Everyday Zen

July 18, 2008 by  

Often people view the spiritual path as a way of escape. They imagine that if they had a breakthrough of some significance they would become removed from and immune to the changing circumstances of life. The truth is that view is just another form of delusion. {+}Man was created to live on this planet but he was also designed to enjoy the experience. Somewhere between suffering the "the arrows of outrageous fortune" and blissing out in the the nether-regions is the middle ground. Zen, as we use the word here in the Soul Sword Zen Community,   blends the mystical and the practical seamlessly. You don't have to have a cup of tea when lemonade is your drink.

Zen is a Japanese word but the experience it points to was known long before the Japanese people adapted the practice to their culture. The Japanese learned about Zen from the Chinese who called the study, Ch'an. The Chinese were introduced to the practice by Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch or spiritual descendant of Gotama Buddha..Shakyamuni. In india the practice was known as Dhyana. Both the Chinese word, Ch'an and the Japanese word, Zen, are transliterations of the same word. As awakened individuals emerged they naturally included their cultural spin.  Japanese Zen had the boldness of the Samurai, so its colors are sharp. For that reason, it is hard for westerners to separate Zen from its Japanese flavor.  For some people Zen is merely the art of mirroring Japanese culture but that is far from being Zen. It is flattery, it may be fun but it is not Zen.

Zen is a living experience marked by dynamic stillness, wisdom and traceless action arising from No-Mind or mushin. As such, any activity arising from the exercise of the intellect or ego would not qualify as Zen activity. Immediately, we are faced with a paradox. If Zen activity arises from No-Mind, how do we engage No-Mind when an attempt to do so would be contrary to the practice? Drink your coffee! Eat your Corn Flakes!

What does that mean? Be grateful I am a new generation Roshi. The old school masters would answer with a few well-placed whacks of the kyosaku. Blunt force trauma was considered compassionate Zen teaching. The Roshi gives you a good whack to bring your mind into focus. Whack! What mind did you use to feel that?  Don't think-don't answer show me!

It is said that Religion points to God and Zen points to man. When you want to formally worship God you go to church, synagogue, mosque or temple. Where do you go when you want to acknowledge or meditate on your own spirit?  If you worship God, your spirit connects with heaven. This may seem good to the casual believer. However, if God is in heaven and you are virtually in heaven or struggling to get there, who is minding the earth? Who is manning the planet? Perhaps that is the problem.  Jesus Christ tells us that "a double-mind is unstable in all of its ways." Wouldn't that also include those who are split between heaven and earth?

Zen spirituality is different from the supernatural orientation. Zen awakens The Spirit in man, giving him freedom to explore the vastness of the creation as part and parcel of his own being. This state was hinted at by the biblical account of the beginning of life on earth. Man, Adam, was giving complete charge of not only the earth but himself. Losing that freedom was the greatest lost. Zen holds forth the promise that the individual can regain that crown of consciousness. Still Zen is not a religion. It is more or less shock therapy designed to remind us about something that is already present. Suppose you were born in a building and had never been outside. Let us add that you did not even have a clude that there was an outside or anything more than what you saw day after day. One day a force knocks in the entire North wall and you see a rush of light and colors. That would be a shock but it would also be an undeniable revelation. The Zen experience is like that. Of course, we could use another word, awakening, liberation, illumination. They are just words. When IT happens it changes things.

Wherever you live the experience you have should naturally reflect your own country and culture. If you overly identify with the culture or culture of your teacher you will prevent the course of nature. You must consciously imitate and imitation is not genuine Zen. A Zen teaching says, "when you are really you that is enlightenment. Who knows who you really are? Not even you have the answer to that. It is a discovery revealed moment by moment. I tell my Zen Mushin Ryu, Way of The Warrior disciples. We do not practice to fight but to be aware in every moment. We must catch the falling vase, open the door for the person behind us, see the squirrel running across the fence.  We may never use a fancy technique. We may never be called upon to protect the weak but we will be using our senses and bodily mevements every day. The virtue of the warrior way is in keen awareness of environment, in spontaneity and wisdom in action. We can use that everyday.


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