From the moment that I laid eyes on the book simply and appropriately titled “Zen”, I knew that it was going to be become part of my library. What I did not know is that I would actually start reading it almost immediately, for most books spend some time on my shelves before they make it into my ‘reading table’. I have been reading about Zen’s “history and teachings and impact on humanity” (by Osho) over the past two weeks or so, concurrently with “living beautifully” (by Pema Chodron). It has been quite an impactful one-two combination 🙂
Zen and its practice has been around for hundreds of years. The seeds were borne in India, they traveled to grow in China, and then bloomed in Japan, and across the world. Zen has inspired many arts, poetry, music, and even the ‘ceremony of drinking tea’! Many ‘Zen masters’ have had great influence in the East, and lately (past few hundred years) in the West in various practices and manifestations.
So, what is Zen? According to Osho, “Zen means the same as dhyan and is a Japanese change of this word”. But, what is Dhyan? A sanskrit word, “Dhyan is the whole effort of consciousness, and means to be so into your own being, that not a single thought exists”. Yes, it is tough to find a single word in English for Dhyan. Zen it is.
‘Think’ of Zen as “consciousness without clouds, a pure sky”.
The seed concept of Dhyan, when combined with the concept of Tao, is surmised to have created the flower of Zen. The fragrance of the flower spread across the world, as the “energy of the seed was released”. Flowers are great sharers of the energy of the tree, for they attract the seekers, the butterflies of the spiritual world. And so, the practice of Zen flourished over the centuries, and found its way into the pure-sky consciousness of students seeking mastery of the divine moment.
History is one thing, and one may argue about it, even disagree with it. However, spiritual impact is quite another. One example of this impact is “the practice of laughter”, which is said to have been an part of some Zen traditions for many centuries. “Laughter becomes prayer in Zen” – when we develop the ability to laugh at ourselves, and with others, we realize the foolishness, the temporal nature of all our ‘conflicts’. For conflicts are borne of division, and there is no room for ‘division’ in the pure, cloudless, aware consciousness of Zen.
“The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind” ~ Zen master (Sosan)
Another example of the impact of Zen is the practice of silence. It is hard to visualize any image of the Buddha, without a visual of silence in our minds. Some may further connect silence with the practice of ‘meditation’, and that would be a good connection to make. Silence, when experienced, brings a thread of simplicity and transparency to our consciousness. And one definition of meditation is that it is “an unbroken thread of awareness”. So, let us “chop wood” or “carry water” or “do the laundry” or “wash the dishes” – all those mundane, seemingly boring, meaningless tasks that can weigh heavy on us. But, if we can manage to do them with that unbroken thread of inner awareness, we can experience many Zen-like moments of no-mind – pure consciousness.
“Silence and laughter are the keys – silence within, laughter without” ~ Zen master (Mahakashyapa)
I have attempted to plant a tiny ‘seed’ of Zen in our awareness, by sharing how it can make a practical impact on our everyday life. What we do with the seed is up to us – some seeds stay buried for years before they decide to grow. Maybe that will be the case for you. Some seeds cannot wait to send their shoots into the sky, roots into the earth, and become flowering trees, to share their fragrance with the world.
Whatever the case may be, find joy laughter, find joy silence. The key is yours to do with it what you may.
P.S. Join us in our weekly twitter chat, with hashtag #SpiritChat ~ Sunday June 19th at 9amET/1pmUTC. We will discuss “Zen and Spirituality”. If you have some favorite Zen experiences or quotes to share, bring them with you, or share with the community in the comments. Thank you, and Namaste 🙂