EDITION: December - February '07


Zen is the teaching of the moment, awareness in action, not separated from everyday life. Zen manifests itself as awareness, spontaneity and compassion in every action.

Zen-Buddhism allegedly spread eastwards during the 6th century with the journey of Bodhidharma from India to China. 600 years later, in the 12th century, the teachings reached Japan. After a further 600 years Zen spread across the Pacific to the West and first took hold in California. Shortly later it reached Europe. Zen-Meditation is even taught here in Christian monasteries.

The most important exponent in the West is the deceased D.T. Suzuki. In his magnificent piece of work “The Quintessence of Buddhism” Suzuki exposes the the real character of Zen: “The powerful construction of Buddhism relies on two pillars: great wisdom and great compassion. Wisdom comes from compassion and compassion from wisdom, because in effect they are both one.”

The climax of buddhist thought is the idea that the universe is an enormous stage on which a play of endlessly complicated interactions of energy is performed. The philosophy of “as well as” is the essence of Zen. It means: acting in the moment, without being attached to things.
Zen doesn’t rely on faith or hope, Zen relies solely on experience. It is about being so awake in every moment that a decision can be taken or an action completed which is appropriate in this moment, even if it may be wrong in another moment or place.

This ability is expressed for eg. in Zen painting. No hesitation is allowed, no erasing, no redrawing, no retouching, no redoing. Once drawn, the lines stay forever immovable. Inspiration is something spontaneous, momentary.

Similarly, Zen is also practised in the art of drinking tea (Chado), archery (Kyudo), fencing (Kendo), self-defence (Judo, Aikido) – although the martial arts, the way they are taught in the West, often miss the spiritual basics of Zen.

Zen masters are “Masters of the Moment” and under their guidance, students or followers are taught to free themselves from the cage of mental activity.
In its purest form Zen is Za-zen; sitting in a state of wide-awaken attention without thoughts or concentration on an object. Silent sitting is an important part of the Zen school because it is about the immediate experience of the recognition of the essential being.

The practical application of Zen in our human society follows the vision that society (the world) is an organism, which individual parts or units are bound together in the closest way. If one part comes to harm in any way, it is certain that the other parts will sooner or later follow.

The feeling of belonging together is of absolute necessity for the well-being of the whole community and this feeling of togetherness is strongest when it is based on equality and freedom. And all this is only possible if it has its roots in the fertile ground of the “large compassionate heart”.

A short Zen story:

A fish goes to the queen of fishes and asks:
“ I have always heard about the sea, but what is it this sea? Where is it?”
The queen of fish explains:
“ You live, move and have your being in the sea. The sea is in you and around you. You are made of sea and you will end as sea. The sea surrounds you as your own being.”

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Dassana has been leading meditation courses in Ibiza, Holland and Germany.