Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Zen, Christianity and Abiding

As in Christianity, there are different forms of Buddhism. Zen is a form of Buddhism that emphasizes direct experience over all else. In Zen they say, Kill the Buddha, or, the Buddha is a piece of poo. This is because they want pracitcioners to focus on their immediate experience and not get caught up thinking about any aspect of the religion. In Zen, one deals with one's internal struggles by sitting with them, neither accepting nor rejecting them. In this way one is released (ideally) from the pointless suffering of desiring the moment to be different from how the moment is, allowing one to transcend the problem while still experiencing it. Here are some quotes from Shunryu Suzuki, one of my favorite Zen authors

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.
Shunryu Suzuki 

Preparing food is not just about yourself and others. It is about everything!
Shunryu Suzuki 

The world is its own magic.
Shunryu Suzuki 

When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.
Shunryu Suzuki 

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.
Shunryu Suzuki 

In Christianity this idea exists as well and is sometimes referred to as abiding. Here is a good quote from Chapter 7 of The Imitation of Christ:

it is God's to give and to console, when He will, and as much as he will, and whom he will, as it shall please Him, and no further


In Buddhism the seemingly arbitrary ups and downs are attributed to fluctuations in Karma rather than to the mysterious topic of what pleases God. In either case, one thing is clear, there is no moral or ethical formula that brings reward. However, abiding in the moment, in mental silence, brings a transcendent reward, and it is out of that silence that truly moral and ethical actions arise.

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