There seems to be a renaissance of interest in Zen in this country. I am happy that [we’ve published my book,] Zen Meditation: A Broad View, which had been out of print for many years. More and more people are beginning to realize that hearing sermons, observing memorized rituals, and believing what has been read have no connection with enlightenment. They are beginning to realize that one must go within and find out Who and What he or she is. This is the aim of Zen practice.
All Zen patriarchs of the past have stated that the object of Zen practice is to realize one’s own nature (kensho in Japanese), and this nature is also called Buddha Nature, Mind. Having seen one’s own nature, there are no doubts. This makes somewhat dubious the belief of Soto Zen that sitting cross-legged for long periods of time is enlightenment. If it were, then most people of India would be enlightened, as they certainly sit cross-legged for long periods of time.
The most famous of Zen teachers, really the seminal teacher of modern Zen, was Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, from whom all schools of Zen have descended. In his famous Platform Sutra Huineng points out that he never sat cross-legged meditation (zazen), and felt that long sitting had no benefit for Mind while making the body extremely uncomfortable.
In the fifties and sixties so-called Beat Zen was popular and very misleading. People began to feel that acting callously was Zen, ignoring the fact that the Buddha’s whole mission was based on compassion. Compassion is a word that does not appear on television or in the impersonal media in general. Young people grow up with the idea that the brutal conduct they observe on television is natural to humans. This does not hold out much hope for the growth of a compassionate society. Our economic life is based on selfishness in the form of heartless competition and this is the opposite of an enlightened point of view. After his great enlightenment experience, Hakuin Zenji declared, “After this, seeing the things of the world was like seeing the back of my own hand.” Such a non-dualistic view means that all things are seen as the self, not as hurdles to be ruthlessly surmounted. Jesus’ teachings were based on love and compassion. Why aren’t they taught anymore? Because different people call God by different names, does this mean there are many creators? Zen’s view is that we create ourselves in every moment.
D.T. Suzuki said that at the time of enlightenment there is a complete revulsion of the Chi. Turned backward, this would mean that with a total revulsion of the Chi there is Enlightenment. Doesn’t T’ai Chi Chih bring about a startling change in the character of the Chi? So T’ai Chi Chih is a means, maybe the best means, to enlightenment.
This article is published in Spiritual Odyssey.