What is Zen?
The first word that Buddha uttered after attaining enlightenment was: "Suffering". All the time and everywhere we suffer. How can we escape from suffering?
In Hinayana Buddhism the Noble Eightfold Path that Buddha has taught is practiced in order to escape from suffering. Through this path we can develop a correct view on the world, act correctly in this world, and attain a correct understanding of who we are in this world.
Mahayana Buddhism, instead, is based on the understanding that both the world and our selves are produced by our minds. Therefore, in Mahayana Buddhism, it is solely the mind that is cultivated by relying on Buddha's teaching of the Six Paramitas: Generosity, observing the precepts, patience, continuous effort, contemplation, and wisdom.
In this way Buddhism was practiced for many years until, one day, the patriarch Bodhidharma came from India to China and asked the following question: "What is actually this mind that you keep cultivating continuously?"
No one could provide an answer and by turning towards this single question Zen Buddhism came into being: What is this? Who am I?
The Practice of Seeing One's True Nature
Zen, Zen, Zen - even if you say like this for a whole day, it is not Zen.
If you really want to know Zen, right away, you should relinquish even that thought of Zen and keep your mind pure and clear by holding on to the question of your koan.
An eminent teacher said:
"Silently sitting towards the North,
you should see the South with a question.
If this is the case, you can understand the message
of the true man without body who is sitting here."
Figuratively speaking, though the Zen-realm is like the empty sky without a speck of cloud, yet, if but a single thought about the sky arises within you, it is no longer a correct staying in the Zen-world.
I would like to ask you: Where does the empty sky come from and who makes it?
The Zen-realm is just the world of pure mind which all sentient beings should cultivate and attain.
If you wish to live in the Zen-realm, I would like to exhort you to go straight for ten thousand years towards the place where there is neither heaven nor earth. Yet, at this moment, if you give rise to other thoughts or move your calmness you will at once fall into hell. And why? Because the very moment you move is already mistaken. Therefore, day and night, only sitting silently (not "body -sitting", but "keeping a koan-mind") you should reflect your true face and remain unmoved. If so, you will be in the state of real poverty where all disappears. In substance, the actual existence of ours is nothing but a light of pure mind without possessing anything. This light of pure mind is ultimate bliss. However, you should know that even the very light is a mistake.
Therefore an eminent teacher said:
"Last year`s poverty was not true poverty.
This year`s poverty is true poverty.
In last year`s poverty there was not enough space for stitching an awl.
In this year`s poverty there is not even an awl."
Whosoever, if he realizes the above stanza, will be able to attain a way where one who has no tongue can speak and a man without arms can clench a fist.
Do you see such a man now? If you really do so you should be one who lives in the Zen-realm.
A-k! (a shout called "Hal" in Korean)
Put it all down! And only by holding on to your koan fast, go straight for ten thousand years.