize something, you are no longer what you saw."
"If you discriminate too much, you limit yourself. If you are too demanding or too greedy, your mind is not rich and self-sufficient. If we lose our original self-sufficient mind, we will lose all precepts ... In the beginner's mind there is no thought, "I have attained something." All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner's mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice. So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner's mind. "
The practice of Zen:
"The result is not the point;. It is the effort to improve ourselves that is valuable There is no end to this practice."
Life is nothing more than a succession of moments:
"Zen is not some fancy, special art of living. Our teaching is just to live, always in reality, in its exact sense. To make our effort, moment after moment, is our way."

"The true purpose [of Zen] is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes ... Zen practice is to open up our small mind."

My first, formal introduction to Zen, was through the words of Shunryu Suzuki, words like these. 
So my challenge, now is to try and explain what Zen is. 

Well one of the fundamental concepts of Zen is "Satori" (pictured above): 
Satori  ( enlightenment ? ) ( Chinese :  Satoru ;  pinyin :  Wu ;  Korean :   O ;  Vietnamese :  Ngo ) IS a Japanese Buddhist  Term for  awakening ., "comprehension; Understanding" [web 1]  It IS derived from the Japanese verb  satoru . [1]
In the  Zen Buddhist  Tradition,  Satori  REFERS to the experience of  Kensho , [2]  "seeing into one's true  Nature ".  Ken  Means "seeing,"  Sho  Means "Nature" or "Essence." [2]
Satori  and  Kensho  Are Commonly translated as  Enlightenment , a Word That IS ALSO USED to Translate  bodhi ,  prajna  and  Buddhahood .
DT Suzuki: ".... looking into one's Nature or the opening of Satori"; [3]  "This Acquiring of a new point of View in Our Dealings with Life and the World IS Popularly called by Japanese Zen students 'Satori' ( wu  in Chinese). It IS really Another name for Enlightenment ( "Annuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi" ) "
But is Satori the same as Enlightenment?
In Japan they use Satori, as a slang word to describe someone who seems calm and clear-headed, like an enlightened being. In America, they use the same definition, but use the word Zen to describe someone or something. 
America's use of Zen is wrong, but I also think Japan's slang use of Satori, is wrong as well. 
It has been my understanding that Satori is not enlightenment. 
Satori  IS Often USED Interchangeably with  Kensho . [2]  Kensho  REFERS to the Perception of the  Buddha-Nature  or  emptiness . ACCORDING to some Authors,  Kensho  IS a brief glimpse, while  Satori  IS Considered to BE a Deeper spiritual experience.
Satori  IS Considered a "first Step" or Embarkation Toward  Buddhahood :
Ch'an expressions refer to enlightenment as "seeing your self-nature". But even this is not enough. After seeing your self-nature, you need to deepen your experience even further and bring it into maturation. You should have enlightenment experience again and again and Support Them with continuous Practice. Even though Ch'an says That at the time of Enlightenment, your Outlook IS the Same as of the Buddha, you Are not Yet a full Buddha. [7]
The Student's mind MUST BE Prepared by Rigorous Study, with the use of  koans , and the Practice of  Meditation  to Concentrate the mind, under the Guidance of a Teacher. koans Are short Anecdotes of verbal Exchanges Between Teachers and students, Typically of the  Song Dynasty , Dealing with Buddhist Teachings. The Rinzai-School Utilizes classic Collections of koans SUCH as the Gateless Gate . The Gateless Gate WAS assembled by the Early 13th-century Chinese Zen Master  Wumen  Hui-K'ai (Mumon ToshiHiraku).
Wumen himself Struggled for six years with koan " Zhaozhou's Dog ", Assigned to him by Yuelin Shiguan (month forests Shi觀; Japanese: Gatsurin Shikan) (1143-1217), before Attaining  Kensho . After his Understanding HAD Been Confirmed by Yuelin, Wumen I wrote the following enlightenment poem:
A thunderclap under the clear blue sky
All beings on earth open their eyes;
Everything under heaven bows together;
Mount Sumeru  leaps up and Dances. 
It has been my understanding that Satori is not enlightenment, but is similar to the word "epiphany" in English. It is a "sudden" and "temporary insight," similar to temporary enlightenment. 
. Enlightenment, from my Understanding IS what the Word Nirvana Describes N Irvana  ( ɪər Ɑ ə ,  Æ ə ,  Ər - / ; [2]  Sanskrit :  Nirvana  Nirvana   [Nirʋaɳə] ;  Pali :  Nibbana Nibbana  ;  Prakrit :  Nivvana  Nivvana  .) literally Means "Blown out", as in a candle [3]  . It IS most Commonly Associated with Buddhism[web 1] [4]
In the Buddhist context  nirvana  REFERS to the Imperturbable stillness of mind after the Fires of desire, aversion, and delusion Have Been finally extinguished. [3]  In Hindu philosophy , it IS the Union with  Brahman , the divine Ground of existence, and the experience of blissful  Egolessness .
It is seeing reality as it is, "the unconditioned reality." 
However, recently my concept of Nirvana and Enlightenment has been challenged. 
Nirvana, I think more HAS to do with this "In  Indian religions , the Attainment of  nirvana  IS  Moksha , [note 1]  Liberation from Samsara , the Repeating cycle of birth, Life and death. "
Nirvana was about freeing yourself from the cycle of rebirth (in reincarnation), and it literally means "the extinguishment of the flame on a candle." This goes with the story that one flame can be transferred from candle to candle, but it is still the same flame.
Whereas, enlightenment is merely seeing life as it is, as Buddhists believe that Buddha was enlightened in this world. 
Reading online, someone posted the same question "Is Satori the same as Enlightenment?"
Here are some responses:
Satori ≠ Nibbana  "
Satori seems to BE USED to mean like dipping your toes into Enlightenment, a temporary burst of Insight into How things really Are That does not last long and Usually happens while Meditating. "
"No, Satori IS not  Complete  Enlightenment, it IS an a-ha Moment When the Practitioner finally Realizes "How things Are":
Seeing his own original nature, he discovers that the ground of this nature is innately free of defilement, and that he himself is originally endowed with the non-outflow wisdom-nature which is not a hair's breadth different from that of all the Buddhas.
. From this moment on, one's practice stops being guesswork or imitation and becomes informed by real understanding In Zen this is known as "sudden awakening, gradual cultivation":
Although he has awakened to the fact that his original nature is no different from that of the Buddhas, the beginningless habit-energies are extremely difficult to remove suddenly and so he must continue to cultivate while relying on this awakening. Through this gradual permeation, his endeavors reach completion. He constantly nurtures the sacred embryo, and after a long time he becomes a saint. Hence it is called gradual cultivation. This process can be compared to the maturation of a child. From the day of its birth, a baby is endowed with all the sense Organs just like everyone else, but its strength IS not Yet fully developed. It IS only after many months and years That it Will Become finally an adult. (from  Secrets on Cultivating the Mind  by Bojo Jinul)
Chogyam Trunpa also speaks about it:
Having received transmission and having had some kind of realization, you have to follow it up;.. You have to become liberated Some people think realization is liberation, but in our case, it is not When you realize something, you have to practice that realization, and then you are liberated So realization does not mean you are liberated;.. it means that you have just touched on the possibility of liberation Realization is like seeing the first rays of sunshine on the horizon - you know that the sun is in the sky.

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