What is Zen?

by Derek Lin



In year 1993 to 1995, I was deeply involved in the practice of meditation. "It is very good for the body in term of good health but for the soul, it is not of much beneficial" says my Heavenly Teacher, JiGong.  TA Chew

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"Zen" is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character "chan," which is in turn the Chinese translation from the Indian Sanskrit term "dhyana," meaning "meditation."

Zen, like Tao, cannot be totally explained in words. Much of your grasp of Zen must necessarily depend on your own intuition. Bodhidharma (528 A.D.) had this to say about it:

Not dependent on the written word,
Transmission apart from the scriptures;
Directly pointing at oneís heart,
Seeing oneís nature, becoming Buddha.

Given thatís the case, the closest we can come to describing Zen in words may be as follows:

  • Zen is more of an attitude than a belief.
  • Zen is the peace that comes from being one with an entity other than yourself.
  • Zen means being aware of your oneness with the world and everything in it.
  • Zen means living in the present and experience this reality fully.
  • Zen means being free of the distractions and illusory conflicts of the material world.
  • Zen means being in the flow of the universe.
  • Zen means experiencing fully the present, and delighting in the basic miracle of life itself.

Paradox is a part of Zen and the teaching of Zen. A paradox nudges your mind into a direction other than the routine. It helps you disengage the rational mind and free up the intuition. It also points to a truth that cannot be rationally derived through the use of logic. Therefore:

  • Zen is nothing and yet everything.
  • Zen is empty but full.
  • Zen encompasses all and is encompassed by all.
  • Zen is the beginning and the end.

It's easy for some to dismiss Zen as a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, devoid of real meaning. These would be the people who aren't yet ready to move up to this particular level of spiritual development. That's alright. Such things should not and indeed cannot be rushed. Michael Valentine Smith, the main character from Stranger in a Strange Land, would say that one must "wait for fullness" and that "waiting is."

For those who are ready to tackle the concept of Zen, here are some stories that will illustrate the meaning of Zen perfectly:

Zen and the Ocean

The Buddha is in the House

A Conversation of Waves