General meditation practices can be broadly classified into two types – concentration oriented and insight oriented. Some of the examples of concentration based practices are chanting mantras, focusing the gaze on an object or flame or focusing on the breath. Zen-based meditation usually form the second group wherein the emphasis is more on becoming aware of the sensations, thoughts, actions, emotions, and so on without actually getting involved or analyzing them. In other words, you become a witness to things that is happening in and around you.
To illustrate the essence of Zen meditation, read this story:
After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, “Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?” “Yes,” Tenno replied.
“Tell me,” the master continued, “did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?”
Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in’s apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.
No matter which method you choose, the end goal is the same – to still the mind and attain absolute emptiness. I personally find the Zen technique more likeable and relaxing. One reason is because it does not lay down rules – do this, do that. I hate following rules and when practicing Zen meditation, I can just be myself.
Q1. I have read a little about the essence of Buddhism as a whole. But can you please tell me the actual essence of Zen Buddhism?
A. The essence of Zen is its freedom. Not freedom from, but freedom in the world and the law of causation.
Q2. How do you feel when people are determined to say Buddha is the god of Buddhism?
A. I say that the Buddha (literally, the Awake, the Aware, the Enlightened) was a human being. He saw, after great and long struggle, the cause of and conditions for suffering, and so how to end it. If he weren’t “just” human, but some kind of deity, then there would be no hope for us “mere” humans to follow his example, and so Buddhism would make no sense.
Q3. The definition of Zen is to sit in meditation. Would you say there is more to this word? If so, what would you add to this definition?
A. It’s zazen that is sitting meditation. “Za” means to sit. The controlled conditions of zazen allow you to get free of things like fear, rage and hate and more subtle things like self-versus-other and tension-versus-inattention. But to carry that freedom out into your whole life, so you have imperturbable peace of mind, alertness and awareness, come what may and whatever you’re doing, is “a whole other ball game”. Zazen is the Zen you can easily see. Zen itself you are aware of in a more subtle way.
Q4. What is the difference between Buddhism and Zen?
Keep in mind that you can practice Zen without having to be a Buddhist. You don’t have to join the religion aspect of Zen, but you can get involved in the interest of fining inner light. You’ll find that there is really no difference to Buddhism and Zen; however, Zen is the physical action of Buddhism. Zen is a Buddhist’s version of prayer. You can practice Zen alone in your home as a way for you to keep control of your life or find discipline in your life. You can also participate in Zen as a member of a Buddhist group. You will find that you can practice Zen alone, or you can practice it with the participation in Buddhism.
There are a lot of differences between Zen and Buddhism, but you have to realize that the two go hand in hand. You practice Zen as part of the religion, but you can also use Zen as a way to control yourself or find the answers for many of your questions. You’ll need to consider that when it comes to Buddhism you need to practice Zen as a way for you to find your enlightenment. It’s like practicing prayer.
When it comes to Buddha, this is something that has been practiced for years and year and it has become almost a culture itself. It is very important that you understand that this particular religion has a lot to offer. You’ll need to keep in mind that when you join the Buddhism community you will need to learn to embrace all of it. You’ll need to do everything you can to really get the full picture.
As for Zen, you’ll find that it is the meditation prayer. You’ll need to consider the positions that you take in order to meditate is as serious as to what you wear for Sunday Mass. It is very important that you start off in the right position so that you can have your inner light flow. You will need to also try to focus on meditation even when it is not the best time for you. A lot of people do not turn to meditation when they really need it. It should be used for strength and you should meditate anytime that you feel overwhelmed. You’ll want to consider that there are a lot of benefits to practicing both Zen and Buddhism, but you don’t have to feel pressured to do both.
When you are meditating or using Zen, you’ll need to consider where your body is and also how you are breathing. Your breathing will help you to calm your nerves while you should be able to find spiritual highs through Buddhism. You’ll find that there are a lot of perks to being a Zen Buddhist, but you’ll also want to take inconsideration that your religion is just fine. You don’t find yourself by picking a new religion; however, you can switch over if it is something that you feel very passionate about. The religion that you choose should be something that you can turn to and find emotional support.
Once you are able to find a good Zen teacher you can look further into the religion aspects and also into the benefits of Buddha. You don’t want to put a lot of pressure on yourself, but you’ll find that with the knowledge, you’ll become more powerful. You will be able to feel better about yourself and about your life in general when you take it a step at time. You’ll be able to discover a whole new world when it comes to Zen teachings and training.