zen is to love

zen isn't a "thing" in itself, but there are two concepts to buddhism that i think are very important in explaining it to us: wisdom and empathy (love.)

we are all one. there is no hierarchy to anything in our lives. there is no separation. friends and enemies. humans, animals, plants and rocks. good and evil. from a certain perspective all of these "opposites" are actually all the same. realizing this truth is wisdom. the result of this realization is unconditional, limitless empathy (love.) 

but zen goes beyond understanding.

we know the emotion of love exists. it's all around us, whether we acknowledge it or not. we know this because we've experienced love. and this is all obvious. but what if we had never experienced love? what if we didn't believe in love. does that mean it doesn't exist?

so as love can not be "taught" neither can zen. 

we can speak about love. we can be guided toward love, but we can not make ourselves love. 

let go and let it happen.

what is zen?

zen is a finger pointing at the moon.

in other words, zen has no substance itself. zen is empty. zen is also action. and direction. zen is a map to enlightenment. it points the way to your destination, which you will come to realize is right where you're standing. but you must first travel the path to realize this, and zen is the path.

it is common to think of life as a journey, from point a (birth) to point b (death.) and there is great pressure to achieve along the way, because these achievements follow us through our whole life. and if we think far enough ahead these accomplishments build up and up and up and when we come to the end of our journey we can look back on a life of achievement and be satisfied with what we've done with our limited time here on earth.

and this sounds well enough to most of us. because after all, we are special. and obviously life is better than death. and these accomplishments mean something! because why wouldn't they? without a purpose, our lives would be meaningless and there would be nothing keeping us from committing suicide. right?

well we can ponder the meaning of life some other time. hopefully now you are thinking. and while you are, rather than thinking of life as a journey, try to think of life as a puzzle.

zen is your direction on how to complete the puzzle of life.

if life is a puzzle, and we think it's a journey, or worse a race, that can cause some problems.

"i'm not satisfied with my life. what's wrong with me? if i had a better job i would be happier. and if i had a cute girlfriend, things would be so much better. oh, and my neighbor is always throwing parties at 3am and waking me up. if he would just move out i could get more rest and that would make me happier!"

variations of these questions go through our heads many times a day. "what if" scenarios on our lives and how it could all be so much better. would it? maybe our lives would be better if we all had a cute significant other and got a raise at work. but unless change comes from a deeper part of our self, the relief won't last. the joy in these achievements will be temporary and before we realize it we're looking for the next best thing.

each achievement is a "rest area" on your "road trip" through life. it's great to have a break and enjoy the sights, but after enough time the sights get boring and we say to ourselves, "so what's next?"

if we see life as a puzzle rather than a journey, these common wants and needs of life still exist, but they take on a new meaning. you see them from a different perspective and they become ancillary to the real cause of suffering, which is you.

if life is a puzzle, you are a puzzle.

a puzzle only has a set number of pieces. those pieces are there from the beginning. when we're born, life is pouring those pieces onto the table. they are all mismatched and jumbled. some are flipped upside down, others are stuck to other pieces that they don't belong with. it's a mess. and as a baby, we need a lot of help to get the basic pieces in place. as we grow up, with proper education and guidance, we can put more and more of those pieces together correctly and as we do, the picture of our life becomes more and more clear and we become less confused and more satisfied.

there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and we are all at different stages of completion. for most of us, we have the major pieces put together, but they aren't all connected. we may have the left side of our puzzle completed, which could be our family life. and it's fantastic. our kids are brilliant, the wife loves us and things couldn't be better. but our work life is in shambles. we're not getting along with the new boss and the company is downsizing. the pieces of our work life are in the wrong order. and most of those pieces aren't connected at all with our family life.

this is where thinking of life as a journey rather than a puzzle creates problems. at this point, our tendancy is to try to add more pieces to the puzzle, or take some pieces away. questions such as "i need to get a new job!" or "i wish my boss would get fired!" arise.

adding pieces to a puzzle is a disaster. it would never, ever work. doing either of these would make the puzzle more difficult or impossible to solve.

this is why it is vital to realize that all the pieces of our life puzzle are right in front of us all the time. there is no need to go looking elsewhere to find satisfaction, regardless of our situation.

zen is there to help you sort out the pieces of your life. it can help you organize them by color pattern and shape. as you sort the pieces, you begin to feel comfortable with what you have, no matter where you are in life. and as the pieces are separated, it will become clear how they fit together, and with a clear mind you can put the pieces into place. as you do, the picture of your life becomes crystal clear.

and when all is said and done, you still have your life, and everything that is important to you. and you can spend the rest of your life enjoying it, playing within it and sharing it with others.

treat the cause, not the symptom

if you're trying to not want the things that you want, or if you're trying to want the things that you think you should want, you're doing it wrong.

you may want to have sex with your friend's wife, but you don't want to want to have sex with your friends wife. or you may want to help those in need by donating time at a children's hospital or a nursing home, but you don't want it enough to actually do it.

A. in our delusional mind, it makes sense to fix our problems through one of the following options:
1. change ourselves, because we don't like who we are
2. remove ourselves from the situation, because we are ok and the situation is bad
3. change others, because they are wrong

these are two extreme examples of wanting to want, or wanting to not want. in both cases, you are fighting against yourself. think about this for a moment. how can one thing fight against itself? no singular thing can step outside of itself and manipulate itself, by force, into doing one thing or another. every "thing" in our reality can only change WITH its "environment."

what you begin to realize, is that there is no "thing" and no "environment." there is no "you" nor is there any world outside of you. there appears to be, but when you grasp the concept that neither can exist without relying on the other, this misconception of "you" as an individual begins to fade away.

as the concept of "you" as in your ego, begins to disappear, another option begins to emerge:

B. in our enlightened mind, we have come to the realization that while there is this "me" from which "i"  perceive the world, it is completely reliant on everything that isn't "me" and also the parts of "me" that i don't consider "myself." you can not separate yourself from this world. you can change the world and the world can change you, but it all happens in a way that transcends the division of you and the outside world. if you truly, deeply understand this. it is futile to think in terms of "you" and everything that isn't you. as this happens, so does your perspective. when your perspective shifts to a more universal position, when you begin to see yourself in everything, and everything in yourself, this idea that something must "change" fades away.

and this is where words hit "the wall." where understanding goes beyond words. words alone can not transfer the knowledge that is required at this point. keep studying and keep sitting.

try not to focus on the problems you have. you will need to throw away and go beyond this way of thinking, and as long as you have "problems" that you think need to be "fixed" you can not hope to achieve your goals.

don't mistake this with forgetting your problems, which would be avoidance. through time, your perspective on these problems will shift, revealing the true nature of reality.

practice and study, and the door will appear and open for you.

who is the buddha?

to be a buddha is to have nothing else to do. when you have no sight of the dualistic realm, there is nothing you can do. to live in a reality that operates dualistically, but to have elevated your mind beyond this cycle of life and death, both in totality and in everything you do within life, is to have become a buddha.

space, time, and other imaginary things. part I

the void. emptiness. these have nothing to do with what they sound like.

emptiness isn't any "thing" that has space where there once wasn't any. or space where there could be something. if you want to think of it in definite ideas, it is simultaneously completely full, completely empty and every degree of empty and full at all times.

additionally, there is no vessel. there is nothing to be empty, or void. similarly, it is not a space filled with nothing. or nothing surrounded by nothing.

the void is everything, realized in a way unique to traditional thought. it is 100% everything. 100% reality as you know it, including yourself.

then why do we call it emptiness? because while there is no such thing as time as most people understand, the mind lives in a reality where time is thought to be a thing, so in order to appeal to the unrealized mind, we use words. words reflect an idea that we can both relate to. we can never know that "emptiness" means the same thing for us, in terms of a glass being half full or half empty, as the idiom goes. of course, we have a pretty damn good idea we have a similar idea if we're both looking at the same glass at the same time. there we can relate. and through words we relate to each other as best words can do to relate an idea.

but what if you can't see or hear or taste or touch of smell this thing. if you were trying to explain an idea that had none of these properties (or all of them, indistinguishably from each other) then how would you describe it to another?

this is zen.

any words, but especially words such as "void" and "emptiness" aren't an ideal choice of communication, but they are all we have, and as such are adequate. adequate presuming the listener is given a fair advanced warning that they must attempt to unlearn the idea that these words have a fixed meaning. understanding that a word is nothing but an abstraction. a tool. a word is a symbol for an idea. neither of these things are at any time fixed in space or time. and as such can mean anything so long as we think they do.


su·i·cide.  noun
the intentional taking of one's own life. 

for most people the thought of suicide is tragic. why? because we are taught from birth that we mean something. that we are important. we are taught to cling to everything "for dear life" as the idiom goes.

now interestingly, somethings are ok to cling to, others are not, but we cling to both regardless as if it somehow matters.

the bad? materialism, obviously the biggest one. any one of the seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. all of these are essentially, at their core, grasping for things we don't need to the detriment of ourselves and those around us.

and the good? life (ours and others) is ok to cling to. love is acceptable. your government would lead you to believe you are required to rely on them. as if they didn't exist neither would your safety. which is another good one. who doesn't think being safe is worth it, at almost any cost? even at the cost of other's happiness in most cases. safety is a delusion to itself, which perhaps warrants further discussion later however for now think of it in terms of national security, as that is something we can all identify with. the patriot act. gay marriage. you get the picture.

ok. so. here's where it gets weird for the uninitiated. if i start to lose you, bear with it. this is something that you may not agree with at first. but if remember this (which is another topic that deserves full disclosure that we won't get to here): if you only ever accept what you believe in as the truth, you never have a chance of enlightenment. and that, ultimately, is what i understand the purpose of zen buddhism to be.

now. what if i were to tell you that nothing is worth clinging to? not even the good stuff. suicide is the only answer. not suicide of the physical body - though that i wouldn't necessarily consider bad either - but here we are talking about suicide of the idea of the self. the ego. intentional ego death at the hand of the only one who can kill it. you. there is no other way to enlightenment, or as i see it - unconditional compassion for all things, alive and not-alive.

perhaps you're thinking this is impossible. because after all, you have a soul. don't you? or do you? or maybe you have your doubts about the soul thing, but you believe in your physical self. you see and hear and have friends and family and you love them. certainly then, love must be proof that you exist. proof that you have a purpose. because everyone loves. i'm not going to argue that almost everyone loves and has the need to feel loved. that's true. it is a large part of the human condition. but your existence doesn't depend on it. you can take away love and you will still exist.

but you don't want to give up love, do you? it's scary. and we love to love! i am no exception. love is wonderful. but it is far from everything as you will learn first-hand. when you step back and look at the whole picture of life, it is but a small part.

i think the most important concept to understand here is that love as you know expands beyond those people and things that you want to love - but everything, everywhere, throughout all of space and time.