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Zen and Meditation Thoughts
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Terri R.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 7:08 p    Post subject: Zen and Meditation Thoughts Reply with quote

Originally posted by Bobin, on our other forum.

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The age-old saying that "if it can be explained in words, then it is not Zen" holds true even to this day. Nirvana, Zen enlightenment, the answers to Zen koans or "riddles" all cannot be truly expressed using words, language or symbols. But it does not stop here. The understanding of such concepts can be grasped and understood, but the understanding simply cannot be transferred to another person using traditional methods of communication. This presents a dilemma in the sense that something is claimed to exist but cannot be readily proven to another individual using analytical or other traditional methods. Understanding is granted to some, but seemingly denied to others. When the roadblocks to understanding are removed, what was seemingly denied becomes crystal clear not only in understanding but in experience as well.

In order to gain understanding, it is often necessary to comprehend a concept without the use of words. This is because words distort the original meaning or context of the concept to be understood, thus opening the door to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or "taking something out of context." In Zen, understanding is most often transmitted in methods other than paragraphs composed of words and sentences. While many Zen writings exist, none can replace the understanding they are intended to guide one toward.

One common method of transmitting understanding is the koan, which is a Zen riddle, used most notably in the Rinzai school as a method for transmitting understanding. To say that the answer to a koan can be expressed in words is simply wrong, because the only true answer is the experience of understanding. An example of a koan would be

When you came into this world, did you fall into it as a star falling from the sky, or did you fall out of if, as a leaf falling from a tree.

Yet another simple example would be

Why is it that the knife cannot cut itself or the eye see itself.

Note the absence of the question mark. The koan is not a question to be answered, but rather a concept to be grasped and understood in a method that defies traditional communication methods. Once the concept is grasped, the understanding of the concept is perfect. Once words are used to express the concept, the concept is no longer pure, but tainted by the interpretation of one individual. If allowed to be expressed in words, the answer to the koan has as many interpretations as people attempting to interpret it. Beware of any text that claims to have the answers to koans, for the purpose of the koan is to transmit understanding without words.

Consider for a moment the age-old question posed to every grade school student at one time or another,

If a tree falls in the wilderness and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

The argument of whether the tree will make a sound will go on forever. Left brained young scientists vs. right brained philosophers in training continue to argue this question and the next generation will continue to debate the issue with just as much success. If a student comes along and ponders the question outside of the traditional sense of argument and debate, the question can convey wisdom beyond the simple yes-no answer it demands. The question, when looked at in this way, raises other questions, such as how can you explain to a blind man what light is, and how can you describe the music of a symphony to a deaf person.

Zen enlightenment, or a state in which one is aware of one's true nature is yet another example of a concept that cannot be expressed in words. This enlightenment is not necessarily a state of complete awareness. Complete awareness would be termed Nirvana, or the ultimate state of awareness, and the penultimate state of harmony. A Zen Master is one who has gained the understanding of this concept through experience. To tell someone ýdo this and you shall become a Zen Masterţ or ýread this and you shall become enlightenedţ simply does not happen. No amount of logical thought, study, classes, questioning, reasoning or rationalization is the path to Zen enlightenment or Nirvana. Nor will the answer come through thinking. Remember from the koan that its answer cannot be expressed in words. It is likewise for Zen enlightenment or Nirvana.

Occasionally someone would ask ýwhat is it like to be a Zen master.ţ The only answer is ýbecome one and find out,ţ which on the surface, appears to be an evasive and annoyingly sarcastic answer but no answer can be closer to the truth. Consider for a moment explaining to someone the experience of skydiving. Unless one has sky dived, no written or verbal explanation can come close to satisfying communication of the understanding of the experience. The answer would be ýsky dive and find out.ţ Likewise, with the Zen Master, many analogies exist, none can replace the experience. No writing can explain or describe Nirvana. No one who has experienced Nirvana can deny its existence, and no one who has not experienced Nirvana can understand the experience.

So what is this enlightenment like? How can we understand it? Perhaps the best way is through analogies rather than a bulleted list of descriptive items. Yet, as with the koan, interpreting and understanding the analogy cannot be adequately expressed using words. The understanding offered by the analogy is best used as a contrast between the enlightened and unenlightened, or perhaps the experience of the transition to enlightenment, and not taken literally. At best, the analogy offers a glimpse into a world unknown.

Consider a stadium full of spectators watching a football game. There are both observers and participants of the game. The observers have an eagle eye view of what is happening from the stands yet can offer no contribution to the outcome of the event. The participants have a limited view, and with this limited view, are expected to perform in moving the ball toward the goal. Imagine now what it would be like to be a participant on the field with the view of the observer in the stands. That person would have a clear view of what is transpiring and is able to use this to an advantage in many ways to accomplish the goal. It does not stop here. Taking it one step further, imagine if this person can foresee to some degree the outcome of a particular play before it occurs therefore choosing the path correctly in each instance. This is the clear view of life experienced only by those who are enlightened.

Most people see the physical world, i.e., the Earth, from a two-dimensional viewpoint. Anyone can convincingly ague that we see the world from three dimensions that there are length, height, and width to everything we see. While technically they are correct, their viewpoint is a stumbling block to see that which is much greater. Imagine now that you are on an airplane or helicopter and see for the first time a view of your city from the air. This is certainly a different perspective than you are accustomed to. Places, roads, buildings all of a sudden become in perspective with each other. The whole place in which you live and all the surroundings take on a whole new dimension. Again, going one step further, imagine if you can see this view from the ground somehow. This again illustrates the difference between the enlightened and unenlightened.

Nirvana can further be described as fully accepting all that comprises oneÝs life. Every situation and its outcome is viewed in the sense ýwhatever shall be, shall beţ. No attempt is made to force an experience into what it is not. No attempt is made to force the future into something that cannot be, for such an action is futile anyway and may be likened to chiseling a 50 foot granite statue using merely a stick of wood

Many writings exist that attempts to point one toward enlightenment or Nirvana. Once the line is crossed into enlightenment, the writings diminish in value to the point that they are no longer useful. This is similar to a roadmap being no longer useful once you have gotten to your destination, or how the instructions for assembling a bicycle are no longer of much value once the assembly is complete. This is exactly what is true of Dharma, or the law associated with Zen Buddhism. Once enlightened, the Dharma may be discarded by the newly enlightened master, for the destination has been reached and there is no turning back.

Zazen, or the ýsitting practice" of meditation in which the desired result is to cease all thinking, remaining open beyond dualistic, comparative, judgmental, and interpretive thought and is said to be enlightenment. Zazen is done without any goal or object of concentration. Such is the ultimate expression of experiencing oneÝs own existence. Again, as with the concepts previously visited, it is an experience that cannot be described in words, but rather the experience itself communicates all understanding.

Take a few moments and meditate without any thought process. You will probably find that your mind will drift from topic to topic, perhaps revisiting the events of the day or thinking about what you will do in the next hour. Realizing that this has occurred, you will again attempt to stop thinking. In an instant the thought process occurs again. You undoubtably will get to the point sooner or later when you are aware that you are not thinking. At this point you are actually thinking since you are aware that you are not thinking. This is not Zazen. In true Zazen, you are aware of the state and experience it, yet unaware that you have entered it, but you know that you are there. Words have no part in the Zazen experience.

Zazen is difficult; however, it is very simple. This brings up another concept, Ku. Ku, a Japanese word, is defined as ýemptinessţ or ývoid.ţ In the context of Zazen, emptiness is not truly void in the sense that the absence of thinking is not an absence of experience. Emptiness in this regard is not truly empty. Rather, the concept of being empty without emptiness is expressed in the sense that thought has ceased, but experiences continue without the interpretation of though processes. In other words, life is experienced without verbal, or linguistic interpretation, therefore in its purest sense.

By this time you may be convinced that not everything can be expressed in words. Very little, for that matter, can be accurately or adequately expressed in words. Words and the sentences they form may be thought of as accurate and reliable way of distorting what is intended to be communicated. For example, you may say to someone that the grass is green. So are the leaves on a tree. And so is the color of the bug eating the tree. There are many shades of green that make up the landscape, so when we say something is ýgreenţ, we no longer have an exact concept of what color is actually being described. To more accurately describe the green color of the grass, we can depict it as a graphical spectrum displaying the wavelengths of light that are reflected from the blades in their proper proportions. We can hire a physicist to describe the particular color in very specific undisputable scientific terms. But to look at the grass and to see itÝs color, we understand and experience the color without any words whatsoever. The experience of actually seeing the color renders all other methods of communicating the color useless. Once the color is visualized, communication of the color is complete and perfect. Such is Zen.

Zen requires the understanding of a concept to be understood by experience. Verbal or written descriptions prove inadequate to either transmit understanding to another individual or provide true understanding of the concept in question. Once the concept is truly understood, it becomes evident to the one who has the understanding that the true understanding cannot be communicated using traditional means anyway. This is very evident to those who have the understanding, but not to those who do not have the understanding. In other words, it is very evident to those who are enlightened but not to those who are unenlightened.
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Tracer
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Joined: 27 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2004 5:49 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bet you never expected ME to respond to this post....lol...well...I have a site to add on to what you have here that is kinda of interesting. Though I can't see telling my neighbors these stories...lol!!!!!!!!

Zen Stories to tell Your Neighbors
http://www.rider.edu/~suler/zenstory/zenstory.html

Example of one

Elephant and the Flea

Roshi Kapleau agreed to educate a group of psychoanalysts about Zen. After being introduced to the group by the director of the analytic institute, the Roshi quietly sat down upon a cushion placed on the floor. A student entered, prostrated before the master, and then seated himself on another cushion a few feet away, facing his teacher. "What is Zen?" the student asked. The Roshi produced a banana, peeled it, and started eating. "Is that all? Can't you show me anything else?" the student said. "Come closer, please," the master replied. The student moved in and the Roshi waved the remaining portion of the banana before the student's face. The student prostrated, and left.
A second student rose to address the audience. "Do you all understand?" When there was no response, the student added, "You have just witnessed a first-rate demonstration of Zen. Are there any questions?"

After a long silence, someone spoke up. "Roshi, I am not satisfied with your demonstration. You have shown us something that I am not sure I understand. It must be possible to TELL us what Zen is."

"If you must insist on words," the Roshi replied, "then Zen is an elephant copulating with a flea."

People's reactions to this story:
"What an image this story brings to mind! I see that the infinite universe as large as that may be, is equally matched by the infinite microscopic world, joining the two in perfect harmony."

"On a first reading, the final line suggests that Zen is profane or absurd. Surely this cannot be what the Roshi intended to convey. Perhaps what the Roshi means is that putting Zen into words is profane or absurd."

"Some things are better learned through observation....Words only skew ones ability to establish an honest and personal opinion."

"Describe the colour red to a man who has been blind from birth. Zen is more than words, fitting it into the confinement of language is like an elephant trying to copulate with a flea. It just wouldn't fit."

"Zen is Zen and if you understood it you would not ask."

"He is saying in symbolism how futile it is to understand Zen if you believe you can learn it through words when the only way to truly understand is through actions and feelings. This story realy makes you think."

"Maybe Its inconceivable!"

"To attempt to put Zen into words is as impossible as an elephant copulating with a Flea."

"On top of a flagpole a cow gives birth to a calf."

"My reaction to the story is that trying to explain Zen in words, or even with observations, is as impossible as an 'elephant copulation with a flea.' Also, to be able to explain meaning of Zen in words is an admission that one does not understand the meaning of Zen."

"This reminds me of the story of the Master who asked his student to comment on a skein of geese flying overhead. The student said they were flying South for winter - the Master beat him. The student then said they were coming from the North and the same happened. he tried again and again and each time the student's attempt at description was rewarded with a beating. The point being that the student could not describe what he saw only what his belief systems told him what the geese might be doing. Words are often not sufficient, observation and inner understanding may be the only path."

"The Roshi's imagery is spot on: Zen is impossible to explain in the talk, talk, talk of psycoanalysis."

"The Roshi was certainly in a state of transe when he ate the banana because of its taste. Then he wanted to share its smell, waving it to the student. But the student didn't used the right sense and expected an answer from his ears instead of his nose. Anyway the one that was enlightened in this story was certainly the flea...."

"This story is kind-of confusing, but I think it's saying that actions speak louder than words. If only people would stop and listen."

"What I'd like to know is, was the flea on top?"
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Bobin
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 7:17 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

<< Definition of Zen.........Zen- Is >>
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Tracer
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 4:41 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bobin dear????? did you forget to type something in your post?????
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Bobin
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2004 1:23 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

<< did you forget to type something in your post?????? >>

no.

well, on second thought,
no.
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Tracer
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2004 2:08 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

well okay then, no doubt about that answer....lol!!!!!
Why did you copy and paste that part of my post without any further remark? LOL!!!!
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Bobin
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2004 3:47 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

<< Why did you copy and paste that part of my post without any further remark? >>

the absense of a remark is a remark.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 5:04 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you can put it in words, it's not Zen.
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Paz



Joined: 09 Jul 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 6:57 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

Terri R. wrote:
Hi Paz... and Welcome to our forum!

RMT is a Reiki Master/Teacher. You can find more information about Reiki on our web site - http://healingdeva.com

As for the blank definition of Zen, well, that's sort of a long story that ends with "mindlessness" -- no thoughts/words/definitions. Smile

Terri


Thank you Terri for your response. I am a novice stumbling along the pathway of knowledge, who hopes someday to become a flower that blossoms.
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Terri R.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 5:29 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

I SUPPOSE you could say that it is like being one with the Universe. But you can DEFINITELY say that it is mystical, esoteric, and deliberately paradoxical.

You can also definitely say that it is not a philosophy or a religion, in the Western sense, since it neither affirms nor denies the existence of a Diety. It does not teach or preach any doctrine or set of doctrines. It is not negative or nihilistic.... even if it does seem to be nihilistic (a delusion that the world or one's mind, body, or self does not exist).

Zen cannot be described... it can only be experienced. At it's core, the practice of Zen is to liberate the mind from the slavery of words and the constriction of logic. Intuition is stressed.
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