Introduction to Zen
Siddartha Gautama Buddha, after his enlightenment
under the Bodhi Tree, taught that there is an eternal, endless
universe of Absolute Being, of which we are temporary incarnations.
As such, we are subject to delusions and temptations, pain and trouble,
illness and death. But by studying to find wisdom, living to do good, and concentrating to achieve control over mind and body, we can escape from the dominance of the physical world, and we can transmit a good inheritance of karma into our lives and later incarnations. Buddha taught that a succession of beings, each improving its common inheritance of karma, can eventually
rise to the state of nirvana, permanent enlightenment.
The achieving of enlightenment in Zen is not at all a rational or methodical process. It is completely non-rational, unexplainable and intuitive. (astro-note: exactly like Neptune) The Zen training in concentration, in the characteristic cross-legged position, and the Zen teaching of koans (non-logical riddles and stories) are designed to put
the student in a state where he can abandon logic and make the leap upward
into enlightenment. In Japanese this state of enlightenment is called satori.
Knowing ourselves to be part of Absolute Being, our ego and our
problems of ego ~ sin, pain, poverty, fear ~ all dissolve.
Having reached satori, we become aware that everything in all
this world about us, all other living and non-living things, even our lowest
animal functions, are part of Absolute Being ~ and are thus essentially holy.
Mountains and rocks*, trees and grass blades, elephants and microbes, all
share equally in the Eternal. *(pssst: if you've read Sandy's Bio, you will know that she felt totally redeemed when she read this, several years after the "God is in the rock" episode.)
This awareness permits us to go about our life with a new freedom, a new sureness, a new sense of doing the work of Absolute Being even
in the smallest or dirtiest task of the present life.
Beyond this awareness comes a sense of the interpenetration of all things.
Each of us is the apex of a cone of past ancestors, and the beliefs,
acts and events which determined them. Each of us is also a
point from which a new cone of individuals and events will
arise, each in some part a product of what we are.
We are all a part of Absolute Being, and
we are all a part of each other.
This concept has been described in the allegory of Indra's Net:
There is an endless net of threads throughout the universe.
The horizontal threads are in space, the vertical threads are in time.
At every crossing of threads is an individual, and every individual is a crystal
bead. The great light of Absolute Being illuminates and penetrates every
crystal bead; but also every crystal bead reflects not only the light
from every other crystal in the net, but also every reflection of
every reflection throughout the universe. Thus we learn that
we live in all other beings, all other things, ~ and that they
live in us. Our lives are richer, and more filled with
obligations, than we ever knew before.
The teachings of Zen
ultimately lead one to the Great Stillness
where all things stand without being touchable;
where all sounds are, without being heard.