Experiential Zen Philosophy

Life is not time-bound or accomplishment-bound, but rather experience-bound.  Life is but a collection of experiences, and nothing more.  Some experiences are better than others, while some are just boring.  But it’s in enjoying these experiences where we begin to enjoy life.  It should not matter what the final destination is.  The path you are on, filled with rich experiences, is what you should be enjoying.  I could never do something I didn’t enjoy just to get to this fictitious destination, somewhere in the future where all my problems are supposedly solved.  But that kind of thinking sort of validates that our suffering is okay.

I’ll never forget a Buddhist saying a co-worker told me:  “We shrink from suffering, but love its causes.”  And this rings very true.  Some people will validate their suffering if it is for something they will eventually enjoy.  For example, actors and musicians often suffer deeply financially before making major money.  And they love the fact that they want to become a musician, but suffer before they can actually survive on this type of lifestyle.  And I almost wish that these people did not hold this framework of, “oh someday it will get better, it will happen in a few months.”  I wish that wasn’t the outlook these people had because it is essentially limitng, projecting happiness in the near future, always just out of your grasp.  It’s not the optimal way to live.

So, I bring another way of thinking into the mix.  Why can’t you be happy throughout the whole journey?  Why can’t you view all these experiences as an opportunity for growth and learning so that you immerse yourself in all of its glory, loving every second of your life, whether good or bad, not letting them conflict with your inner sense of peace and happiness.  I beleive this is what they call enlightenment.  Not being so attached to outcomes and relishing every experience.  I guess it is quite a different way of thinking than I was used to, but I rather do not like how people look at things very negatively because, in all essence, there is no real negativity, there is just existence. 

It’s all about perception.  I remember when I had a brain tumor, cancerous, and how debilitating it was, but I did not view this as something terrible, something that would force me to give up all hope, but I viewed it as a challenge, something I would have to tackle.  I rather liked the fact that life was giving me these challenges, these obstacles to overcome because without them, was life really worth living?  We have to up the ante sometimes to make life more vivid, more interesting.  I want to have good experiences and want to write about them.  And I want to do this with complete absence of fear or anxiety.  There’s a great Zen story about a fearless Zen master and it goes something like this:

During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived – everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn’t treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger. “You fool,” he shouted as he reached for his sword, “don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!” But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved. “And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?”

When I read this Zen story, I started bursting out with laughter and understanding.  I completely understood it.  This was, in essence, one of the changing moments in my life.  I love how these stories sort of give a different persepctive on life and totally alter your way of thinking.  I love the fact that the master said what he did because it reinforces a point:  You have nothing to fear except fear itself.  I believe one variation of that story depicts the general walking away, frustrated.  Just some thoughts about how I interpereted it.

The external world governs us when we should be governing the external world.  We allow ourselves to be governed by fear, governed by our external reality, when all we really need is inner security. when you know what it is you want to do with your life or you love to live in peace and harmony, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  I believe the ultimate goal is to transcend fear.  There is really only one way to do this, become enlightened.  Enjoy the path as well as the destination, fear free.  Until next time……

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One Response to Experiential Zen Philosophy

  1. Jay H. says:

    Hey,

    Awesome blog you got here. Keep up the great work, a lot of it is really enlightening. Hope it starts to get more hits, definitely deserves it. I’ll probably comment on some of your entries if you don’t mind.

    To be completely honest, I probably I read that story about the Zen master three times. I don’t completely understand it yet, but like you said, understanding comes with experience.

    There are so many great lessons to be learned from feudal Japan. I’m in the process of reading the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green, great stuff, I highly recommend it. The author uses historical examples to explain how these 48 laws of power have always applied to this world. There are tons of great examples specifically from Chinese and Japanese history. You should check it out, I’d really like to hear your opinion on his writing.

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