Why Do Zen?

-Hey, Roshi, why should I do Zen?


-I mean, everybody's going "Tibetan." You get a Tibetan teacher, you do Ngondro, you meditate, and Enlightenment is practically guaranteed as soon as you've accumulated enough merit over countless lifetimes.

-Fine by me. Go crazy with it. Knock yourself out!

-You haven't answered the question! Maybe that's because this "Zen" thing you're trying to sell is inferior. Shoddy Chinese goods. Bald guys in black robes sitting around concentrating on the breath going in and out of their nostrils then writing poetry. Seems very suspect!

-Okay. I'll be serious. Zen isn't an "external" system. It points to that which can't be seen. It shatters thinking and plunges you into the Great Doubt. Then what's wonderful and can in no way be explained by words happens. In the Pali Suttas Buddha describes some of what you feel when you wake up to your real nature: a feeling of lightness in the body, a clear and vivid mind, and an all around joyful attitude. Wouldn't you like to experience that every single day?

-Huh? I'm not listening to you. I was envisioning my Lama floating above my head on a lotus.

-Great! What's the nature of the Lama's mind?

-Pure Luminous Emptiness.

-So why is your mind full of stinking horseshit?

-Because he's enlightened, I'm not.

-You're saying you're not empty like your Lama?

-I am, but he realizes it -- and I don't!

-Why don't you?

-Because of my grievous karma built up over many lifetimes. My Lama purified his karma, also over many lifetimes, so he's ahead of me in terms of Bodhicitta. It's as simple as that.

-Is a "lifetime" inherently other than Emptiness?

-Of course not.

-Is it inherently more or less than a kalpa?

-. . . Inherently? [Thinking]


-Whah? You scared the shit out of me! My hair is standing up! I'm drenched in cold sweat. WTF!?

-At the instant I shouted, were you empty or not-empty?

-Empty, I guess! Or maybe not. I don't know!

-What happened to the vision of your Lama and that great big lotus he was floating on?

-Huh. Gone!

-Welcome to Zen.

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