In the Age of Information change is very fast; the differences between rich and poor have increased; people get easily get lost or feel distracted. This pace brings people to Zen practice with the hope it will bring peace of mind.
But what is Zen? How can we practice it in our everyday life?
About Zen, a lot could be said, but that would not be Zen, so the ancients keep silent. Perhaps some translations may help; Chan(Chinese) translates as “peaceful contemplation.” Dhy?na (Sanskrit) translates as “meditation.”
To many people Zen Practice seems inexplicable. Some people think that they have to simplify their thoughts or try to have an empty mind. Some people think that Zen must be practiced through meditation before it can be recognized as being Zen! In fact, this is wrong. Zen practice can be simply defined as: being aware of your thoughts and maintaining mindfulness.
First we need to know our thoughts – the thoughts that come from our heartmind.
Usually most people aren’t aware of their thoughts. After they start Zen Practice they start to find out just how many thoughts they have. Then they start to wonder why they have so many? In fact, the number of their thoughts hasn’t actually increased. It just that they have become aware of the existence of a constant stream of thought flowing through their heartmind.
There are a lot of different kinds of thoughts in our mind. That’s because we have six indriyas or sense-organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. From the six sense-organs spring the six fields of the senses, e.g. the field of vision is form and color; the field of hearing is sound; the field of smell is scent; the field of taste has the five flavors; the field of touch includes all physical feelings from your skin, muscles, bones, & organs.
The field of mental discernment produces all different kinds of thoughts and vexations. Thoughts are inherent in life. It’s a basic human ability. If you do not have this kind of thinking ability then you are no different from a statue of Buddha. A Buddha statue can meditate for millennia but still cannot reach enlightenment. A worm has many senses, but because it is missing mental discernment it can’t become aware of its thoughts, so it can’t become enlightened.
Thoughts arise in your heartmind through three stages. Initially the heartmind is simply a recipient. It receives purely what the eardrums pick up, solely what the eyes register, simply what the tongue tastes… basically the raw information gathered by the senses.
Next comes the conceptual heartmind. Here the pure information receive from six sense-organs is given labels. E.g. this sound is from the wind, this vision is of a stone, this taste is of an apple….etc.
The third state of heartmind is the emotional heart. This state is also the source of vexation. The emotional heart now applies abstract thought to the new information. For example rain means different things to different people. Some people don’t like it because they already have too much water or because it is inconvenient for them to go out. Some people like the rain because it reminds them of a happy memory or because they can sell more rain gear. Even though rain is just rain it has different meanings.
Most people spend most of their time in the third state of heartmind and are not aware of their thoughts.
Zen practice aims to bring awareness, or mindfulness, of the second and third state of heartmind. Mindfulness is a calm awareness of one’s bodily functions, sensations (feelings), thoughts and perceptions, and consciousness itself at any given moment. When people regularly do Zen practice then their mind will stay in the second state more often. In this state the heartmind is not scattered. A person becomes more aware of the reality of things. When coupled with clear comprehension with whatever is taking place, mindfulness becomes a power. It’s the antidote to delusion.
Meditation is one part of Zen practice. It can help people focus. Yet Zen masters tell us “Zen is life” so Zen practice can’t be confined just to meditation or contemplation.
An important concept of Zen practice is not trying to create or exclude anything from your mind. You don’t suppress your thoughts. Just let your thoughts naturally present themselves. Then be aware what you are thinking of (kind of like an watching the TV of your mind).
Zen practice makes the mind clear, similar to staring in a bright mirror and clear water. Then there are no repulsive things in the world.
Zen practice brings emotional serenity, just like walking under a tranquil sky. Then there is no vexation in your mind.
What are your thoughts?