This website is dedicated to the works of Manly P. Hall, a great occult scholar, philosopher and sage,

as a sign of deep respect and gratitude.

2 жовтня 2012 р.

The Spirit of Zen



    Zen has brought beauty and inner peace to the peoples of many Eastern nations. It has inspired great art and gentle customs. It has bestowed the accepting mind and the grateful heart, promoting everywhere graciousness of spirit and courage of conviction. Zen is part of our priceless heritage of wisdom and has survived the centuries because men have founded a vital help in generations of fear and uncertainty. As we now live in the most critical time ever recorded in history, we experience the pressing need for a better and deeper understanding of life.

    I will therefore try to explain in simple words what Zen means to me, not as an abstract system of belief, but as an immediate guide to conduct. Man's eternal quest is for the untroubled Self hidden in the depths of his own eternal being. To find this Self is to discover the purpose of human existence. To understand this Self is to know the laws of human redemption. And to live in harmony with this Self is to enjoy a serene existence.

    As the surface of the sea is troubled for the winds, so the thoughts and emotions of men are troubled by the storms of circumstance, but the deeper part of the sea are not troubled by the tempest. Any each of us is a region of peace, where Self abides forever in blessedness. Buddha said of the enlightened Self, "It is deep, immeasurable, unfathomable, like the Great Ocean".

    To most students of oriental philosophy Zen is a strange and austere school of self-discipline, cradled in the inscrutable East and utterly beyond the comprehension of Western man. It seems to be a doctrine of contradictions told in riddles and enigmas. Actually, it is the simple and direct path that leads to the end of suffering. Of this Buddha wrote, "Having achieved serenity, we become tranquil in body, tranquil in mind".

    The story of Zen begins more than 25 centuries ago, while Gautama Buddha was still preaching to his disciples, along the dusty roads of Hindustan. One day the great Indian sage came to a place called "The [...] Pit" and, gathering his students around him, discoursed to them about the mystery of the great peace. As he was speaking, a stranger stepped forward to make an offering; and bowing before the Buddha, placed in his hands a glorious [...] of golden color . The sage remained silent for a long time gazing serenely at the beautiful flower; at last one of the disciples smiled slightly. The master then turned to him saying, "I perceive that you alone have received the Doctrine". Thus the realization of the Quiet Way was silently transmitted to the waiting heart of the truth seeker.

    There is no adequate way of defining Zen. The word itself means "abstract meditation". Zen is not actually a religion, a philosophy or a science, as we understand these terms in the West. Yet it seeks the end which all these strive to attain. It is the immediate experience of an existence beyond mind by which all the habits and attitudes of the individual can be controlled and directed to their proper ends, the knowing of that which is eternally true.

    Bodhidharma was the first Patriarch of the Zen sect. In the early part of the 6th century this green-faced Buddha's monk made a long and perilous journey from India to China. His teaching had a profound and lasting effect on Chinese culture, and in due time it was transmitted to Japan where it has flourished ever since.

    According to Bodhidharma's original statement, Zen is transmitted without any definite reference to the sacred likings, though derived from them. It is a realization based upon inner experience alone, and is not dependent upon spoken or written instruction. It is concerned totally with the inner life of the individual and leads to enlightenment, to the understanding of one's own nature.

    Because Zen is not based upon the authority of a teacher or a teaching, it must result from discoveries which thoughtful persons make when they become weary of misfortune. These discoveries are called experiences, and each arises from the one directly preceding it, except the first which results from the simple realization that we are lack of courage and insight to live well-adjusted lives. Each experience proves itself as re-progress, so that in no time are we required to accept any belief or idea that we have not already discovered to be true. Thus we actually lead and guide ourselves. All we require is sincerity and a little courage - and these will become stronger as we experience their benefits.

    Our discovery of the practical values of Zen unfolds according to a pattern of Ten Steps.

    The First Step is the experience of the pressing need for greater understanding than we now possess.

    The Second Step is the experience that it is possible for us to attain to any degree of insight, necessary for our own internal security.

    The Third Step is the experience that inner peace can be attained only through the proper control of our thoughts and emotions.

    The Fourth Step is the experience that there can be no advancement of character without self-discipline.

    The Fifth Step is the experience that my self-discipline - the mental, emotional and physical life - can be brought under the control of enlightened purpose.

    The Sixth Step is the experience that control over thought and emotion can be attained without stress or tension of any kind.

    The Seventh Step is the experience that proper control makes possible the condition of complete inner quietude, by gradually reducing the power of external factors to disturb the inner life.

    The Eighth Step is the experience that through quietude it is possible to become receptive to all the beauty and wisdom in the Universe.

    The Ninth Step is the experience that we exist eternally in space and the true happiness and peace of soul result from complete acceptance of the Universal Plan and its laws.

    The Tenth Step is the experience that pure consciousness, beyond and superior to self-will and self-purpose, leads to [...] with nameless reality.

    Zen begins to have special meaning for us when we begin to realize that nature has bestowed upon each of us every internal resource, necessary to a serene existence. We can be well-adjusted human beings. All that is required is quiet determination, diligently sustained. This is described as "right-mindedness", leading to complete mental freedom.

    When we release ourselves from the tyranny of our own thoughts and emotions, we will discover true happiness. The [...] Zen masters had very little patience with foolish persons. They pointed out that we all have the power of choice. When we choose to live badly, we also choose to suffer. There is no need for self-pity and no place for self-pity in the teachings of Zen. The foolish gardener is miserable because of the weeds in his garden which bear witness only to his own neglect. The wise gardener keeps his garden free from weeds and has no cause for discontent. Weeds will not depart of themselves, nor will wrong habits correct themselves.

    Zen is a doctrine of direct action. The key is "NOW". This is the moment in which we can do. "But you say this moment is gone; even as we speak, 'now' becomes part of the past!" Actually, however, "now" can never be the past. Time moves on, but the "now" stays with us always. Man is a creature that can live only now. Everything else is a psychological invention. What we call "the past" is simply man's memory of the past - now. What we call "the future" is man's hope for the future which he is hoping - now. We are non-contemporary only because we bind ourselves to something outside of ourselves - time, and time becomes the greatest tyrant in our lives.

   Some will say that we need the moral instruction of the past and the incentive of future hope to keep us moving forward in life. Zen does not totally discard the past or the future, but insists that the only reason we lean so heavily upon them is because the present is a vacuum. Make the present dynamically right - and that which is good in the past will live, the rest will cease. Make the present right - and that which is necessary for the future will come.

    But how can the individual free himself from yesterday and tomorrow so that he can live now? Zen answers this with the concept of dynamic acceptance. We generally think of acceptance as resignation to inevitables, implying that we must bear our [...] with sad dignity. But in the dynamic acceptance of Zen there is a strong element of activeness. The word "dynamic" implies a certain eagerness like that of a child exploring the world of learning. It is accepting that the whole program is positive for [...] emotion toward self-improvement. Dynamic acceptance, as Zen interprets it, is an adventure in appreciation; it is the discovery not only of what we need to know, but of what we want to know. It provides us with more than knowledge or understanding by giving us the power to experience well-ordered and pleasant lives.

    There is also a Zen of right observation. And this revealing what should be accepted strengthens resolution and insight. We learn in due time that the lay of Universal Law is always the best way. To understand this noble law is to be wise, and to obey this law is to be virtuous. Through the quiet practice of right observation we become ever more attentive to ordinary happenings, discovering truth not in the extraordinary but in the common place.

    Zen acceptance enables us to act with simplicity, to become untangled from complications. When we accept the living motions of life as they are revealed to us by our own sense perceptions, we achieve a new relationship with life. All natural processes move to the fulfillment of that purposes, with magnificent directness. Nature in its wondrous workings sustains an infinite diversity of activity, but it is never really complicated. The complexity is within ourselves; and we solve this confusion with a simple, gracious willingness to be truthful and factual, and lovingly accept the obvious realities that are within our comprehension.

    There is a mysterious solving power that comes to us when we accept the rightness of the Divine Purpose. It is not easy, however, to make this acceptance in a meaningful way unless we have attained a state of inner quietude. And this peace from within is something that seems especially difficult to find in our way of life. We are surrounded constantly with the noise of traffic and industry, confused by the demands of friends and adversaries and burdened with obligations and responsibilities. In amidst of this sound and fury each of us must find his own way to a quietude of spirit. First of all, we should remember that it is not necessary to take on confusion simply because it exists around us; we can move through it, and beyond it - to values that are forever strong. The Zen disciple does with a simple statement that deserves almost thoughtful consideration. In the face of [...] says, "THIS is not I. And because it is not I, it cannot disturb my consciousness unless I permit it to do so."

    Through acceptances we gradually learn to become aware of the lessons of life, and most of all - what these lessons mean to us.  We become aware of the realities of laws and principles, forever operating in the world around us and the world within us. Through these discoveries we come to ever-solid foundation under faith. We learn to love laws that once we feared. We experience the Universe as beautiful and lawful, and e find the security that comes to those who take their refuge in the law.

    The practice of Zen, therefore, helps us to live with Law, to move with Law - and finally perfect faith to permit the Law to move us according to its own will. To understand the laws governing life we must accept the Zen concept of Universal Motion. Motion always reveals itself through change; as motion is eternal, changes [are] inevitable. Man is an ever-changing being in an ever-changing world. Yet with his mind he fears and resists change. Zen insight helps us to meet the motions of life graciously and wisely. In our daily living this concept of motion gives us a new perspective on life; while it does not mean an obvious change in what we do, it does mean a change in the attitude behind what we do. If we believe in a moving Universe, if we believe that it is perfectly right and proper that things should change, we are released from this desperate effort to prevent experiences that cannot be prevented.

    One way to understand motion, as it applies to personal affairs, is to remember the way we were living 20 or 30 years ago, the house where we dwelt, the people we knew, and the patterns which made up our families and friendships. As we visualize these bygone days, we see many faces in our minds that are no longer with us in this world; situations that have broken up and vanished; old houses that have been torn down to make room for freeways; quiet gardens where great buildings now stand. Day by day, the irresistible motion of life itself has brought these changes.

    Zen points out that in this mundane sphere the new must come to us, and the old - depart, for there can be nothing changeless for change itself. As the Zen monk remembers the faces he no longer sees, he realizes that some days his own face will be among those no longer to be seen. He is not saddened by this thought, but accepts it with perfect faith as proper, necessary and good. This constant appearing and disappearing of things is not an endless pageantry of sorrow and loss, but continuing evidence of the perfect working of Universal Law. In a world of eternal motion man himself cannot stand still. Like the Earth with all its creatures is moving through time and space from an unknowable beginning to an unknown end, he is in a state of ever becoming that which is not yet attained, and ever outgrowing that which he has already attained. Man grows because the Self within him grows, and this Self becomes a little wiser every day. He would be in a [...] condition indeed if the rhythm of life did not impel him to move along the road that leads beyond the stars.

    Western philosophies have generally considered the Ego, or Self, as a conscious and permanent entity to which all experiences occur. Thus the world around man is ever changing, but the being within is ever the same. Such a concept naturally leads to an aggressive attitude toward life. The emphasis is upon individual achievement, even at the expense of Common Good. As the captain of his own destiny, each man tries with every skill at his disposal to steer his little ship to a safe haven across the troubled sea of living. In most cases, however, the journey ends in a psychological confusion which might be likened a cosmic [...]. There is something sad in this idea of a lonely superman struggling desperately to advance his own purposes in a universe that he can neither conquer nor comprehend.

    Zen does not accept the concept of a fixed and unchanging Ego. What we term "the Self", is the constantly unfolding sum of our own experiences. We are not the same person that we were ten years ago, or even yesterday, because we are part of a moving life force, the motion of consciousness has no fixed boundaries. We are always free to adjust to new situations. We attain peace of mind by reducing the demands of the Ego and by relaxing away from the pressure of those self-purposes which open us to pain and trouble. Instead of thinking of the Self as being divided from all other Selves, it is wiser to readjust our thinking and seek ways to become one with the eternal motion of all life, through time and space.

    There is a tendency to assume that all change leads to death, and that beyond death there is only uncertainty. In Zen thinking, however, death is not the end, but a release from restraint against change; it is freedom, the restoration of motion, the being-again relief to the temporary barrier of placeness to return to the infinite state of spaceness, which is its natural home. If therefore we accept this Zen concept, we will overcome one of the great obstacles to our peace of mind, we will realize that change is the gate of infinite opportunity, freeing us from all limitations and bringing us new friends and new experiences. Zen also teaches us that the mental nature is not the faithful servant of some immortal entity locked within us; the human mind is a mixed blessing, it resists change, falls into moods, remembers all grudges and binds us to the mistake in opinions of the past. Because each person has a mind, there are as many private schemes in this world as there are people. When everyone tries desperately to force his own desires upon others, the end must be frustration and discontent. In Zen tolerance is not the grudging admission that others may be right, but the clear realization that we may be wrong. The Eastern mystic fully realizes that the only reformer who is popular is the one who is improving himself.

    We can escape the negative consequences of self-will, self-interest and self-pity only if our mental instrument is properly disciplined. It takes a great deal of courage to attain detachment from a tyranny of self-centeredness, but the victory is well worth the cost. In order that the mind make reform-proper functions, it must be brought under the discipline of Universal Purpose. All the sages have given us the formula: unless the body is controlled, the emotions cannot be regulated. Unless the emotions are regulated, the mind cannot be governed. And unless the mind is governed, there can be no release from suffering. Thus we must constantly change for the better if we wish to live in harmony with the Eternal Purpose. That we have the power to change is truly the secret of our salvation, and for this power we should be forever grateful.

    Long ago, a practical code setting for the basic rules for enlightened conduct was given to the world. As we advance along the path of self-discipline, this code will help us to understand the quiet dignity of the Zen "Light Way". It has been written, "The foundation of personal security is harmony". When individuals cultivate friendliness among themselves, the resulting concord makes possible the immediate solution of all problems and the rapid advancement of all concerned. When men work together, [this] but cannot be accomplished.

    When the supreme object of faith is noble, sufficient and acceptable, it provides a refuge in the heart against all corruption, reveal therefore this just law, and by so doing reveal the nobility of your nature and your convictions. Let the significance of honorable conduct be deeply considered. All things must be done in honor and by honor, or they will not endure.

    If the people observe good faith, one with another, no disaster is to be feared. It is proper to be constantly mindful of the virtues and abilities of others. Be ever watchful, therefore, lest skill or wisdom be wasted because you have not observed it in another person. Be glad when it is your privilege to reward another because of his merit. All men should live and think moderately, so that they will not be inspired to advance their own estates to exploiting their privileges or dealing unfairly with other men, dealing partially and without brightness of heart with those around you. And be not overinfluenced by the wealth or worldly honor of your associates. If that happens that we envy others, they in turn will be encouraged to envy us; the evil results of these envies are without limits.

    Let us, therefore, seek diligently for those more intelligent than ourselves, for these are the greater protectors of the Common Good. Be very careful, therefore, to bestow appreciation upon those who deserve praise. It may happen that we refrain from mutual helpfulness for selfish motives; this leads to many difficulties and weakens the bonds of men's friendships.

    When we speak, it is wise to express, but never with intent to impress - words are messengers, not soldiers. When we tell what we have done, we talk of the dead. When we tell what we will do, we speak of the unborn. We reveal the present by conduct, not by words.

    Let us never demand that which is unreasonable and always reveal concern for the happiness and security of those around us. It is a serious fault to be unmindful of the lowly. How can we take upon ourselves to distinguish that which is absolutely right from that which is absolutely wrong? We are, one with another, wise and foolish, like a ring that has no end. If therefore others rise to anger or give way to resentment, let us be more fearful of our own faults and more anxious to correct them than to change the ways of others.

    At first thought these ancient rules, with their emphasis upon the basic virtues of right conduct, may not seem especially profound. But remember that Zen is a path of immediate action, by which conduct leads directly to enlightenment. It is not a panacea for the dissolution and escape for the neurotic, or a fascinating adventure for the broad-intellectual. It is a straight road leading to the solution of the problems of human ignorance and unhappiness. Zen begins with the simplest and most difficult of all codes - the code of self-control. Although the mastery of Zen is the labor of a lifetime, the experience of Zen is possible to any individual who is able to attain tranquility of heart and mind.

    What is most necessary, is a continuing acceptance of the eternal wisdom and beauty in the world and in our hearts. As the Zen mood is strengthened within us, we experience a wonderful keenship with all that lives. In that perfect quietude, which is true mediation, our faith is renewed and we know, as a certainty of consciousness, the purpose for existence and our own place in a timeless Plan.

    The spirit of Zen confers the certainty of good which helps to make life a peaceful and friendly span of years. By freeing the mind from the burden of small thoughts there is more time and energy for the accomplishment of worthwhile things. The heart is no longer disturbed by fear or remorse; it can enjoy the rich experiences of true friendship and affection. It is natural for the bird to sing and for the flower to bloom, and it is equally proper that we should all bring joy to ourselves and others.

    There is an old legend of a saintly monk who took walks in the forest. And wherever he placed his feet, [...] violets grew. Let something of this mystery touch each of us that are passed through the years bemarked with those beauties of the soul, which not only bear witness to our own attainment but guide the footsteps of all who come after - to live in concord with our neighbor, to share the kindly wisdom of the sky and earth, to be impelled to love the beautiful and serve the good, and to face all the changes in life with serenity and hope. To so live every day is to abide in the spirit of Zen.

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