Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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May 10, 2015

READER: Zen Keys by Thich Naht Hanh


This question has intrigued many practitioner's of Zen over centuries. It is probably one of the most famous Koan of Zen thoughts, written by Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768). If you think about it, it might take you a life time to know but if you let it seep into you, while you go about your day-to-day activity, with unattached mindfulness, it might give you a sudden clap of enlightenment, what is known as 'Satori' in Zen school of thoughts.

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In Buddhism, perhaps the most powerful thought and action that binds almost all sects together is mindfulness. When Mahayana Buddhism reached China, it was developed into a school of Zen (then known as Chan in Chinese, derived from Sanskrit word Dhyan – Meditation). And as it reached farther shores of Korea, Vietnam and later on to Japan, this concept of mindfulness transformed into satori or enlightenment. Zen, to my mind is every day practice of doing things with unattached mindfulness, attuned to Buddha – the enlightened one.

It is believed that the true reality is possible to realize in the illusive world (Maya – a concept of Hinduism which believes in the non-existence of the world as we experience it through our senses) we live in. The process to attain that reality is through liberating our minds from preconceived notions and concepts, tainted by the day-to-day existence. The stress of the daily life is only due to our mind, shadow dancing with the unreality of the world around us. This struggle produces anxiety, worries of future and repentance of past. We move from one moment to another, cutting time into pieces that are not complete as well as untrue demarcation of our living. It’s the timelessness, we are born into and will remain forever, in one form or another. This universal form is what one looks for, when practicing Zen or searching for enlightenment.

In the shadow dancing with my mind, I came across one of the most beautiful book about Zen thoughts. Zen Keys, written  by famous Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, ZEN KEYS, that I believe is one of the best book to explain the ZEN philosophy in its utmost simplicity. But before I write some of the most powerful thoughts from the book, let me give you...

A Brief Biography of the Author
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

Thich Nhat Hanh has published over 100 titles and sold over three million books in America alone, some of the best-known include Being Peace, Peace Is Every Step, The Miracle of Mindfulness, The Art of Power, True Love and Anger.

TEXT & IMAGE: Curtsy


A special transmission outside the scriptures, not based on words or letter, a direct pointing to the heart of reality so that we might see into our own nature and wake up.” Zen according to Bodhidharma

Zen has been transmitted directly by the Buddha and has nothing at all to do with scriptures and doctrines you are studying.” – Bodhidharma

If one thing exists, everything exists, even a speck of dust. If one thing is empty, everything is empty, even the whole universe.” Dao Hanh – 12th century Vietnamese Zen Monk.

The Language Of Zen

The essence of Zen is awakening. This is why one does not talk about Zen, one experiences it.
Monks meditating in Bodh Gaya, click here..

The language of Zen is one of these ways. It must:
1) Possess the power of liberating us from prejudices and attachments to knowledge,
2) Be suitable to the person to whom it is addressed, and
3) Be skillful and effective.

The Kung-An (Koan) And Its Function

There is a big difference between a Kung-an and a math problem – the solution of the math problem is included in the problem itself, while the response to the kung-an lies in the life of the practitioner.

The Significance Of Kung-an

If the Kung-an does not produce an effect on us, it can be for two reasons: The first is that the kung-an is not correct for us; the second is that we are not yet ready to receive it. In either case, it is necessary to allow the kung-an to act and not make efforts at deduction and reason in order to find in it a conceptual significance.

The Mind Must Be Ripe

To help practitioners cross the river to the shore of awakening, Zen masters hold out the staff of skillful means. But the disciple must grab hold of it.

If you are not yet ripe, all efforts at waking you up will be in vain. Continue your daily practice of mindfulness, observing the cypress tree in your own courtyard, with all your peace, serenity, and presence. The practice is enjoyable. There is no need to waste time or distract ourselves. Then when a real kung-an is offered to us, we will be ready.

The Mind And The False Mind

“All phenomenon of being, since time immemorial, are independent of concepts and words. Concepts and words cannot transform them or separate them from their true nature.” – In “The Awakened of Faith in the Mahayana (Mahayana Sraddotpada)”

Reality In Itself

Enlightened Buddha - click here
The substance and the cause of nirvana is the nature of awakening – Buddhata. The Buddhata does not produce nirvana. This is why we say nirvana–without-cause or uncreated… The nature of awakening among living beings is the same. Although living beings appear and are transformed, the always dwell in the nature of awakening.” – The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

“The true nature is non-nature. It has nothing to do with production or destruction”. – Master Nguyen Hoc

To say a thing is easy but most people will allow themselves to be taken in by the things said, so it is better to say nothing, to “understand without words.” - Vinitaruci

A Non-Conceptual Experience

The world of Zen is the world of pure experience without concepts.

Life is not a representation of life. Reality in itself transcends all descriptions and ideas. The world of Zen is the world of tathata itself.

The Principle Of Non-Duality

All phenomenon are mind, mind is all. Mind contains rivers, mountains, moon, and sun” – Japanese Zen Master Dogen

“All phenomenon can be understood to be in two categories: mind and matter, but on the level of awakening, all is mind. Object and mind are both marvelous. Mind is matter, matter is mind. Matter does not exist outside of mind. Mind does not exist outside of matter. Each is in the other. This is called the ‘non-duality of mind and matter”. – Nagarjuna in Treatise of Great Understanding (Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra)

Three Gates Of Liberation

Emptiness (Sunyata)
Signlessness (Animitta)
Aimlessness (Apranihita)

In Mahayana Buddhism in general, and Zen in particular, a close relationship can be found among the three gates…

Absence of an absolute identity in each thing (Emptiness) is manifested by the non-conceptual (Signlessness) knowledge in which a subject in quest of an object does not exist (Aimlessness). In true knowledge of reality, the distinction between subject and object, obtaining and obtained, no longer exists.

Process Of Enlightenment

The representations, concepts are not true things that can be obtained; they are only the 
From Thich Naht Hanh Page
product of discrimination. The true nature of things, liberated from this discrimination, is thusness. The characteristics of thusness are reality, exactitude, ultimate end, true nature, foundations and non-attainment”. – from Lankavtara Sutra

All those who are capable of making good use of this exposition in order to penetrate into thusness can transcend concepts of continuity and discontinuity, get rid of discrimination-imagination and reach the spiritual experience of self-realization. This is called true wisdom.

Although Zen declares that it is not based on words and concepts, it in fact manipulates words and concepts in order to reveal the reality that transcends words and concepts.

Zen is not study of Zen, Zen is life. Zen is direct contact with reality.

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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