Thursday, 1 January 2015

What's all this about Zen?

Someone asked the other day just what was the link between my understanding of Buddhist philosophy and the articles I write.

The stock 'clever' Zen Buddhist answer is 'Mu' - no thing / nothingness.

The problem with a lot of Buddhist philosophy (especially Zen) is it is often too clever for its own good, apparently gnomic in its Sutras and Canon (Kaon), the philosophy's equivalent of parables and teaching examples, making complexity out of the apparently simple issues of life:

A sleepy eyed old woman
Sees a face in an ancient mirror.
So muddled, she can't recognise
Her own reflection. 
The Real within the Apparent: verse 2.

Take the issue of 'Buddha' a term which does not define any single person but an idea and is a description of one who is enlightened. The founder of the Buddhist philosophy, Siddhatta Gotma, made clear no one was to worship him as a 'God' merely because he had become 'Buddha' because the ability to become Buddha was open to all who sought it and not the province of just 'Gods' or their followers.

This raises the question of what is 'enlightenment'?

I would define my experience of enlightenment as,  'a clarity which is beyond what you have been taught, learned or been conditioned by society to believe is 'true', a moment of complete calm, self awareness and understanding.'

To this extent we are all 'Buddha' because we all have these moments of 'enlightenment' but in our Western society we call them 'inspiration'. For those following Buddhist philosophy the idea is to seek to achieve these moments of 'inspiration' in a more consistent way as a 'Bodhistta', a seeker of enlightenment, to create benefit in our world and relationships by seeking to rid ourselves of 'self' (and all the baggage this brings with it) and replace it with 'Mu' creating an empty space where everything and nothing can exist all at once. In practice this requires you to ignore the voice which chatters incessantly in your head telling you what to and what not to do. The voice that is also angry, sad, joyful and vengeful and informs you how you are meant to feel or being in any set situation. The voice people call 'God within them' or their 'conscience', a philosophical idea deeply ingrained in our Western cultural norms and judicial systems for millennia. 

Difficulties still attack me
One after the other.
They let me see
If my mind has truly
Cast off the world.

Myocho Daishi - 12th Century Japanese Zen Buddhist Philosopher

The point of all this mind clearing and cleaning?

To enable you - as an individual - to see what actually 'is' in the world, what is of real value to men and women, not just as a fleeting moment of inspiration but as a routine occurrence. 

To the person who asked how Buddhism is linked to my writing I hope this has helped your awareness. I seek to describe what 'is' without rancour in a way which informs and entertains while being very aware I am nowhere near the level of enlightenment of Myocho Daishi so will lapse into anger and cruelty on occasion as my monkey mind still runs wild most of the time:

He tames his monkey-mind
And makes it dance.
Monkey and master linked together
In the void, in all the worlds.

Hakuin - 17th Century Japanese Zen Buddhist Philosopher

1 comment:

  1. Extremely interesting, my sister in law is a Thai Buddhist which is the nearest I have ever got to the subject. More a philosophy than a religion from what I have ever gathered. I had no idea you were a Buddhist, but I can see how you keep your temper when dealing with people,.