Everythinig You Need To Know About The Zen Concept And Its True Meaning
We’ve all read definitions about this concept called “Zen” and we all read that “Zen” can be either seen as a practice, a hobby maybe, a habit, a simple belief system, a life philosophy, a pure religious direction or just a deep guiding principle in life. The term we all call “Zen” has became one of the most popular term in the western world, and it was found in countless online blog posts and titles but those definitions, all miss the core and the meaning of the “zen” concept.
In reality, the true “Zen” we are all looking for is far beyond our concepts. In his book, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”, SHUNRYU SUZUKI will guide you through a deep instruction about how to practice Zen, what a Zen life means, and last but not least, about the attitudes and understandings that will transform your Zen practice into a lifestyle and 100% possible . Zen teaching was created to make you wonder and to answer that wondering. However, the answer will come along with the deepest expression of your own nature. At the end of the reading journey, every reader will be prepared to create his own nature and his own Zen mind and will realize that Zen is not only a form of meditation but also a life philosophy.
Now, enough with the introduction. Let’s see what this book is actually about.
Yes, you got that right. The first chapter is called “Posture”, Zazen posture more exactly. It actually explains the “oneness of duality: not two, and not one” which is actually the most important teaching. Take for example the full lotus position. Even though we have a right and a left leg, when crossing our legs they have become one. Same goes with the body and the mind. Thinking that these 2 worlds are not two and not one is totally wrong. They are both two and one.
When practicing Zazen, the mind follows the breathing. The air comes into the inners world when we inhale and it goes out to the other outer worlds when we exhale. What you did not know is that the inner world is limitless as much as the outer world. Even though we say "inner world" or "outer world" and we make these terms sound like they are two different things, they are just one whole world.
Your throat is like a swinging door in these two limitless worlds. The air is the guest that comes in and out, passing through a swinging door. The "I " in “I breathe” is extra. You may wonder, why is that? Because," I " is the swinging door which moves every time we breathe in and out. All it does is...it just moves; that’s it. So when you practice Zazen, is all about the movement of the breathing and all you have to do is to be aware of your universal nature, or Buddha nature.
Obtaining real calmness in your Zazen might sound easy but it is probably the most difficult policy as it requires some special effort and getting there is the secret of every practice. Various images will just pop up in your mind, together with some weird thoughts. Been there, done that. Don’t think that if you try really hard to just calm down it will work. I hate to disappoint you but your effort will not be the right one. The only effort that will help you is to count your breathing, and be aware of your inhaling and exhaling. The aim of this practice is to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes.
When on your Zazen, don’t try to stop your thinking because it will eventually stop by itself. They say it is best to let things come into your mind and let them go out. When you are trying to stop your thinking, it actually means that you are bothered by it.
I know it sounds weird but trust me that it is not.
It will look like the thought comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind. The only way to fix this is to be bothered by the waves because they will eventually and gradually become calmer and calmer.
While this is probably the shortest chapter of the book, it is my favorite too. The purpose is to keep practicing because even though your practice will give you headaches at the beginning, even though you have some waves while you are trying to sit and calm down, the waves are those that will help you reach your Zazen.
The Marrow Of Zen
In this chapter, the author mentions the “Samyuktagama Sutra” scriptures where it is said that there are 4 types of horses: the excellent ones, the good ones, the poor ones, and of course, the bad ones.
Starting with the fist type, the excellent horse will run at the driver’s will, slow and fast, before it sees the shadow of the whip. The good horse will run just like the excellent one, but he will do that just before the whip will reach his skin. The poor one, so predictable, will run when his skin will feel the pain of the whip and the bad one will run only when he will feel the pain penetrating the marrow of his bones. Running must be tough for the bad ones, I guess.
Of course that we all dream about the best horse but if that is impossible, getting along with the good one would work just fine. But the good news is that, we can all become the best version of ourselves.
This is however, not the right way of understanding the Zen. The right way of Zen practice will not categorize you as the best horse or the worst one. What matters at the end of the day is your continuous practice, going through a succession of agreeable and disagreeable situations. After struggling, you will then be able to realize the marrow of Zen and acquire its true strength.
Ok, beginnings are hard, no doubt. You want the Zazen but however, when you sit, your legs hurt and you feel sleepy. Don’t panic! There’s nothing wrong with that. It is actually the natural process of practice, practice and again practice. What can you do? You should start practicing in a dualistic way and you will have oneness with your goal eventually.
Now you are probably wondering : “What do you mean by “A Dualistic Way”? Well, here’s what I mean: I previously mentioned that the practice should be without gaining any ideas or expectations. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that all you have to do is just to sit, without any purpose. The practice which is free from gaining ideas is based on the Prajna Paramita Sutra. However, ignoring the sutra itself will give you, obviously, a gaining idea. It says, "Form is emptiness and emptiness is form." This statements involves a dualistic idea: the form (you) and the emptiness (that thing you are trying to realize through your form). However, if you want it without any dualism instead, think about it like this: "Form is form and emptiness is emptiness." No dualism!
Yes, yes and yes! Wondering what this has to do with the Zazen? Well, after Zazen we should bow 9 times, on the floor. Usually, the verb to bow means to pay our respects to something which is way more worthy of respect than we are. Giving up to our dualistic ideas means to give up to ourselves and this is why there is absolutely no difference among Zazen, practice and bowing.
However, when you bow to Buddha, there shouldn’t be any idea of Buddha and the reason I’m saying this is because you just became one with Buddha. You are already Buddha himself! Only when you become one with everything that exists and one with Buddha, you will find the true meaning of being.
Human nature! Practicing Zazen on a daily basis will give us some wonderful power. Before that power, Zazen was something wonderful but once you have that power, is nothing special. How familiar this sounds? I know it does to me. But Zazen has nothing to do with this kind of thinking. Zazen practice is the direct expression of our true nature, not a project base practice. Its history says that the Zazen practice started from beginningless time, and it will continue into an endless future. So make sure you don’t put this practice in your yearly goals calendar or agenda because it should go with you, forever, everywhere.
Right Attitude and Confidence
This is already the part two of the book and basically it provides some valuable advice which I am about to share with you:
Don’t lose your repetition spirit because your practice will become more difficult
See Zen as a concentration on your daily routine, not as some kind of excitement
If your practice is good, make sure you don’t become proud of it. DO good because the pride is extra. They say that the right effort is to get rid of the extra = pride.
When you do something, dedicate yourself, fully!
Don’t become discouraged if your practice gets greedy. Be grateful to it because this is the sign that will guide you to the right path eventually.
Don’t judge somebody else’s religion. Zazen is always towards ourselves.
The main goal is to study ourselves, not Buddhism.
Zen becomes Zen when you become yourself. When you feel like you, you will see things as they are, and you become one with everything surrounding you.
If you understand the true meaning of emptiness, you will always be able to dissolve any problems by practicing constancy.
Always express and value yourself as if you are is the most important thing.
Realizing that life and death are both the same thing will make you realize that you shouldn’t be afraid of death.
In the end, it all comes down to one single conclusion. You must understand that the physical posture and the way of breathing are the most important things while on a Zazen practice. Don’t worry about that deep understanding of Buddhism. As a philosophy, Buddhism is a very wide, deep and firm system of thoughts, but Zen is more than just a philosophical understanding. Zen is practice.
Most people say that Zazen and Yoga can go together while others say the opposite. If you believe these two practices can go together, check out these amazing and affordable Yoga Retreats in Transylvania.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mena is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Akasha Retreat in Transylvania, and she loves everything related to travel. She is also a make-up artist and she enjoys going to the gym and taking long walks with her three dogs.