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Any Zen out there?

  1. Apr 23, 2005 #1
    I recently stumbled upon this quote:

    When you have faith, you have the impression that you have the truth, you have insight, you know the path to follow, to take. And that is why you are a happy person. But is it a real path, or just the clinging to a set of beliefs? These are two different things. True faith comes from how the path you are taking can bring you life and love and happiness everyday.

    When we believe something to be the absolute truth, we are closed. We are no longer open to the understanding and insight of other people, and this is because the object of our faith is just an idea, not a living thing. But if the object of your faith is your direct experience and your insight, then you can always be open. You can grow everyday in your practice, in sharing the fruit of your practice, and in making your faith, love, and happiness grow.
    ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

    I'm really interested in learning more about Zen meditation. Does anyone know anything about it? Can anyone recommend a good book to start?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2005 #2
    I don't knwo much about zen, but my grandmother is a follower.

    I know that it is a branch of Budhism but which is more strict. It is a lot about your "center of energy" (nothing of scietific in here) which is supposed to be your navel and around it, and you are supposed to get compresed into a very small area having your legs really curved and your hands around your navel and try to meditate. Your are supposed to eat very very little. They don't talk too much. I have a zen proverb........

    Only the master knows the sound of his shadow behind the wall.

    It makes no sense at all.
  4. Apr 23, 2005 #3
    Zen is a way of looking at the world, with out any barricades between you and your ability to see and experience your life. It might be stated that as we grow and learn and behave and believe as we are expected to in our societies, we slowly imprison our perceptions, so that we become humans doing things, rather than experiencing first hand states of being.

    One of the tricks of Zen is to quiet internal dialogue, so that everything does not have to be judged, or pigeonholed, or elevated, or debased, the mind is free to come forward, to the edges of perception, freeing up a lot of internal bytes to fully experience the moment.

    People who have been faced with life or death situations describe a suspension of time, and an incredible silence from which they make succinct survival moves, this is also a technique in martial arts. Zen is the practice of living in that state of clarity, so there is a peace and yet a nimbleness with which to approach everyday living. You are never going to see the book, Zen And The Art Of Road Rage. Zen masters will be each unique, and have a different sort of finesse, or lack of it. Find a place near you where people do Zen meditation, and if it is too militaristic, or overbearing, then find another, and try it. Just look for someone near where you live that has a lively meditation place, or who offers classes at a university near you.
  5. May 9, 2005 #4
    I had a dream about talking to God and He told me of how everything descends from the spheres. To make a long story short I was informed by someone who studies philsophy that it sounds just like Taoism what I was told.

    It doesn't mean I have all the answers, quite the oppisite, it encourages me to seek out more knowledge. And develop a more powerful mind. That is my geas. And God didn't pre-destine it for me, He just stimulated my brain enough to recindle the flame I lost long ago for the thirst of knowledge. (When I was a child I was a REAL bookworm..)
  6. May 9, 2005 #5


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    I can't add much more than what others have spoken to already. Take a look at "The Three Pillars of Zen" as a good intro. Also look into the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu for interesting things the thingk about.
  7. May 9, 2005 #6
    Of course it makes no literal sense. It isn't meant to. That doesn't mean it makes no sense metaphorically. With metaphor we can explain things that are impossible to explain in a literal sense. Most poetry is this way.

    Only the master knows the sound of his shadow behind the wall.
    I would interpret this to mean that when a person truly understands any situation then there is no barrier that can prevent their understanding. It could be interpreted in any number of ways, and this is where the essense of Zen enters. It isn't something you can teach. It isn't something you can learn. It is something that you just understand when you are ready.

    I enjoyed reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance. I'm sure you can find many books on the topic. The best advice I could give would be not to try too hard.
  8. May 10, 2005 #7
    Try the library. You are pretty much guaranteed to find several shelves worth of books on Zen/Buddhism/Tao covering a wide range of levels. I'm sure there will be several good introductory books that will suit you. And you can take them out for free!

    There are a couple of Zen introduction books by Alan Watts I have on my shelf. These are some of the books I have on my shelf that I've enjoyed reading

    The Way of Zen
    Spirit of Zen
    The Tao of Pooh
    The Tao of Inner Peace
    Last edited: May 10, 2005
  9. May 10, 2005 #8


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    You may want to take a look at Shambhala Press. I cam across them reading a few of John Stevens' books. There is a lot to be read on this tiopic.

  10. Sep 1, 2005 #9
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  11. Sep 1, 2005 #10

    Les Sleeth

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    I started my own meditation career with Zen years back. But to get anywhere I had to study the original texts, and especially the words of the Buddha himself. I did so because unlike most people who seem to write today, I am disappointed with the “modernization” that’s happened to Zen. Zen has become so watered down, people now use it as a prefix and attach it to anything from cooking and archery to sex. If you have the patience to read this somewhat wordy post, I’ll explain myself.

    If you want to know what it was orignally, you’d have to study not just Zen, but the development of Buddhism. Buddhism didn’t start out as Buddhism (i.e., the religion). It started out with the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama, and his enlightenment came about after years of devoted meditation. As “the Buddha” he set up and invited people to join his sangha, which was a monastic community devoted to meditation.

    The four noble truths taught by the Buddha, that (essentially) being dependent on anything outside oneself for happiness leads to suffering, was a way of inviting people to learn the techniques of strict dependence on inner skills to be happy and content . . . and that too was learned through meditation. The eighfold path? Well, again, it was guidelines for remaining unentangled in life so that one could focus on the main goal samadhi meditation (the 8th step of the eightfold path).

    So the followers of the Buddha were meditators first and foremost, and every bit of philosophy/guidance the Buddha gave them had no purpose in and of itself, but was solely aimed at keeping followers inward-oriented. But Buddhist religion switches all that by giving top priority to the philosophy/guidance stuff the Buddha offered his devoted meditators.

    Not so long after the death of the Buddha, missionary efforts had spread his teaching all over the East where, as typically happens when enlightenment is taken to superstitious populations with indigenous occult practices already in place, it began turning into religion. And as a result of altering the Buddha’s priority, in Buddhism one learned a way to behave, to believe, what to think . . . and if one has time, slip in some meditation.

    Jump ahead to a thousand years after the Buddha’s death and there are unmistakable signs that Buddhist religion is dominant. It is recognized by prolific temple building, sutra copying and chanting, relic veneration, pilgrimages to and circumambulation of commemorative monuments (the stupas), worship of semi-divine beings, along with a plentiful collection of stories, philosophic works, new “scriptures,” and beliefs—none of which had been taught or recommended by the Buddha.

    Now, it is often the case that while religion proliferates, a much, much smaller core of devotees remains true to the original teachings of the master. I call these devotees preservationists because they work to preserve enlightenment by practicing inwardness (particularly meditation) just as vigorously as the master taught it (there is a parallel case of preservationism in Christianity by the way).

    Religion appeals to the masses, so the size and growth of religion usually completely overshadows the work of the preservationists (usually the average person knows nothing about them). In the case of the original teachings of the Buddha and the religion of Buddhism, I believe Zen came about from a preservationist who left India to look for new preservationists in China, traditionally believed to be Bodhidarma.

    With a new start and a true enlightenment master, meditation blossomed beautifully in fertile souls where a fresh expression of the Buddha’s realization became known as Ch’an (Zen is the later Japanese pronuciation of the Chinese word chan-na -- abbreveated Ch’an -- which was their rendering of the sanskrit word dhyana, which means meditation). It is easy to see Bodhidarma was a genuine preservationist because he brought the experience alive in himself. He could therefore serve the essential role of teacher, emanating the enlightenment experience for aspirants.

    That is exactly why enlightenment became a reality in Ch’an. We don’t know how the founding teacher really taught, but we do know the teaching format that descended from him was very close to the Buddha’s. It was an exceptionally simple system of initiation by the master, listening to and interacting with the master, and sitting in meditation. The so-called Four Statements of Ch’an (attributed to Bodhidarma) reflect this simplicity:
    1. No dependence on words and letters.
    2. A special transmission outside the Scriptures [meaning, passing the experience to an aspirant through initiation by a realized teacher].
    3. Direct pointing to the heart of man.
    4. Seeing into one's nature and the attainment of the Buddhahood.

    Because samadhi meditation was central to Ch’an, it confirms the Buddha relied primarily on “right meditation” to teach inwardness. Even six hundred years after its origin as Ch’an, meditation was still the central practice, as is shown by Japanese Zen master Dogen’s words (who had traveled to China to study Zen), “In the study of the Way, the prime essential is sitting meditation. The attainment of the way by many people in China is due in each case to the power of sitting meditation. Even ignorant people with no talent, who do not understand a single letter, if they sit whole-heartedly in meditation, then by the accomplishment of meditative stability, they will surpass even brilliant people who have studied for a long time. Thus students . . . do not get involved with other things.”

    So you might understand why today, as I said, I am unimpressed with what is called Zen. Plus everybody and their uncle is setting themselves up as teachers. I’ve meditated an hour or more daily for almost 32 years and would never offer myself as a teacher, but I know of people who have never even meditated, but just became “realized” by reading Zen stuff, and now offer themselves as a master.

    I’d be careful who you let teach you. I think a good start is to understand the Buddha before, or at least while, you check out Zen. The problem is finding the words of the Buddha, rather than all the later religious interpreters. Fortunately, his first followers made a point of memorizing and recording his words, so we have quite a bit material preserved. I might suggest starting with a book like Thus Have I heard – The long discourses of the Buddha translated by Maurice Walshe (it might be out of print, but Amazon should have it cheap used). It has a great collection of the Buddha’s talks, give a history of some of the texts, and also discusses some of the Buddhist religion beliefs.

    In terms of Zen, my all-time favorite master is Joshu. A great book (likely out of print too, but Amazon’s used book search is awesome) is Radical Zen – the sayings of Joshu by Yoel Hoffmann.

    If I can be of any more help, PM me and I can make other suggestions for learning meditation.
  12. Sep 2, 2005 #11
    zen practice is sitting and counting breaths and watching your thoughts come and go without attaching to them without repulsing from them. the counting breaths keeps you focused on one thing. It is about being awake and present, free of internal dialoge and concepts. THat allows us to interact directly and honestly with world we experience. Thats about all you need to know about Zen.imo
  13. Sep 2, 2005 #12
    I only have one question: why hasn't this thread been deleted? Isn't it about religion after all?
  14. Sep 2, 2005 #13

    Les Sleeth

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    Where exactly do you see religion in talking about meditation?
  15. Sep 2, 2005 #14


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    In fact Les, your long post specifically separates the practice of Zen from the historical Buddhist religion, and asserts that Gautama's original teaching had nothing to do with that religion as it developed. That's about as far from a "religious" post as I can imagine.
  16. Sep 3, 2005 #15
    Zen is highly disciplined, or, in the least, that is my experience of the practice.

    The Zen disciplines require that you find the universe in the leg of a chair or in the dew on the leaf.

    That's why people talk about "the Zen of Motorcycle Maintanence" or the Zen of Eating or whathaveyou. There are Zen practitioners who have spent 20 years painting the image of the same mountain for 20 years. Through this disciplined approach to understanding a phenomenon, there is the belief that the practitioner will understand every mountain, every tree, every river, every rock and everything else, just by concentrating, fully and wholey on one aspect of their environment.

    Paul Cezzan, the French artist who is credited with starting part of the Impressionist movement was a natural Zen type of guy. He painted Mount Victoria for around most of his life. He is also credited with starting the Cubist movement through this discipline3 he developed.

    This kind of devotion to a single aspect of one's life and one's experience often results in a Quality of understanding that is rarely attained by the general populace. I suppose that's why the Zen monks and practitioners are few and far between. Its a hard road and Boot Camp is not just 6 months in the mud. Its 20 years of purile concentration.

    Personally, I am of the belief that Jack of All Trades, Master of None can evolve into a form of what the Zenists have tended to attempt to attain.

    Because great minds think alike... and, similarily, fools seldom differ .... I lean more towards the multidisciplined approach that includes less beliefs, rituals, balognia and more actual experiences. Because, that's all there is, really.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2005
  17. Sep 4, 2005 #16
    If you take the Buddhist metaphysics out of it, meditation is just a trick you play with your brain that often causes its practitioners to develop false beliefs about the nature of reality. Which is why I don't practice it and don't recommend to anyone.

    A few milligrams of LSD often have exactly the same effect.

    Sheesh! If that is not preaching, I don't know what is! Can we talk about saints and sinners now? Believers and infidels?
  18. Sep 4, 2005 #17
    Look whos preaching now.

    Do tell.

    None of those topics has much to do with Zen, but....... go ahead.
  19. Sep 4, 2005 #18
    If you want to know about Zen I warmly recommend Alan Watts: http://deoxy.org/watts.htm

    Please man, how could observation on what is (which basically is what meditation is all about) encourage development of false beliefs about reality?
    I'm more inclined to believe that such an endeavour would pattern the nervous system to be more in concordance with what's actually "out there" and so make your brain better conditioned to find TRUE beliefs about the nature of reality.
    Maybe you should try practising it before handing out expert advice on it. Seriously, someone like you would probably gain a lot from a crashcourse 10 days Vipassana retreat.

    Have you actually tried LSD?

    LSD doesn't come close to the effects attained by a advanced meditator. Used right it can be a very practical tool though - not for the faint-hearted. Enjoy Timothy Leary and his info-psychology! More "serious" books are published nowadays but Leary will forever be the #1 rascal Guru ;)

    I've personally enjoyed tremendous benefits from meditation. It certainly makes me smarter - more creative and intelligent. With perseverant practice it allows you to experience reality as it is without the encumberment of language, indoctrination and conflicts conditioned upon the nervous system.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  20. Sep 4, 2005 #19


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    Could you expound on this a bit? What meditation-related beliefs do you feel are false, and how do you conclude that they are indeed false?
  21. Sep 4, 2005 #20
    The Zen of Physics

    Alan Watts also does an excellent write up on the similarities between Indian and other eastern philosophies and high-end physics. I don't know if he is the authority on the comparitive similarities here but, its almost as though much of particle physics and matter anti-matter, etc... has been studied and documented then, over time, most of the method and rational has been lost only to become philosophy and religion. What's left is enormas myths and stories that fit like an overhead transparency over the formuli and conjectures of modern day explorations into physics.

    The one thing LSD replicates as a state is quantum reality. When you see 60,000 seagulls left behind along only one seagull's flightpath, a quantum form of perceiving reality becomes immediately apparent.

    What would the Zen of Physics look like?

    Is it some monkish dude hunkered down beside some cyclotron or using a linear accelerator to write equasions? Would it entail this monkish dude or dudette studying the same equasion over and over for decades until a blinding flash of inspiration showed them the ultimate unification theory?

    Zen of Physics... can anyone tell me what this would look like?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
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