What is Zen – New Updated Version
禅 (Zen) what does it actually mean?
In this presentation, you will learn that Zen is the study and accessing for oneself of ‘Buddha-nature’, the tathāgata-garbha wisdom of the Mahayana Sutras.
To understand Zen, we first must understand what is Za-zen.
坐禅 (Zazen) what does it actually mean?
坐 [pronounced “Za”] is commonly translated to mean ‘Sit’ yet in the context of how it is used, the character can also mean ‘To purposely position’ or “place” oneself. Thus, the crude translation of the character to mean to physically sit ones body, yet is not at all the entire meaning of the character.
禅 [pronounced “Zen”] is to mean Dhyana (Zen), as in an ‘Awaken Awareness/Truth of the here and now’ or “Path leading to Nirvana”
Together 坐禅 is known as Za-zen, meaning to Place yourself in Awaken Awareness of the intuitive knowing of the moment’
Zazen has nothing to do with Seated Meditation
The Secret of Zen is Intuition
Zazen is ‘Intuitive knowing’ or a ‘Divine Buddhist revelations’, that the Dharma flows from. This state of revelation is called ‘Samadhi’ (Sanskrit), Satori (Japanese) and Kenshō (Japanese) .
In the west we know this Samadhi as the Greek word ‘Gnosis’, meaning “to know spiritual mysteries”.
Samadhi and Gnosis means the same thing.
Shikantaza, the sitting meditation of the Cáodòng
Shikantaza is the Sino-Japanese reading of the Chinese words zhǐguǎn 只管, that has become synonymous with Zazen, though mostly through ignorance.
We know Shikantaza, as ‘Serene Meditation’, was a common practice of Chinese Ch’an temple monks prior to the Communist takeover, and is a meditation practice that is synonymous with Vipassana or Dhyana meditation of the Southern Buddhist bhikkhu (Thervadian).
Shikantaza, however, is not Zazen because Zazen cannot be materialistic performance art, as Dogen, a 12th-century Japanese monk who is claimed to be the founder of Zen in Japan, mistaken it to be!
Dogen and Zazen
The story goes that in the 12th century, the young Tendi monk Dogen went to China, encountered the Cáodòng, and returned to Japan with the ‘True Teachings of Buddha’, and started his own Buddha sect (cult) based on his observations and understandings of the Cáodòng.
Dogen, however, make profound mistakes, summarized as:
- Dogen states that Buddha-nature is everything,
- That Seated Meditation is performed to ‘Absorb Buddha-nature’, an activity he calls Zazen,
- That absorbing Buddha-nature, through the performance art, transforms you to Buddha.
None of what Dogen states is supported in any Mahayana Sutra, in any Ch’an writings or even by the Cáodòng. We conclude that Dogen started a New Religion.
Though Dogen is credited as the Founder of Soto Zen in Japan, the actuality is that his New Buddhism fledgling temple was absorbed into the Soto school, that Keizan brought in to Japan, shortly after Dogens death, and the works of Dogen where buried in the temple archives for centuries only to be read by the most senior of monks who found them shocking and contradictory to Soto.
Dogen’s works resurfaced in the 1970 as the universities delved into the archives, and later translations of Dogen became available.
Dogen’s teachings took on a new life in the West, as a radically different Zen from the established Zen Soto-shu of Japan, and as a Fresh Start for those Japanese men looking for a way-out from the stifling Japanese Religious views, and that of the Soto-Shu.
Zen and the West
Much of what Zen in The West is, is greatly influenced by Japanese men who were seeking to escape the stifling and narrow minded views of the Japanese Soto-shu in where coming to The West, they created their own Zen ministries based on their opinions. Many of these Japanese men turned to Dogen’s writings because they viewed them as foundational, and attempted to channel these writings into their ministries to create a Zen that is distinctly apart from the Japanese Soto-shu.
Today, Zazen is a performance art that is performed in the temple ‘Zen-do’. This is no difference than any Martial Arts such as Jujutsu that is performed in the ‘Do-jo’. It is widely known that Martial Arts is a Performance Art, of Mind/body synchronization of where the intuitive is learned and expressed in ritual fighting styles. As for the actual validity of the combat worthy of these ritualistic styles: it is well proven they do not hold up.
Zen in the West is run nearly identically as the Western Karate schools, with the ranks, lineages and culturalism as well as Nationalism of Japanese Martial Arts.
Shikantaza and the West
Not all of the Western Zen schools subscribed to Dogen’s Views (Dogenism), many subscribed to the Ch’an Soto Shikantaza ‘Serene meditation’ and that defines Zazen is not a performance art at all, rather a quality of being in where one flows with the Buddha-nature (Intuition) as taught it the Mahayana Tathāgatagarbha buddhism.
Zazen the becomes ‘No Position’ because it is not ‘A thing’ or ‘A performance’, because Zazen cannot be conceptualized. Zen and Zazen then is freed of the Japanese customs, cultural views as well as the nationalism that plagues many Western Zen Centers today.
There is a growing movement, a revolution, within Western Zen that rejects the materialism of Japanese Zen, and any position that makes an objectification of Zen.
This has become the Rebirth of Zen in the West
The rebirth of Zen in the West
The west, free of the dogma and the orthodoxy of the Far-East, gave way to a rebirth of Zen, a fresh start that could not happen Japan.
Sokei-an, came to the west in the early 1930’s and taught a Zen free of the Japanese cultural obstacles, and the stifling entrenched orthodoxy that Zen in Japan became. His most notable student Alan Watts through his engaging lectures brought forth a Zen that is most inspirational and engaging, that to this day still brings new seekers to The Path of Zen.
A Rinzai Zen Master who:
- Did not teach Zazen or hold sesshins
- Used the Hakuin system
- Private Interviews (sanzen)
- Public talks (tesho)
- Encouraged arts, poetry, and free expression
According to Mary Farkas, “Sokei-an had no interest in reproducing the features of Japanese Zen monasticism, the strict and regimented training that aims at making people ‘forget self.’ In these establishments, individuality is stamped out, novices move together like a school of fish, their cross-legged position corrected with an ever-ready stick.”
Zen masters overtly renouncing seated meditation
Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.
- Mazu (709–788) – Soto Zen
- Huineng (638-713) – Sixth Patriarch of Zen
- Yantou (828–887) – Famous monk in the Mumonkan
- Layman Pang (740–808) – Famous Layman in Tang China
- Foyan (1067-1120) – Famous Song Dynasty monk
- Huang Po (?-850) – Tang Dynasty Zen Master
The above listed Zen Masters and Laymen all recognized the intrinsic ‘Buddha-nature’ in all sentient beings, in where no cultivation (Zazen) or merit gathering (Thervadan) would develop something that you already have!In fact, if you do those things, you’re obscuring your true nature by “riding the Donkey to seek the Donkey”. – The Blue Cliff Record of Yuanwu
The case has been made abundantly clear, that Zen cannot based on relying on Performance Arts (a.k.a. Seated meditation)
In this light, we then see Zazen 坐禅 as ‘Placing yourself in Awaken Awareness of the intuitive knowing of the moment’ – that has nothing at all to do with any performance arts.
Our practice then only to awaken to our own intuitive self, the tathāgata-garbha, in where we flow with the Buddha-datu (Buddha Nature) where the infinite wisdom of the Buddhas is unlocked and we find our True Self, our immortality and perfection.
Modern Zen – Confusion and misreading
Modzen Zen has fallen into the degeneracy of Spiritual materialism, a reliance on objectification and idolatry of spiritual concepts taken on to boost ones own ‘False Self’, the ones that suffers in this dualistic-phenomenal-existence!
We see this as:
- Objectifying Zen as Seated Meditation (Performance Art)
- Engagement in Performance Arts as practice
- The collecting of sesshins (time spent in meditation) and church rank (Color of bib)
- Adherence and obedience to the ecclesiastical structures of the church
The modern Zen apologist come in many forms, most of the bookstores ‘Zen section’ is lined with their books – That are there only to convince you that their hustle is the Zen you are looking for!
If you have made it this far in the video, by now you understand a few things:
- Zen is your Intuitive Self,
- You have all that you need, for there is nothing to cultivate (practice), nothing to gain (merits)
- Confusion, delusions and obscurants only block you from your Intuitive self, thus bolstering the False Self that suffers.
- Your intuitive self is the Zen Enlightenment, the Flowing in the Buddha-nature, the eternal and becoming immortal.
- Zazen does not mean Seated Meditation, it means to purposely flow in the Buddha-nature
- False Zen is out there as a hustle, that only bolsters the False Self, that of ego and suffering.