Zen Origin

It has been said that Zen began with the silence of the Buddha. One day Buddha gathered his disciples for a discourse. They were all waiting for him to speak but instead he got up, picked a flower, looked at it and sat down without saying anything. Only Mahakasyapa smiled at the master and the master smiled back indicating a mutual understanding of its meaning.

Meditation practice began in India as part of Buddhism and was called Dhyan meaning meditation. Bodhidharma traveled to China where he met Emperor Wu in 475 A.D. who became very interested in his teaching. Bodhidharma then spent 9 year at the Shorin Temple meditating always "facing the wall". Dhyan became known in China as Ch'an and here was transformed by teaching of Lao Tzu on the Tao. In Japan Ch'an became crystallized into a system named Zen.


Zen Method

The method is very simple but hard. Just sit with your back straight, eyes lowered and unfocused and hands on your lap. Focus you mind on counting breaths 1-10 or following your breath as you breathe in and out. If images, desires or thought arise, don't follow them or fight them. Just go back to following your breath. There is a saying in Zen, "With no bird singing, the mountain is yet more still." There is also walking Za-zen which means walking while placing you mind at the bottom of your feet, that is, walk with awareness and dignity aware of what you are doing and don't think about anything else. There are other Zen methods but this is the most basic. In the beginning you may be able to do it for a short time but as concentration improves, you will lengthen the time. To experience a lasting effect, one must do it daily.

Zen Mind

Zen seeks to create a mind that is calm and pure like a pool of clear water which reflects reality.

For example, when I see see a flower I may think and feel, "How beautiful it is!" I may want it for myself and pick it. If it has symbolical meaning in my culture, it will speak to me about something else.

The mirror, on the other hand, has no thought, feelings or desires and so reflects the flower as it is. Zen seeks to create a mind that is free from cultural and egocentric interpretations or reality and able to see reality as it is on the level of being. Ultimately it is consciousness of self which which separates us from reality. The Zen Master Bassui Tokusho in one of his sermons states, "At last every vestige of self-awareness will disappear and you will feel like the cloudless sky. Within yourself you will find no "I," nor will you discover anyone who hears. This Mind is like the Void, yet it hasn't a single spot that can be called empty." 56

Nano Amitabha (Bell) Sample of Buddhist music which tends to empty the mind of thoughts.

Zen and Christian Contemplation

Zen as such divorced from the Buddhist world view can be used by us to develop our spiritual life. Buddhist seek enlightenment but we already are enlightened by Faith. The mystery of the Triune God is already in our hearts but it needs to be realized. Meditation by using images and thoughts while trying to relate to God may be fine in the beginning but the discipline or Zen will help us forget self and just sit in God's presence. We are attached to our thoughts because they produce feelings and we feel we are doing something useful. But God cannot be defined or captured by any of our feelings, thoughts, desires and actions because He is the Infinite and Eternal Spirit. By the way, the Jesus Prayer is a form of Zen because it requires concentration which eventually becomes habitual and hardly aware that we are praying. In Christian term, Zen may aid us to live in God's Presence all the days of our lives.

It seems to me that Zen seeks our true nature before the fall but we as Christians baptized in Christ have a supernature in the likeness of God's Son which has to be realized.

Tao Te Ching