What is the true meaning of Zen? For many years, people have both been fascinated and perplexed by this mystical thought. Can it be defined in a few words? Does it have an absolute meaning? We have already looked everywhere to find the elusive Zen, but have never agreed on a single, unifying meaning.
In this post, we shall explore how Zen came about and how certain things help give a better understanding of its meaning.
The Origin of Zen
Zen lies at the heart of Japanese culture, and was developed by Mahayana Buddhism. First and foremost, it is a practice that was passed on from master to disciple, from generation to generation. Zen goes back to the Awakening of Siddharta Gautama, also known as the Buddha, about 2500 years ago.
The Meaning of Zen
There are certain elements of Zen that people agree upon, and these elements bring us closer to understanding it.
Zen is not a theory, belief or a religion. It’s not a moral teaching, and exists without dogma. Buddhists believe that Zen does not tell us what to believe in, and it does not require a person to believe in anything. Rather, it shows us how to think, what to think, and what not to think.
For some, it is a path. It is a way for one to fully awaken to his/her original nature. And our original nature is in the present. Right here, right now. It is also an attitude of spiritual awakening, and if we adopt this attitude, it becomes the source from which all things in daily life flow. It guides the way we eat, sleep, breathe, walk, work, talk, think, and so on.
Zen is a practical experience. It’s about being vigilant and discovering one’s self. Through meditation, it is the experience of living from moment to moment. That is, in the here and now.
It might be hard to think about the meaning of Zen, but don’t worry. It’s not likely that you will conceptualize it in your mind. The fact is that it cannot be intellectually grasped. It cannot be learned using our ordinary, dualistic mind.
According to Shunryu Suzuki-roishi, it’s normal to misunderstand Zen even when you study and practice it. And a teacher or guide helps one understand it. Rather than thinking of it as a concept, theory or ritual, you should focus on mindful practice.
Let’s take a look at how Zen Buddhists do it. You usually will find them in the silence of the dojo or temple, quietly sitting down, and not moving. They focus on their posture and breathing. Doing so allows them to let go of their conscious mind, and have their unconscious mind melt away and merge with the universe.
For them, this is what Zen is all about. It is a practical experience or consciousness that is beyond our thoughts or feelings. It’s about noticing yourself, going beyond and wondering what your mind and being are. The purpose of Zen is to make you wonder and answer that wondering with the deepest expression of your own nature.
Zen may come as an enigma, but experts say that it is simple and precise. It may be hard to grasp with your conscious mind, and almost impossible to put a finger on the true meaning of Zen.
But experts also say that there is a way to experience its true meaning.
How to Understand the Meaning of Zen
Zen cannot be conceived by our minds. If you want to understand the meaning of Zen, you should experience it through meditative practice. Through this, you calm your mind, and things will appear more clearly to you. The practice also infuses us with greater kindness, which benefits ourselves and others.
And calming the mind is just the beginning of your journey to Zen. It’s just one part of the story. It doesn’t have an end. As you are practicing, thoughts come like waves. If you let go of these thoughts, they will just go away, and gradually you’ll become calmer and calmer. Zen practice is a never-ending pursuit of a pure mind. Just like clear water with a few waves.
The true meaning of Zen cannot be understood by our thoughts. You need to practice and experience it. And through meditation, you can truly understand its true meaning.