Zen is one discipline in realizing our everyday existence, Its primary method is Zazen or Zen mediation, in which one “empties” his/her mind of Language, Constructs, Meanings, and Concepts for a short period. The focus of Zen is direct experience… centering ones attention to “The task at hand” so to speak, and refining experiential learning with mindfulness of the unity all “things”, including the spontaneity of all “events”.
Zen or Zen Buddhism is a discipline and method. But it has long metaphysical roots.
Zen’s philosophical background evolved from Indian Buddhism and the influence of ancient Taoism as the two paradigms met and as people exchanged ideas in central Asia and China.
The origional school, Ch’an started in the sixth century or earlier, and Its the exact history is debated. Some describe the philosophies leading to Chan (“Zen” in Japanese) as a Buddhist revival of Early Taoism with Ch’an being the school emphasizing meditation. As with the case of many school of thought in Asia: Zen is the mix of different influences.
Ch’an spread through North China and Korea. Chan would make its way to Japan originally as an academic interest where it would be know as “Zen“… Zen the Japanese pronunciation of “Chan”. Zen is practiced all over the world today.
The Taoism of Zen thought.
In Taoism, The unity and spontaneity of nature is called “Tao“. Transcending any and all human intellect, the Tao is mystical truth… but not an entirely illusive one. The early Taoist practice meditations (some later Taoist practice Tai chi with meditation), recited the Tao te Ching and practiced Wu Wei to harmonize with the Tao or nature.
The “Buddha Nature” is to Zen Buddhism ….what ‘the Tao” is to Taoism. It is unity, spontaneity . The life force, the true way nature happens. A Zen Buddhist meditates by “emptying his mind” or “stilling his mind” to explore the “Buddha nature” within him or herself.
Taoism and Zen’s philosophy are both holistic. Every particle is interconnected; every particle interdependent with its whole. The underlying principles of the universe , Scientific, Tao or Buddha Nature, apply every where. In any description of a phenomena the least is the best. that is to say: one does not divide or atomize the world with his/her intellect more more than he needs to, as to do so is an artificial representation.
In both Taoism and Zen, The Tao, Buddha nature ,or ultimate reality transcend our human understand via language. historically Chan and Zen have deemphasized (or even rejected) the importance of texts, and written doctrines other than the influence of the four noble truths that is at the center of Buddhism.
Buddhism of Zen thought.
In a very broad sense, Buddhism sets out to solve a problem. The problem of suffering in existence.
Four Nobel Truths of Buddhism (said many ways).
- Suffering Exists in Life
- The Source of Suffering is attachment
- The Emancipation of Suffering is attainable
- The Path or the “Eightfold Path” (wisdom, conduct, development)
Language including labels, signs and symbols; Constructs such “self” , “social class”, “efficiency” and “-isms” ,etc. Meaning including reasoning & importance
and sentiment including ideas connecting emotion to an object or memories….
… All these things are mental manifestations.
We are thrown in to the world, As infants we start to define our “self”-concept from the rest of the world with our mind. We learn language to further dive and label phenomena in our reality, introject concepts from our peers. We create definitions for objects and designate importance to events, attach emotions and ideas to objects, beings, events, and even other ideas. We fantasize. All this in our mind.
The Zen Buddhist argument is, for whatever reason these manifestations of mind come about…, these are unreal attachments that shift attention away from the “Buddha Nature” and may cause suffering in life. For the strictest Zen Buddhist an existence that is empty of all mental manifestations is an existence totally free of suffering.
“Zen is a discipline of enlightenment. Enlightenment means emancipation, and emancipation means no less than freedom.”
D.T . Suzuki in his book: Zen and Japanese Culture.
Enlightenment ( or Sakuri) is freedom of suffering and freedom from attachment.
Enlightenment is simply being.
Zen without Buddhism
I have seen the question on the Internet: Can one practice Zen without Buddhism? The fact is Zen can be used with many ways of thinking, and Zazen meditation for many purposes.
Zen can be a discipline of phenomenology.
Zazen meditation is used for health, mental health, sports training, learning to clear or focus ones attention, expanding ones mindfulness with any personal faith or way of thinking.
I would argue however, the practicing Zen overtime , in being committed to Zen as daily practice , and thus experiencing the mindfulness of how thoughts arise: that, some thought formations , thinking patterns and conceptualizations can be unhealthy. Zen as daily practice, may be a path to freedom from unhealthy or stagnating ways, or patterns of thinking.
My opinion(for what its worth): is that there is always Buddhism within committed Zen practice. I am one who has suffered from th enslavement of a restless mind. the daily commitment to Zen has been a huge part of in continuing my freedom. Overall I describe myself As Agnostic, but Buddhism is in me.
My Thoughts on Zen Thought
I do not wish to infer, with Zen, that I or anyone should be nihilists and say that everything is just forms of energy and force, that we should reject words, meaning, sentimental attachments, as illusions that bring suffering on our selves or that we should ignore anything that isn’t nearby.
(I participate in the modern world and conform with much of the norms of my culture, and love Art , Science and history.)
Instead ,with Zen and Zazen meditation, I may become more mindful of my own true nature, I may sense the unity and spontaneity of my world with a direct experience , while realizing the clinging and potential discomfort and dissatisfaction that my thinking and can produce. I am weary of the pitfalls of my intellect and am more trustful of my senses.
Zen is a discipline of realizing the “every-day-ness” in here now moment, mind empty of attachments, mindful of; and connected to the world…
Zen is a discipline.