Zen Philosophy is a practical life oriented philosophy. The very word ‘philosophy’ does not sound dreadful to the people as soon as they know or listen about Zen philosophy. In our present day and age of strife and struggle, we take life coaching and all those healing techniques available to us. But the problem with all those things is that we might not be pretty sure about the exact real issues we are facing. We want to see everything in the light of reality now-a-days in a more complex world. That is why we take recourse to Zen. Zen training gives us enough scope to know about ourselves. We should rather say Zen enables us to see what we are, what our conditions are, and on what plane of reality we are existing.
Zen developed as a form of Buddhism in China around 500 AD. It migrated from India. Zen later entered Japan around 1200 AD. The meaning of Zen is Dhyana or Jnana which means meditation or the wisdom gained through meditation. This is Zen meaning.
People often ask – What is Zen philosophy or what is the concept of Zen? Well, to answer this question, we should say that if we understand philosophy as a way of looking at things from a different perspective, then Zen is a philosophy. But if we see Zen through the lens of western philosophy, Zen is not philosophy. Western philosophy is the conceptualization of problems. Rationalization is adopted to arrive at conclusions. But in Zen, meditation is the means of realization of truth. Zen advocates direct experience through senses. According to Zen, whatever we conceive or understand, are mental constructs. All external objects are the manifestation of nothingness. Through meditation, we realize the nothingness of all things.
Zen philosophy is actually Zen philosophy of life. In Zen perspective, philosophy is part of the problem. It does offer a solution to the problem because we look at things from different perspectives. Therefore, Zen philosophy of life stands for letting go of concepts and attachments.
That Zen is a way of non-verbal communication nourished by meditation, the basic idea of Zen is carried over to us by Zen philosophy quotes by the Zen masters. The quotes are found in the collection of the famous Zen stories. The Zen stories are like riddles through which complicated ideas about reality are put forward in the most intelligent and subtle way. These stories are loaded with the values of insights. They strike our inner consciousness in a direct, harsh yet subtle way. Zen philosophy is a pro-life philosophy.
If we look at Zen in a scientific way then Zen meaning becomes clear to us. All external objects come out of energy. Energy can neither be created nor be destroyed. We realize this scientific truth through meditation. Nothingness can thus be justified.
Is Zen philosophy of life related to religion?
Mostly, Zen philosophy takes a non-religious approach. It’s approach is more or less like psychotherapy. What does a psychotherapist do? The job of a psychotherapist is to change the state of consciousness of a person. In Zen, the job is almost the same. That is to say to improve or change the state of consciousness. We can rather say that Zen is a kind of self-psychoanalysis. In the wetsern system of psychoanalysis, we need to approach a domain expert to seek expert advice regarding our mental conditions. But in Zen, we take over the role of psychoanalysis. We become self-psychoanalysts.
Zen avoids rituals, the belief in Karma, or reincarnation. The famous Zen master Hakuin was once asked about the afterlife. At this, the Zen master replied, “Why do you ask”? “Because you are a Zen master”. Hakuin replied, “I had never been dead! I am a Zen master”.
Another famous Chinese Zen master was once asked, “What is the way”? The Zen master replied, “Your ordinary mind is the way”.
One Zen master said whenever you find Buddha, kill him.
One Zen teacher burnt a wooden idol of the Buddha in winter to lit up fire, and was still respected in the Zen tradition. It’s only because of the non-ritualistic nature of Zen philosophy.
So, whenever one asks this question – What is the Zen way of life, we can say that knowing the present state of mind very well and the subsequent meditation practice is the Zen way of life. Knowing the exact mental state is the most challenging task. Human mind is basically unstable. The mind is prone to jump from one topic to another topic pretty frequently. The Buddha called the general nature of such a mind as the Monkey Mind. Meditation is useful to tame such a monkey mind.
Again many people may ask – What is the concept of Zen? As a response to this, it should be said that Zen is the examination of human consciousness without affiliation to any concept or dogma.
Is Zen philosophy of life a kind of Mysticism
Mysticism is considered to be a kind of knowledge which seeks to connect human essence to a higher self. It supposedly connects our inner self to a higher entity. Zen philosophy of life or Zen explores the inner self with all intensity. In this regard, Zen is similar to Christian, Jewish, Sufi, or Hindu Mysticism. Hence, there is a plausibility to connect Zen to mysticism. But Zen restricts itself to the exploration of the inner self until it finds that there is no such thing as self. Everything is connected to every other thing. This profound realization makes people realistic and at peace with reality at the same time.
Zen is concerned with ‘here and now’ and the ‘exploration of the ordinary mind’. Mindful awareness of our present reality demystifies our illusion of reality. Our complete awareness of our immediate sense of reality prepares us to confront and look around a larger picture of reality.
In conclusion, we can say that Zen philosophy of life is not mysticism. Its path facilitates us to directly encounter with reality.
What is the goal of Zen
Unlike psychotherapy, the goal of Zen is not concerned with the cure of every mental malady. The goal of Zen is to realize the nature of reality by a sudden flash of enlightenment. As described above, the various interactions of the Zen masters and their disciples are eye openers to the realities of the present moment. Reality of the present moment and the understanding of the flux of our ordinary mind is very tricky even though such a venture looks very ordinary. We need rigorous training for this. If we are trained enough, we can set up the building blocks of life which is moment to moment non-judgmental awareness of the consciousness of the present.
In Zen, there is no guarantee that enlightenment will follow after a prescribed course of meditation. Enlightenment is an accidental thing which is called Satori in Zen terminology. Satori is a Japanese term which means “sudden enlightenment”. As enlightenment is an accident, meditation helps facilitate sudden enlightenment to happen.
Understanding Zen Philosophy of life Through Zen philosophy quotes
Here are some other Zen philosophy quotes. One Zen master was approached by a disciple with desire to learn. The Zen master asked, “Have you eaten your breakfast porridge?” The disciple replied, “yes”. After that, the master replied, “Then wash your bowls”. This clearly reveals that Zen is only concerned with the awareness of here and now. Zen has nothing to do with connecting the self with a higher entity.
The famous Zen scholar, DT Suzuki said, “Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom”.
Another great Zen master of Japan, Dogen said, “To study buddhism is to study yourself. To study yourself is to forget yourself. To forget yourself is to realize your intimacy with all beings”.
In fact, Zen can better be understood by Zen philosophy quotes. Zen philosophy quotes go a long way to explain the core of the zen philosophy of life.
Zen can be practiced in a completely secular environment. Zen helps to unlock the hidden potential of the human mind through the power of meditation. Scientifically speaking, our brain is not utilized to its fullest potential. This is specifically true in case of ordinary mortals. Only geniuses like Einstein used his 5% of his brain capabilities. Meditation helps increase our awareness functionalities of our brain because mindfulness meditation like Zen is basically the meditation of awareness.