In an episode of The Simpsons titled “Radioactive Man” (Episode 2, Season 7), Milhouse is chosen to play Fallout Boy in the film version of their beloved comic book, Radioactive Man. But the rigors of film acting, especially the constant repetition of lines, cause Milhouse to exclaim in frustration, “I’ve said ‘jiminy jillickers!’ so many times it’s lost all meaning!”
The same can be said of Zen.
The use of the word in everything from website design to candle scents to room decoration to wise, seemingly inscrutable sayings in fortune cookies has rendered the word “Zen” to mean everything, and therefore nothing.
Zen is not what we do.
Zen is who we are.
Life is Zen.
We attain that when we keep clear mind – moment after moment after moment…when we ask the question, “What is it?” and answer “Don’t know” – moment after moment after moment.
Doing that enables Zen practitioners to be open to what arises each moment, and then to be clear of mind and open of heart to help others — those whom we may not notice at all if not for our practice.
With clear mind (also known as Don’t-know mind or Moment-mind), Zen enables us to attain correct situation, correct function, and correct relationship.
Putting all of this together, Zen is…
“What is it? Don’t know.”
“How may I help you?”
Correct Situation, Correct Function, Correct Relationship.
For us, our direction is Only Love.
In other words, it is compassion in action.
That is our direction.
What is your direction?
Buddhism offers a long and rich history (some 2,500 years!) of ethical and moral principles designed not only to better oneself, but also to enrich the lives of those around us through compassion, loving-kindness and service.
Some of the more well-known of these principles are:
The Four Noble Truths
- Life is suffering
- We suffer because we desire that which we do not have
- There is a way out of suffering
- That way is the Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
The Four Great Vows
- All beings one body I vow to liberate
- Endless blind passions I vow to uproot
- Dharma gates without number I vow to penetrate
- The Great Way of Buddha I vow to attain
The Three Jewels (or Refuges):
- I go for refuge to the Buddha, and resolve that with all beings, I will realize the Great Way and develop a heart of enlightenment
- I go for refuge to the Dharma, and resolve that with all beings, I will penetrate the teachings and uncover a wisdom as vast as the ocean
- I go for refuge to the Sangha, and resolve that with all beings, I will seek great peace and harmony so that nothing will impede our progress
The Five Precepts
- Do not harm, but cherish all life
- Do not take what is not given, but respect the things of others
- Do not engage in sexual promiscuity, but practice purity of
mind and self-restraint
- Do not lie, but speak the truth
- Do not partake in the production and transactions of firearms
and chemical poisons that are injurious to public health and
safety, nor of drugs and liquors that confuse and weaken the
Want to know more? Try these books:
- The Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha translated by Thomas Byrom
- The Compass Of Zen by Seung Sahn
- Only Don’t Know: Selected Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn by Seung Sahn
- Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn by Seung Sahn
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
- Stumbling Toward Enlightenment by Geri Larkin
- First You Shave Your Head by Geri Larkin
- Tap Dancing in Zen by Geri Larkin
- The Still Point Dhammapada by Geri Larkin
- Plant Seed Pull Weed by Geri Larkin
- Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
- Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
- The Way of Korean Zen by Kusan Sunim, edited by Martine Batchelor and Stephen Batchelor
- Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck
- Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck
- Principles of Zen by Martine Batchelor
- Buddhism: A Concise Introduction by Huston Smith, Philip Novak
- Don’t-Know Mind: The Spirit of Korean Zen by Richard Shrobe
- Buddhism Is Not What You Think by Steve Hagen
- Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen
- The Training of a Zen Buddhist Monk by D. T. Suzuki
- An Introduction to Zen Buddhism by D. T. Suzuki