Monday, April 28, 2014


There is a Zen story that goes like this. ‘Master, how do I enter Zen?’ asked the pupil. ‘Do you hear the sound of that little mountain steam?’ asked the master. ‘Yes, I do,’ replied the pupil. ‘Enter Zen from there,’ said the master. 

The pupil then thought for a while about what the master had said to him, before eventually saying to the master, ‘Master, I’ve been thinking … What if I had said I couldn’t hear the mountain stream? … What would you have said then?’ 

‘Disciple?’ said the master. ‘Yes, master?’ said the pupil. ‘Enter Zen from there,’ replied the master.

‘Enter Zen from there.’ What wisdom there is in those four English words!

If you ask, ‘What is Zen,’ you should not expect an answer---certainly not an answer that says something definite and intelligible to the conscious, rational intellect. You see, Zen is something inherently indescribable. Words fail to explain it or exhaust its meaning. However, if the Zen story set forth above says anything, it says this---Zen is to be experienced in the real and the ‘concrete’ as opposed to the abstract. 

In Western religion the Ultimate ('God,' if you wish) is sometimes referred to as Pure Being or something like that---a very abstract idea. In Eastern religion the Ultimate---Zen, the Tao---is more like Pure Be-ing-ness/Living-ness of life itself experienced as real, living things---something (actually, 'no-thing') much more concrete. Get the idea? (If you do, you can explain it to me. Just kidding.) In Western religion the Ultimate creates by making. In Eastern religion the Ultimate creates (not quite the right word here) by 'not-making.' The Tao, the very essence of life, is something growing and evolving. It is forever dynamic and not static. It must be found in the everyday things of life---for example, in the sound of a mountain stream, or in the absence of any such sound, or in those inexplicable and gratuitously unfair things of life such as the death of one of your children.

The Chinese refer to this Ultimate as wu-wei---wu (mu in Japanese) meaning ‘not’ or ‘non-’ and wei action, doing, striving, making, and busyness. So, wu-wei refers to a state of mind that is characterized by ‘non-graspingness’ or ‘non-strivingness.’ It is not so much non-action, non-doing, or not-doing, but the ‘action of non-action.’ It is a mindset that is totally and openly accepting of what is, of what unfolds from one moment to the next. It is a mind which is constantly moving, both spontaneously and effortlessly, with and in response to changes that occur both inside and outside the mind. It is a mindset that is not fixed on any particular object.

Both Zen and mindfulness have each been described as the ‘method of no method.’ Each is the ‘technique of no technique.’ (All so-called methods or techniques are forms of brainwashing by some other person. They are means of control and subjugation, as Krishnamurti [pictured below] often said. Avoid them. Eschew them.) Living mindfully requires no method or technique as such. You just do ‘it,’ whatever the ‘it’ may be … mindfully. You just drop your attachments---and look and observe choicelessly.

Do you want to know the 'secret to life'? Well, start with this. There is no secret to life, and no ‘way’ or ‘path’ to Truth other than the moment-to-moment direct and immediate and unmediated experience of life itself as it unfolds from one moment to the next. 

Yes, the so-called ‘meaning’ (such an ugly word!) of life is to be found in the living of your days, in the very livingness of life itself. You will not find true meaning in anything or anyone other than in the real and concrete things of life. Those things include, of course, human relationships which can be quite meaningful. The intangible is to be found in the tangible. Indeed, the intangible and the tangible are one and the same. The extraordinary is to be found in the ordinary. Again, they are one and the same.

So, look for the Ultimate in the so-called ordinary things of life and nature---yes, in the everyday things of life, whatever they may be. Forget all about striving, straining, doing, and making. Most importantly, forget all about grasping and clinging. Instead, live mindfully, spontaneously, and effortlessly.

Calligraphy: (top left) mu [not, nothing, no-thing]; (below) mindfulness.


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