What is Zen?
‘Zen is Zen’. At least that’s what Zen Masters in olden times said.
Zen is difficult to define. Zen teaching is not bound by words or scriptures but is really a way of life.
The term Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chan. Chan traces its roots to the pre-Buddhist Indian practice of Dhyana (to think/meditate).
Zen Definition for deeper learning
A definition of Zen that probably best resonates with me is from Zen Master, Professor. Masunaga Reiho who defines zen as:
“A practice that helps man to penetrate to his true self through zazen (thought/meditation) and to vitalize this self in daily life.”
This definition can be broken down into three parts for deeper learning:
1. Practice Zazen (Meditation)
In zazen, the aim is to simply harmonize breathing, body and the mind. Through this will come inner peace and clarity on your true self.
2. Operate from your True Self
Deepak Chopra, provides five easy ways in which to recognize whether you are operating from your true self.
The true self is certain and clear about things.
The everyday self gets influenced by countless outside influences, leading to confusion.
The true self is stable.
The everyday self-shifts constantly.
The true self is driven by a deep sense of truth.
The everyday self is driven by the ego, the unending demands of "I, me, mine."
The true self is at peace.
The everyday self is easily agitated and disturbed.
The true self is love.
The everyday self, lacking love, seeks it from outside sources.
3. Apply Zen to Daily Life
- Live every moment to the fullest. (Practice mindfulness)
- Transcend dualism. (Dualism is opposing principles such as right and wrong and good and evil. In life, nothing is ever truly black and white but instead varying shades of grey. Holding onto dualism causes conflict and anxiety whilst letting go frees you.)
- Respect the physical (mind, body and soul)
- Develop awareness (of one self)
- Altruistic action (benefits oneself and others)
- Increase serenity (recognize things for what they are – it is what it is)
So, in summary, Zen is Zen. It can be a philosophy or a way of being and living. It is a sense of having awareness and mindfulness. It is to simply, breathe and be yourself.
Living The Zen Life
Taking all the above into account, to me, aspiring to live The Zen Life means to know and accept my authentic self, to mindfully live each moment of my life, to let go of my ego’s need to be right and to judge, to serve others and to increase serenity. What are your thoughts on living The Zen Life?