The title of this Chautauqua is "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, " not "Zen and the Art of Mountain Climbing, " and there are no motorcycles on the tops of mountains, and in my opinion very little Zen. Zen is the "spirit of the valley, " not the mountaintop. The only Zen you fin on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.
Robert M. Pirsig
The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows. There is nothing extraordinary or mysterious about Zen. I raise my hand ; I take a book from the other side of the desk ; I hear the boys playing ball outside my window; I see the clouds blown away beyond the neighbouring wood: - in all these I am practising Zen, I am living Zen. No wordy discussions is necessary, nor any explanation. I do not know why - and there is no need of explaining, but when the sun rises the whole world dances with joy and everybody's heart is filled with bliss. If Zen is at all conceivable, it must be taken hold of here.
Zen is the enemy of analysis, the friend of intuition. The Zen artist understands the ends of his art intuitively, and the last thing he would do is create categories; the avowed purpose of Zen is to eliminate categories! The true Zen-man holds to the old Taoist proverb,Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
Zen purposes to discipline the mind itself, to make it its own master, through an insight into its proper nature. This getting into the real nature of one's own mind or soul is the fundamental object of Zen Buddhism. Zen, therefore, is more than meditation and Dhyana in its ordinary sense. The discipline of Zen consists in opening the mental eye in order to look into the very reason of existence.
Zen abhors repetition or imitation of any kind, for it kills. For the same reason Zen never explains, but only affirms. Life is fact and no explanation is necessary or pertinent. To explain is to apologize, and why should we apologize for living? To live""is that not enough? Let us then live, let us affirm! Herein lies Zen in all its purity and in all its nudity as well.
Zen is really extraordinarily simple as long as one doesn't try to be cute about it or beat around the bush! Zen is simply the sensation and the clear understanding ... that there is behind the multiplicity of events and creatures in this universe simply one energy -- and it appears as you, and everything is it. The practice of Zen is to understand that one energy so as to "feel it in your bones.
I have my own way to walk and for some reason or other Zen is right in the middle of it wherever I go. So there it is, with all its beautiful purposelessness, and it has become very familiar to me though I do not know "what it is." Or even if it is an "it." Not to be foolish and multiply words, I'll say simply that it seems to me that Zen is the very atmosphere of the Gospels, and the Gospels are bursting with it. It is the proper climate for any monk, no matter what kind of monk he may be. If I could not breathe Zen I would probably die of spiritual asphyxiation.
If you are thinking, you can't understand Zen. Anything that can be written in a book, anything that can be said - all this is thinking . . . but if you read with a mind that has cut off all thinking, then Zen books, sutras and Bibles are all the truth. So is the barking of a dog or the crowing of a rooster. All things are teaching you at every moment, and these sounds are even better teaching than Zen books.
I would have thought that I would have become one of those parents - just because it's my nature to be such a perfectionist - that anything falling short, I would have seen as a failure. But something has happened to me over the past few years - it's not Zen, believe me, I'm not at all Zen - but I'm so appreciative of even the chaos.
To have Zen is to be in a state of pure sensation. It is to be freed from the grip of concepts, to see through them. This is not the same as rejecting conceptual thinking. Thoughts and words are in the world and are as natural as flowers. It is a mistake therefore to think that Zen is anti-intellectual.
To speak conventionally - and I think it is easier for the general reader to see Zen thus presented - there are unknown recesses in our minds which lie beyond the threshold of the relatively constructed consciousness. To designate them as 'sub-conciousness' or 'supra-consciousness' is not correct. The word 'beyond' is used simply because it is a most convenient term to indicate their whereabouts. But as a matter of fact there is no 'beyond', no 'underneath', no 'upon' in our consciousness. The mind is one indivisible whole and cannot be torn in pieces. The so-called terra incognita is the concession of Zen to our ordinary way of talking, because whatever field of consciousness that is known to us is generally filled with conceptual riffraff, and to get rid of them, which is absolutely necessary for maturing Zen experience, the Zen psychologist sometimes points to the presence of some inaccessible region in our minds. Though in actuality there is no such region apart from our everyday consciousness, we talk of it as generally more easily comprehensible by us.
Zen wants us to acquire an entirely new point of view whereby to look into the mysteries of life and the secrets of nature. This is because Zen has come to the definite conclusion that the ordinary logical process of reasoning is powerless to give final satisfaction to our deepest spiritual needs.
Zen is to religion what a Japanese "rock garden" is to a garden. Zen knows no god, no afterlife, no good and no evil, as the rock-garden knows no flowers, herbs or shrubs. It has no doctrine or holy writ: its teaching is transmitted mainly in the form of parables as ambiguous as the pebbles in the rock-garden which symbolise now a mountain, now a fleeting tiger. When a disciple asks "What is Zen?", the master's traditional answer is "Three pounds of flax" or "A decaying noodle" or "A toilet stick" or a whack on the pupil's head.
Zen enriches no one. There is no body to be found. The birds may come and circle for a while in the place where it is thought to be. But they soon go elsewhere. When they are gone, the "nothing," the "no-body" that was there, suddenly appears. That is Zen. It was there all the time but the scavengers missed it, because it was not their kind of prey.