Lesson
4

Zen - An Approach to "Huh?"

Asking "huh?" with the logical mind

Our confusion and inability to see our true selves do not result solely from our rational discursive mind.

What are the advantages of an analytical mind? A discursive mind? What are the disadvantages? Do you experience “mind” that is not discursive and logical, that is beyond rational thought?

If we are designing a bridge or balancing a checkbook, logical and analytical thinking are advantageous. But when we look carefully, we see that discursive, linear thinking is only useful for certain kinds of tasks; for others it is quite useless. Like the hammer or the toothbrush, discursive thought is a tool intended for certain kinds of jobs: If you use a hammer to brush your teeth, or a toothbrush to drive nails, you are not likely to meet with great success.

When attempting to approach ultimate reality, we have already created aa gap into which we fall, dualistically separating "it" from "us."

Reflect on how you identify with your intellect.

Not entrusting ourselves, relying entirely on our intellect, we disown and lose contact with an extremely important aspect of ourselves, our intuitive and direct knowledge.

And what do we do with our intellect?

We look for the sources of our dis-ease outside ourselves - in social, political, economic, or interpersonal terms.

We lead lives that feel like a whirlwind of events, an endless round of conditioned actions and reactions.

Or we simply turn away from this disheartening view and try to lose ourselves in the surface of our lives.

Are you finding this approach to understanding life ultimately unsatisfying inadequate in dealing with life's truly fundamental questions?

Notice the contrast between wanting to get away from it all and being one with it all.

Sooner or later in most of our lives, there comes a time when we sense, more or less painfully, that something is fundamentally not quite right. Perhaps it’s an inkling that we have overlooked something in the midst of so much busyness. Perhaps we don't quite know exactly what is missing, but we know we miss it.

Zazen – a radical approach to “Huh?”

Sitting Zen is a “way” — a path for getting in touch with the true Self. Not just with the narrow self or personality; that much can be accomplished through psychotherapy or a number of other disciplines. But sitting deals with the "big-S"-Self, that most basic level of reality that has nothing to do with culture, social status, intellect, or even personality.

Zazen — Zen practice — deals with who you really are beyond all the specifics of time and place. And who you really are, ultimately, is the universe itself.

Beyond experiencing the Self in this way, zazen is also a direct expression of what Shakyamuni Buddha found — of what you, yourself a Buddha, find out. That’s why you’ll discover that sitting is not just a tool — a means toward an end — but also a way of life that is a model of living itself.

Enlightenment is not a destination — and zazen is not a bus.

Joan Sutherland Roshi

So….

I said Zen addresses two questions: “huh”  and  “so…” The second question asks: Given what what you’ve found asking “Huh?” — looking at your life and at the meaning of your existence, of reality — what are the implications for how to live? And since this discovery process is endless, the asking "so..." is endless.

Before learning how to do zazen, you will explore what we mean by zazen or sitting Zen. Keep in mind, however, that zazen and Zen are not concepts to be understood by reading. In the end you will know zazen by doing it.