If anything, I am a Zen Buddhist. I grew up in a non-religious family, and as a kid I was stumped that I was not allowed to go to confession by the teacher of the catholic course (back then we had to choose either catholic or lutheran, and the catholic priest gave sweets (”Gummibärchen”) to the kids that drew nice pictures while he talked. I was not allowed to confess, and that I could not understand. I then went to the lutheran course, but decided it was not much better. And so I became an atheist for most of the time.

When I loose things, or fear things, I still find myself praying and supplicating to “God”, however. I guess that helps to calm the nerves. Poor man’s theology.

Zen, now, is something else entirely... It it is all about not thinking and simply doing. To be yourself so utterly, to fuse with your body, your reality, such as to simply make “thought” and “self” unnecessary. This is hard to describe since talking and understanding requires thought, and this is all about the absence of thought. That is why Zen is often described using dry philosophy, rambling babbling, poetry, and unsolvable riddles.

Yeah, you are right. That could mean anything and everything. Zen, like so many spiritual concepts, wraps simple everyday ethical ideas into weird language and strange ceremony. Nothing new under the sun. Embrace the absurd, and then forget about it.

Another argument: You are smart enough to understand most of today’s difficult and complex problems: economy, politics, math, science, language – all of this is taught at school, discussed in newspapers, talked about amongst friends. So why should you be incapable to understand religious ideas? Chances are that you are smart enough. If you still do not understand, chances are that religious content has been obscured by jargon, tradition, interpretation, and layers upon layers of bullshit, added by our forefathers.

The reason I like Zen is that it acknowledges the problem: To teach wisdom is foolish. To write it down is foolish. To learn it from books is foolish. What most people don’t understand is that this makes things simple. Many imagine that therefore Zen is something mystic and magic. But that still misses the point. Zen is everyday, simple, obvious. Do good. Be nice. Stay calm. Do not babble. Help others. And avoid mumbo-jumbo talk.

Unfortunately, most people miss the last point.

(Somebody else added: “Tell me about it, the lady on the bus thinks. More of this mo fo ramble and i’m gonna blow. The thing is, though that Zen, properly understood, raises your understanding and compassion to the point where you’re just above it all. It’s better than the best weed, some say. But then again, some of us haven’t had that yet.”)

If you know Zen, you might say that I am missing the point of Soto or Rinzai Zen. I don’t think so. Just sitting (Soto) or thinking hard about paradox riddles and sitting (Rinzai) is just a method to get into the right frame of mind. But the right frame of mind is nothing mystic and magic. Remember: Zen is everyday, simple, obvious. And avoid mumbo-jumbo talk.

So what about Satori, you might ask. Well, that I “explain away” by claiming that it is a physiological reaction to asceticism. A flash you get by doing things to your body that take a lot longer than injecting toxic substances into your veins. I just fail to see the benefit of the flash. After all, after experiencing enlightenment, you come back to the basics of Zen: Do good. Be nice. Stay calm. Do not babble. Help others.

The only thing that might convince me otherwise would be a meeting with a person that has the right charisma to show me in a very direct and personal way that his peace of mind is something I should strive for.

Or, not.

Book recommendations:

Deutsche Buchempfehlungen:

Related entries:


Have you ever heard of Kodo Sawaki? His idea of Zen was very similar to yours.

– Keith 2004-09-12 06:39 UTC

I’ll have to Google:Kodo+Sawaki some more... Thanks for the pointer.

AlexSchroeder 2004-09-12 21:53 UTC


Ah, wie ich Paragraphen liebe ;)

– Chris 2006-12-30 20:53 UTC

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