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Zen, therefore, is emphatically against all religious conventionalism. Zen, therefore, does not ask us to concentrate our thought on the idea that dog is God, or that three pounds of flax are divine. When Zen does this, it commits itself to a definite system of philosophy, and there is no more Zen.


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Zen just feels fire warm and ice cold, because when it freezes, we shiver and welcome fire. The feeling is all in all, as Faust declares; all our theorization fails to touch reality. But "the feeling" here must be understood in its deepest sense or in its purest form. Even to say that "This is the feeling" means that Zen is no more there. Zen defies all concept-making. That is why Zen is difficult to grasp. The truth is, Zen is extremely elusive as far as its outward aspects are concerned; when you think you have caught a glimpse of it, it is no more there; from afar it looks so approachable, but as soon as you come near it you see it even further away from you than before.

The Non-Logical Character of Zen

Unless, therefore, you devote some years of earnest study to the understanding of its primary principles, it is not to be expected that you will begin to have a fair grasp of Zen. When all these deep things are searched out there is after all no "self" where you can descend, there is no "spirit", no "God" whose depths are to be fathomed. Because Zen is a bottomless abyss. The four elements are all empty in their ultimate nature; where could the Buddha's abode be?

This is all there is to it — and indeed nothing more! All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future may try to make you catch it once more, and yet it is a thousand miles away.


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  4. Zen has no time to bother itself with such criticisms. The critics may mean that the mind is hypnotized by Zen to a state of unconsciousness, and that when this obtains, the favourite Buddhist doctrine of Emptiness, Sunyata, is realized, where the subject is not conscious of an objective world or of himself, being lost in one vast emptiness, whatever this may be. This interpretation again fails to hit Zen aright. It is true that there are some such expressions in Zen as might suggest this kind of interpretation, but to understand Zen we must take a leap here.

    The "vast emptiness" must be traversed. The subject must be awakened from a state of unconsciousness if he does not wish to be buried alive. Zen is attained only when "self-intoxication" is abandoned and the "drunkard" is really awakened to his deeper self.

    3. Three Pounds of Flax

    If the mind is ever to be "murdered", leave the work in the hand of Zen; for it is Zen that will restore the murdered and lifeless one into the state of eternal life. Do not try, therefore, to see Zen with the eyes bandaged; and your hands are too unsteady to take hold of it. And remember I am not indulging in figures of speech.

    I might multiply many such criticisms if it were necessary, but I hope that the above have sufficiently prepared the reader's mind for the following, more positive statements concerning Zen. The basic idea of Zen is to come in touch with the inner workings of our being, and to do so in the most direct way possible, without resorting to anything external or superadded. Therefore, anything that has the semblance of an external authority is rejected by Zen. Absolute faith is placed in a man's own inner being. For whatever authority there is in Zen, all comes from within.

    Awakening to the dynamic reality of the present moment

    As Watts said,. In other words, the centipede already knows how to run by its very nature, just like you know how to be Zen, yet thoughts are what get in the way. Ah, to live in the moment. Constant thinking about the destination, the next book, the next day — it all takes away from the only moment that exists, which is now. As Watts said in another passage:.

    5 Zen Koans that Will Open Your Mind

    For there is never anything but the present, and if one cannot live there, one cannot live anywhere. I feel like this is pretty clear in theory, and yet so hard to practice. That was one of the things about this practice that was so intriguing and likely incomprehensible to those in the West. Basically, everything is everything, and the shackles of rigid thinking leave us struggling to grasp the immensity of this natural reality.

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