We ended last time on the first key component of Zen as a path to contentment – staying in the present moment. The second component is meditation on eternal truths (as opposed to koans). The key ‘truth’ of Zen is that thought interferes with the experience of reality by attempting to dissect it for analysis as traditionally is done in the West. What is needed is a special form of concentration which stills the mind. The practitioner learns to cultivate a deep or profound silence in the deepest recesses of his or her being. Thought is considered the great disrupter of contentment and an obstacle to the experience of reality. Thinking is about dividing reality which the Zen master tells us is a lower discriminatory consciousness.5 For example the classic philosophical designation of nuomenal reality (the thing-in-itself) is an abstraction postulated to solve a problem arising out of ignorance of reality. Zen seeks to understand the “suchness” not the “thatness” of things by immediate seeing into things just as they are. The higher way depends not on reason, but seeking by the complete person for the ultimate reality.6
Zen masters tell us we must overcome distinctions such as is and is not, learning to see the beauty of the world without distinctions.7 Buddha nature then is an enlightened mind, emptiness, ‘no-mind’, or ‘suchness’.8 One cultivates a deep or profound silence in the deepest recesses of one’s being. The philosopher must remain silent, but there is something to do – resolve to practice Zen “The silence forced on the philosopher can be the beginning of a seeing into reality that goes beyond thoughts and words, and that does not leave behind any aspects of the person.”9 Once achieved, “The vibration of nature is in accord with the inmost rhythm and vibration of man.”10
Like the other Asian traditions Zen offers a means to contentment and tranquility that transcends the human world and one’s own inadequacies and failures. It originates in a worldview that the experience of Nature and reality as a whole combined with staying in the here and now are the basis of peace and enlightenment. In Zen Buddhism, the effort to achieve self-improvement and satisfactory purpose in the world is replaced with focused work and meditation on paradox and truth under the apprenticeship of a master.
5Koller, John M., Oriental Philosophies, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1970. ISBN 684-13668-6, page 187.
6Ibid. page 188.
7Ibid. page 184-185.
8Ibid. page 186.
9Ibid. page 189.
10Beck, L. Adams, The Story of Oriental Philosophy. The New Home Library, New York, 1928. Page 418.