Sunday, January 22, 2012

Zazen is Silly and Meditation is Useless

(This is the first entry in a series about R.H. Blyth's translation of Mumonkan, available from Hokuseido Books.)

The Reading:

Jinshu used to tell his disciples to concentrate their minds on quietness, to sit doing zazen for a long time, and not to lie down as far as possible. One of these disciples went to Eno and asked him about it. Eno said, "To concentrate the mind on quietness is a disease of the mind, and not Zen at all. What an idea, restricting the body to sitting all the time! That is useless. Listen to my verse:

To sit and not lie down during one's life-time
To lie and never sit during one's death-time,
Why should we thus task
This stinking bag of bones?"
Zen and Zen Classics, Volume 2, Chapter 3
R.H. Blyth


Eno was the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism. Blyth notes that Jinshu was asked about Eno's rejection of zazen, and Jinshu replied, "Did the Fifth Patriarch make a mistake?" Blyth says that this suggests Jinshu was paying more attention than people thought, and I agree.

Why is meditation useless? I am starting this blog because, while there are many many books on Zen now, and there are many many people meditating all over America, there are not many more Zen Masters. If meditation led to enlightenment, we would have a much richer and deeper bench of Zen Masters both on and off the interwebs.

Consider how many people meditate now! People swear by it as a way of feeling better, living better, getting in touch with themselves, finding peace, and more! Meditation must be good for something! I can hardly disagree. If Zen were about living better, feeling better, getting in touch with yourself, or even peace, then hey, meditation would be a great idea.

But that's not what Zen is about.

Like a color you haven't seen before, no one can describe it to you. But anyone who reads carefully can tell you what Zen isn't. It isn't peace, and it isn't happiness.

Zen is both The Sword That Kills, and The Sword That Makes Alive Again. But it isn't peace. It isn't happiness.

If you want peace and happiness, try somewhere else. I hear they hand it out in churches.

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