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AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN

ZEN, a variety of Buddhism, now flourishes in Japan, and has infused
richness into almost all of Japan's cultural life. Before it took root in
Japan in the twelfth century, it had been for five hundred years one of the
great philosophical-religious movements in China. It has only recently been
discovered by the West, thanks to the books of Professor D. T. Suzuki and to
the fascination that Japan has exercised on so many American servicemen and
tourists.

Zen has been described as a mystical pantheism, a system of metaphysics
taught with riddles and blows, a sort of existentialist cult, a blandly
not-to-be-explained higher way of daily life. Zen is something of all of
these, but basically it is a variety of Buddhism.

Buddhism originated in India about 500 B.C. with the prince Siddhartha
Gautama, who gave up his family and his sheltered life which he discovered
could not protect him from old age, illness, unhappiness and death - to seek
a higher kind of life. After seeking wisdom from others and failing to find
it, he had his own revelation of a higher life; this came as he meditated
under the Bodhi-tree. Thereafter he taught the Truth that he had learned,
and around him gathered a group of followers that grew into the monastic
order still powerful in much of the Orient. He was known to his followers as
the Buddha, the Enlightened One.

Buddha taught that there is an eternal, endless universe of Absolute Being,
of which we are temporary incarnations. As such, we are subject to delusions
and temptations, pain and trouble, illness and death. But by studying to
find wisdom, living to do good, and concentrating to achieve control over
mind and body, we can escape from the dominance of the physical world, and
we can transmit a good inheritance of karma to our later incarnations. Karma
has been defined as "that moral kernel of any being which survives death and
continues in transmigration."

Buddha taught that a succcssion of beings, each improving its common
inheritance of karma, can eventually rise to an existence entirely free of
this world: the state of nirvana. Buddha himself is said to have achieved
nirvana at his death - that is, permanent enlightenment in a state free from
rebirth.

A thousand years after Buddha, a monk from India came to China with a
modified Buddhism that was destined to become widely practiced in China, and
eventually in Japan, under the name Zen (from the Sanscrit Dhyana and the
Chinese Ch'an). This traveler was called Bodhidharma (Bodhi= enlightenment,
Dharma = Truthful Way), and is believed to have come to China in 520 AD.

Following Bodhidharma, Zen was transmitted through a body of monks and a
series of patriarchs - each patriarch leaving his robe and begging bowl to
his chosen successor as a badge of office. The sixth patriarch was a lowly
monk who was not a scholar: his selection confirmed the fact that by this
time Zen had become a way of life for the simple as well as for the studious
devotee. This was about one hundred and fifty years after Bodhidharma.

Zen is - without being worldly - a discipline more suited than classic
Buddhism to worldly men seeking a higher spiritual experience. It neglects
karma, reincarnation, and nirvana, but it still demands meditation,
Concentration and physical discipline. Its unique teaching is that
"enlightenment" may come to dedicated laymen, and that this enlightenment
may occur suddenly and intuitively not necessarily requiring years of study
and concentration.

The achieving of enlightenment in Zen is not at all a rational or methodical
process. It is completely non-rational, unexplainable, and intuitive. The
Zen training in concentration, in the characteristic cross-legged position,
and the Zen teaching of koans (non.iogical riddles and stories) are designed
to put the student in a state where he can abandon logic and make the leap
upward into enlightenment. In Japanese this state of enlightenment is called
satori.

In satori we are able to look beyond our immediate world into the universe
of original, eternal, Absolute Being often called the Great Emptiness -
which was before our world was formed, and will be after it disappears. In
this condition we lose our sense of Self, and know ourselves to be part of
the great Oneness of all. Knowing ourselves to be part of Absolute Being,
our ego and our problems of ego - sin, pain, poverty, fear -all dissolve.
This is salvation in Zen terms.

Having reached the state of satori, we become aware that everything in all
this world about us, all other living and non-living things, even our lowest
animal functions, are part of Absolute Being - and are thus essentially
holy. Mountains and rocks, trees and grass-blades, elephants and microbes,
all share equally in the Eternal.

This awareness permits us to go about our daily life with a new freedom, a
new sureness, a new sense of doing the work of Absolute Being even in the
smallest or dirtiest task of the present life. It is this sense also that
makes the tea ceremony in Japan a ritual of devotion; that makes a
seventeen-syllable haiku poem a universal statement of faith; that makes a
quick brush-drawing a gesture of piety in Eternity.

Beyond this awareness that all things are part of Absolute Being and share
its holiness comes a sense of the interpenetration of all things. Each of us
is the apex of a cone of past ancestors, and the beliefs, acts, and events
which determined them. Each of us also is a point from which a new cone of
individuals and events will arise, each in some part a product of what we
are. We are all a part of Absolute Being, and we are all a part of each
other.

This concept has been described in the allegory of Indra's Net: There is an
endless net of threads throughout the universe. The horizontal threads are
in space, the vertical threads are in time. At every crossini of threads is
an individual, and every individual is a crystal bead. The great light of
Absolute Being illuminates and penetrates every crystal bead; but also every
crystal bead reflects not only the light from every other crystal in the net
- but also every reflection of every reflection throughout the universe.

Thus we learn that we live in all other beings, all other things - and that
they live in us. Our lives are richer - and more filled with obligations -
than we ever knew before.

The following stories are from the annals of Zen - tales of past masters and
patriarchs, parables used in teaching, and koans used in freeing the mind
from logic. They cannot by themselves make you a participant in the Zen
experience, but they can give you pleasure as allegories and anecdotes, and
can give some savor of the intensity, spirituality, and tenacity of Zen
practitioners over the past thousand years and more.

The koan is a riddle without a logical answer. To the casual reader some of
these riddles, and the conversations which contain them, will seem utter
nonsense. But they have been preserved and revered for centuries by serious
men, so we must look decper. For the same reason we cannot dismiss as equal
nonsense the beatings given by masters to pupils who make reasonable
answers; or the intentionally idiotic commentaries written by the master
Mumon on famous koans.

The purpose of the koans, of the beatings, of the commentaries, is to break
the mind of logic. What the master wants of the pupil is not understanding
in any usual sense. He wants to "burst the bag," and drive the pupil with
whole-souled precipitation into the Great Emptiness, the Great Stillness -
where all things stand without being touchable; where all sounds are,
without being heard.

Posted on: 2007/6/7 8:56
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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And now for the first in a series of Zen Koans. I do hope you'll all participate in and enjoy these.

Nan-in, a Japanese master, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Posted on: 2007/6/7 8:59
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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Zen has always grabbed my attention, I like reading about it, It certainly has alot of depth, I am interested in what else you have to write Merin. good stuff

Posted on: 2007/6/7 13:20
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there's still along way to go....
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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Zen Means "meditation"
Zen is the school of Buddhism which emphasizes the religious practice of meditation. The Buddha taught that Ignorance, created by our greed, hate, and delusion, prevents us from realizing that we are all enlightened. Zen Buddhism teaches that the practice of sitting in meditation (Jap.: zazen) directly manifests our inborn enlightenment, our Buddha Nature. In Zen practice, seated meditation and enlightenment are one. No preliminary training or long preparation is necessary to realize the Way.



Zen Sixth Patriarch
Cutting Bamboo
(Ryankai, 13th century)

The Soto school of Japanese Zen practice was founded in the 13th century by the Zen Master Eihei Dogen. In his instructions on how to meditate, Dogen writes,

"You should...cease from practice based on intellectual understanding...and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest....The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the...gate of repose and bliss, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the manifestation of ultimate reality."

Zen also stresses that the world of enlightenment is the everyday world we all know. "Carrying water and chopping wood are the activities of the Buddha," and "The everyday mind is Buddha," are two of the most well known Zen sayings. Zen realization shows us that we are directly connected to, and dependent on, all living beings and everything that exists. Compassionate concern for the welfare of others and for the environment flow naturally from this insight

Posted on: 2007/6/7 17:47
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road

Gudo was the emperor's teacher of his time. Nevertheless, he used to travel alone as a wandering mendicant. Once when he was on his way to Edo, the cultural and political center of the shogunate, he approached a little village named Takenaka. It was evening and a heavy rain was falling. Gudo was thoroughly wet. His straw sandals were in pieces. At a farmhouse near the village he noticed four or five pairs of sandals in the window and decided to buy some dry ones.

The woman who offered him the sandals, seeing how wet he was, invited him in to remain for the night in her home. Gudo accepted, thanking her. He entered and recited a sutra before the family shrine. He was then introduced to the women's mother, and to her children. Observing that the entire family was depressed, Gudo asked what was wrong.

"My husband is a gambler and a drunkard," the housewife told him. "When he happens to win he drinks and becomes abusive. When he loses he borrows money from others. Sometimes when he becomes thoroughly drunk he does not come home at all. What can I do?"

"I will help him," said Gudo. "Here is some money. Get me a gallon of fine wine and something good to eat. Then you may retire. I will meditate before the shrine."

When the man of the house returned about midnight, quite drunk, he bellowed: "Hey, wife, I am home. Have you something for me to eat?"

"I have something for you," said Gudo. "I happened to be caught in the rain and your wife kindly asked me to remain here for the night. In return I have bought some wine and fish, so you might as well have them."

The man was delighted. He drank the wine at once and laid himself down on the floor. Gudo sat in meditation beside him.

In the morning when the husband awoke he had forgotten about the previous night. "Who are you? Where do you come from?" he asked Gudo, who was still meditating.

"I am Gudo of Kyoto and I am going on to Edo," replied the Zen master.

The man was utterly ashamed. He apologized profusely to the teacher of his emperor.

Gudo smiled. "Everything in this life is impermanent," he explained. "Life is very brief. If you keep on gambling and drinking, you will have no time left to accomplish anything else, and you will cause your family to suffer too."

The perception of the husband awoke as if from a dream. "You are right," he declared. "How can I ever repay you for this wonderful teaching! Let me see you off and carry your things a little way."

"If you wish," assented Gudo.

The two started out. After they had gone three miles Gudo told him to return. "Just another five miles," he begged Gudo. They continued on.

"You may return now," suggested Gudo.

"After another ten miles," the man replied.

"Return now," said Gudo, when the ten miles had been passed.

"I am going to follow you all the rest of my life," declared the man.

Modern Zen teachings in Japan spring from the lineage of a famous master who was the successor of Gudo. His name was Mu-nan, the man who never turned back.

Posted on: 2007/6/12 7:42
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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Is That So?

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parent went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else he needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"

Posted on: 2007/6/19 23:05
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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Obedience

The master Bankei's talks were attended not only by Zen students but by persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras not indulged in scholastic dissertations. Instead, his words were spoken directly from his heart to the hearts of his listeners.

His large audience angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because the adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self-centered Nichiren priest came to the temple, determined to have a debate with Bankei.

"Hey, Zen teacher!" he called out. "Wait a minute. Whoever respects you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you make me obey you?"

"Come up beside me and I will show you," said Bankei.

Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.

Bankei smiled. "Come over to my left side."

The priest obeyed.

"No," said Bankei, "we may talk better if you are on the right side. Step over here."

The priest proudly stepped over to the right.

"You see," observed Bankei, "you are obeying me and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen."

Posted on: 2007/6/22 7:58
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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If You Love, Love Openly

Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said: "If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now"

Posted on: 2007/7/7 0:19
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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And while I'm on and posting in this thread, here are the four great vows.

Quote:
However innumerable beings are, I vow to save them;
However inexhaustible the passions are, I vow to extinguish them;
However immeasurable the Dharmas are, I vow to master them;
However incomparable the Buddha-truth is, I vow to attain it


Now try and take the third vow and turn it to the code and 16 teachings and you have my daily walk, along with the rest of it of course. Can't always say I'm perfect, that's for sure. What I can say is that every day I wake up is another day I walk a little closer to the realization of my inner perfection.

~Namaste~

Posted on: 2007/7/7 0:27
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Re: AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN
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~The best way to catch a catfish is by pressing down on it with a gourd.
Better still, one should grease the gourd first.
Best of all, one should grease the catfish.~



Posted on: 2007/7/18 7:53
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