Zen cannot be described in a few sentences or paragraphs. In fact, no amount of articles, books, or volumes of texts can ever actually explain Zen. Trying to describe what Zen is like an attempt to describe the taste of an apple to someone who has never eaten an apple before. It does not matter how eloquent we are, or how many adjectives we use to describe the taste, texture, and sensation it will never take the place of biting into an apple and experiencing it ourselves. Zen is something experienced not understood on an intellectual or academic level. I will give the brief description of its history and the practice used in the Boundless Buddha Zen Society.
Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism founded around the 6th century in China by an Indian monk named Bodhidharma. During Bodhidharma’s time, Buddhism had become very academic very scholarly. To Bodhidharma, it had seemed people were mostly concerned with being a Buddhist and studying Buddhism. The real focus of being a Buddha was losing emphasis.
Zen is about experiencing your Buddha-nature/True-Nature (Awakening). Not about being a Buddhist, not about memorizing texts, ceremonies, protocols, or writing papers. It is about a direct experience of your True-Self. Zen does not rely on the Sutra’s, form or ceremony. Zen, however, does not dismiss them as useless either. They are and always have been like a GPS guiding us in the correct direction of Awakening of experiencing our True-Self if we can use them as such without being attached to them. They can help us when and if we feel lost. But they are not a requirement for seeing your True-Self.
So this is Zen… What are you?
Not an intellectual understanding, but a direct, unfiltered experience of what your True-Self is. Like with the taste of an apple the description and an intellectual understanding will never replace experiencing biting into it and tasting for yourself.
“It is important when starting a zen practice or those with an established practice that you have proper guidance. Zen is a tradition where teacher and student work together for the students “awakening”. Finding a teacher that can guide your practice is of the utmost importance. “
–Venerable Hae Won Sunim
“Because when we do Zen we sit quietly, some imagine we are supposed to be silent inside too. For most people, because they begin their Zen practice with this misunderstanding, they find the practice difficult. But for someone who understands the practice correctly, they don’t get caught in silence or disturbance; so they just go directly to their awakened nature. This Zen nature is referred to as ‘miraculous awareness.’ This awareness exists in each one of us. But because we are attached to ideas of silence and disturbance, our mind goes back and forth between being silent, being complex, being silent, being disturbed.”
– Most Venerable Hyunoong Sunim