Zen of the Day

May 4, 2010 · 3 comments

As you may or may not know, my daily morning reading/meditation comes from my Zen-a-Day calendar.  I’ve ripped off plenty of those pages on plenty of these here pages already.  Yesterday’s reading was as follows:

A tea master asked his son to rake the leaves in the temple garden.  When the boy was finished, the tea master did not approve.  The boy then returned to the garden and took great care to rake it again, so thoroughly that not one leaf or twig remained.  Still the tea master did not approve.  The boy was baffled, not knowing what else he could do.  The tea master stepped into the garden and shook a tree, allowing a few autumn leaves to drift down upon the immaculately swept grounds.

Aside from the nice visual created in my mind, I’m not so sure how well this jives with my current understanding of Zen Buddhism.  I suppose I’m cultivating more of an active-zen than anything else right now, which is why the note I placed on the calendar leaf this morning was “zen as an ‘art’ concept ≠ zen itself.”

I think society’s current understanding of Zen is more as it relates to visual experiences than anything else.  We see a spartan room with one (or a few) carefully placed objects and say “that’s very zen”.

Caveat:  I am not a Zen Buddhist monk, nor has my study of Zen Buddhism been what one might call exhaustive.  I’ve read a bunch of things and can only give you my impression of what Zen means.  I am by no means an expert.  Though perhaps I am.

It doesn’t really matter anyway – the concept of ‘expertise’ doesn’t really fit in with Zen anyway, I think.

This is my third year with the Zen-a-Day calendar.  So far, there have been few repetitions, for which I’m thankful.  So to get back to what I wanted to say in the first place:

For me, zen (not much point in capitalizing) is, to a certain extent, about stripping things of their perceptual accoutrement, but it’s also about those perceptions themselves.  They’re all we have.  Zen is about the moment.  While my perceptions in this moment are unavoidably shaped by the past (perceptions in other moments), the past isn’t now.  And zen is about the now.

So, insofar as the reading placed a pleasant image in my head for a moment, it’s that moment that’s the bit of zen, not the characteristics of the image itself – a few scattered autumn leaves on a pristine bit of ground.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth May 5, 2010 at 09:36

I’m no expert either, but I see the zen in the last action of the little story: it’s more a lesson to the boy, saying that even though you are done for the moment, and it’s about the now, but it’s also about the journey; the zen that’s happening “now” is always, continually happening and will always continue to happen even though all we can experience is “now.”

Not sure if I explained that very well, lol, but I did get a quick flash of understanding, which happened quite often in my Asian Philosophy class, I would feel the understanding but not be able to articulate it verbally. Which is a very important feature of enlightenment, that it’s an experience that you cannot relate or share with any one other person because everyone’s moment, if they reach it, is different.

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niceguyted May 5, 2010 at 16:46

That’s very zen.

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Captain Rick May 7, 2010 at 13:51

What about a mushy swamp on Dagobah?

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