An Introduction to Zen Buddhism

As far as the content goes, there is none in either *satori* or Zen that can be described or presented or demonstrated for your intellectual appreciation. For Zen has no business with ideas, and *satori* is a sort of inner perception -- not the perception, indeed, of a single individual object but the perception of Reality itself, so to speak.

How hard, then, and yet how easy it is to understand Zen! Hard because to understand it is not to understand it; easy because not to understand it is to understand it.

If there is anything Zen strongly emphasizes it is the attainment of freedom; that is, freedom from all unnatural encumbrances. Meditation is something artificially put on; it does not belong to the native activity of the mind. Upon what do the fowls of the air meditate? Upon what do the fish in the water meditate? They fly; they swim. Is not that enough? Who wants to fix his mind on the unity of God and man, or on the nothingness of life? Who wants to be arrested in the daily manifestations of his life-activity by such meditations as the goodness of a divine being or the everlasting fire of hell?

The basic idea of Zen is to come in touch with the inner workings of our being, and to do so in the most direct way possible, without resorting to anything external or superadded.

the finger pointing at the moon remains a finger and under no circumstances can it be changed into the moon itself.

The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows. There is nothing extraordinary or mysterious about Zen. I raise my hand ; I take a book from the other side of the desk ; I hear the boys playing ball outside my window; I see the clouds blown away beyond the neighbouring wood: — in all these I am practising Zen, I am living Zen. No wordy discussions is necessary, nor any explanation. I do not know why — and there is no need of explaining, but when the sun rises the whole world dances with joy and everybody’s heart is filled with bliss. If Zen is at all conceivable, it must be taken hold of here.

There is something rejuvenating in the possession of Zen. The spring flowers look prettier, and the mountain stream runs cooler and more transparent. The subjective revolution that brings about this state of things cannot be called abnormal. When life becomes more enjoyable and its expense broadens to include the universe itself, there must be something in *satori* that is quite precious and well worth one's striving after.

The way to ascend unto God is to descend into one's self"; -- these are Hugo's words. "If thou wishest to search out the deep things of God, search out the depths of thine own spirit";

The wise Sekiso (Shih-shuang) said, 'Stop all your hankerings; let the mildew grow on your lips; make yourself like unto a perfect piece of immaculate silk; let your one thought be eternity; let yourself be like the dead ashes, cold and lifeless; again let yourself be like an old censer in a deserted village shrine!

This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called *satori* (*wu* in Chinese) and its verb form is *satoru*. Without it there is no Zen, for the life of Zen begins with the "opening of *satori*". *Satori* may be defined as intuitive looking-into, in contradistinction to intellectual and logical understanding. Whatever the definition, *satori* means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of the dualistic mind.

To speak conventionally - and I think it is easier for the general reader to see Zen thus presented - there are unknown recesses in our minds which lie beyond the threshold of the relatively constructed consciousness. To designate them as “sub-conciousness” or “supra-consciousness” is not correct. The word “beyond” is used simply because it is a most convenient term to indicate their whereabouts. But as a matter of fact there is no “beyond”, no “underneath”, no “upon” in our consciousness. The mind is one indivisible whole and cannot be torn in pieces. The so-called terra incognita is the concession of Zen to our ordinary way of talking, because whatever field of consciousness that is known to us is generally filled with conceptual riffraff, and to get rid of them, which is absolutely necessary for maturing Zen experience, the Zen psychologist sometimes points to the presence of some inaccessible region in our minds. Though in actuality there is no such region apart from our everyday consciousness, we talk of it as generally more easily comprehensible by us.

We teach ourselves; Zen merely points the way.

When a thing is denied, the very denial involves something not denied.

When Nangaku was approaching Yeno, the Sixth Patriarch, and was questioned, "What is it that thus walks toward me?" he did not know what to answer. For eight long years he pondered the question, when one day it dawned upon him, and he exclaimed, "Even to say it is something does not hit the mark". This is the same as saying, "I do not know".

Zen has nothing to do with letters, words, or sutras.

Zen perceives and feels, and does not abstract and meditate. Zen penetrates and is finally lost in the immersion. Meditation, on the other hand, is outspokenly dualistic and consequently inevitably superficial.

Zen professes itself to be the spirit of Buddhism, but in fact it is the spirit of all religions and philosophies. When Zen is thoroughly understood, absolute peace of mind is attained, and a man lives as he ought to live.

Zen purposes to discipline the mind itself, to make it its own master, through an insight into its proper nature. This getting into the real nature of one's own mind or soul is the fundamental object of Zen Buddhism. Zen, therefore, is more than meditation and Dhyana in its ordinary sense. The discipline of Zen consists in opening the mental eye in order to look into the very reason of existence.