The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Successful Retirement Guide.
Great doubt: great awakening.
Little doubt: little awakening.
No doubt: no awakening.
-- Zen koan
- Gives you something to think about doesn’t it?
Brief background: Zen is an evolved form of Buddhism. Buddhism is a religion ased on the teachings of Buddha, aka Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in India about 500 BC. While there are various forms of Buddhism, in general Buddhists attempt to come to an understanding of true reality and achieve a state of liberation and enlightenment. They do this by trying to live in a moral fashion generally based on the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”), meditating and seeking wisdom. It is possible for Buddhists to also be Christians, Jews or Muslims.
Zen evolved from India through China, Japan, Korea and Viet Nam. Zen seeks to achieve enlightenment about the nature of reality by meditating on koans like the one at the beginning of this section. Koans are questions or statements made by Zen masters to help students of Zen step away from normal every-day life and come to an understanding of the reality that transcends that life. Here is another koan:
One day as Manjusri stood outside the gate, the Buddha called to him,
"Manjusri, Manjusri, why do you not enter?" Manjusri replied, "I do not see
myself as outside. Why enter?"
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!" "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
Zen posits that we can’t understand true reality because we are too wrapped up in living our subjective reality. By meditating on the koans we try to break away from our subjective reality by freeing ourselves from rational thinking and thus find the transcendent true reality.
So, if you are focused on the question: “What’s it all about when you sort it out Alfie?” Zen is probably not you. But if you aspire to enlightenment without any sorting, Zen may add value.
Also see the section on Philosophy.
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism
Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind