Regina Zen Sangha

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What is Zen?

Zen is a practice; a way of living that is focused on being awake, finding joy, happiness and enlightenment in the present moment. It is a practice that measures its success by the degree of peace one experiences in their life. Zen is a 2600 year old method, evolving from Gotama Buddha in India, which then spread to China, Vietnam, Japan, and all over the far east.   From Zen practice one attains enlightenment, which is the total eradication of suffering from our present lives, while peace and joy are the fruits of its core practice.

The core practice of Zen (a.k.a. Dhyan, Chan, Thiền) is the most direct method to attain a deep understanding of the true nature of human existence. Zen emphasis is on the practice of meditation, while one arrives at the eradication of suffering through the understanding gained from the intuitive wisdom of simply sitting and observing reality in the present moment without the filters of subjective interpretation.

The earlier Zen masters of China used methods of self-inquiry or a series of questions without logical answers (also called Koan or Công Án) in order to direct students to observe and focus on the question, which would eventually break the mind's barrier to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of consciousness. This breaking of the mental barrier, or the brief moment of awakening that occurs is called a Satori (or Kensho, Đốn Ngộ). Usually, the student would come back to the teacher and describe what s/he understood and the teacher would then confirm his or her understanding (also called Ấn Chứng) and direct the student towards further practice.

When the student's understanding and practice is solidified, the teacher then confirms proper transmission of the Dharma and the student is then authorized to teach and guide others of his or her understanding into the true nature of life through non-dual teachings and the practice of Zen.

The practice of Zen is usually called the "method outside of indoctrination of Buddhism" (giáo ngoại biệt truyền).  It is sometimes seen as being secretive, or perplexing by the ordinary person. There are many examples of Zen masters acting strangely or talking with each other strangely, which many find puzzling, however, the teachings were meant only for the person to whom the words or actions are communicated towards. So others rarely catch onto the hidden meanings behind the teaching for a certain individual.  

The reason for the confusion is because the Truth of the Zen practice (a.k.a. Enlightenment) is non-conceptual. It is not for the rational mind to comprehend otherwise one could simply read a book about Zen and be done with it. We know that one could not simply read a book about playing guitar and be expected to be able to play like the author of the book when s/he is finished reading. In fact, for those with no musical experience, the words might not even make sense and yet for some reason, we expect ourselves to be able to understand the Truth of existence rationally and conceptually, as if we could fit the infinite into the finite space of our minds. If you are confused by Zen, that is a good place to start.

For many years Zen was viewed as something that must be taught in secret by an individual master to a student. The reason for this is that each individual is unique with their own unique conceptual and perceptual clinging in life. The teachings are sometimes on a one to one personal basis so that the student can ask any personal questions or describe any unique experiences that may come up in order to fully benefit from the guidance of the teacher.  

In our daily lives we are so busy with making a living and fulfilling life's many responsibilities that for the average person, the study of Zen seems inaccessible. Contrary to what many believe, Zen is a very simple practice that can easily be incorporated into our daily lives in order to enrich our experience of the present moment, every moment of our lives. One thing Zen is not is a practice removed from the reality of this world. Try it out and see for yourself.