In an attempt to define Zen, one could say that it is to place the world of Being at the heart of our lives. To place the world of Being, rather than the world of Having, at the heart of our lives.
Before having any thoughts, we are, we exist. For instance, in zazen, we experience pure existence, without comments, without analysis. In Western society, we spend too much time thinking. We have thoughts about everything. But when we are thinking, when our mind is taken up by thoughts, there is but little room left to perceive pure existence.
As soon as we get up, we jump into the world of points of view, thoughts… We believe that… we imagine that… The important point is to perceive reality, to face up to it, to live in the real world, in keeping with reality. What we think, our interpretation of reality, this is not the most important thing. There is no need to interpose the flow of our thoughts, of our suppositions, of our imagination, of our beliefs, of our ulterior motives between us and reality.
Most of the time, these thoughts are toxic. They often feed on fear, faithlessness, aversion, jealousy, greed, denial of reality. In the end, they cause dissatisfaction. They put an unnecessary burden on our life. This is how we get tired, this is how life becomes too heavy, uninteresting. The best thing to do is to cleanse, to clear our mind of all that and to see reality just here, before our eyes, to embrace reality, to respond to reality. This is the best way not to make a mistake.
You can be a master of thought, but if your vision is not right from the start, if you cannot see reality as it is, at the end, there is a mistake. But then, may you object, we can’t use thought? Of course we can, but we have to distinguish the moment when we must use thought from the moment when we must act with the heart. The heart is the essence of existence. It means an open mind that is precisely not defiled by thoughts. The problem is that, in the end, the infernal thinking machine gets out of control, like an engine that continues to run when the ignition is switched off, that goes into auto-ignition.
A Zen master said: “Don’t be like a sheep on a dump chewing all the rubbish he finds.” We are like these sheep: we settle on the slightest embryonic thought, we want to know if there is a truth in it.
Eat fresh food. This fresh food is reality, always changing. For all the great existential questions about our life, be it birth or death, the key point is to have an open mind, free of any fear, of any prejudice, of any formatting.
When you need a tool, you go and get it. Mental activity is a tool. To solve certain technical problems, you use a tool, but to live a free and happy life, beneficial for yourself and others, having an open mind is of the highest importance. This is what the current world needs. A benevolent mind, full of kindness towards all beings. A compassionate mind trying to help those who suffer to liberate themselves. A happy mind, happy to exist, happy to be able to give, to share with others. And lastly, an equanimous mind, always at peace.
Don’t get caught in the unceasing whirl of thoughts. Get out of this vicious circle. In the end, madness is when we can’t get out of the infernal whirl of our thoughts stoked with greed, aversion and stupidity. Zen masters tell us: “Be careful not to become incurably ill with your own mind.”
If selfish thoughts, thoughts of aversion, greed or ignorance haunt you – and you are haunted by them, they are there – let them go away. Let them appear and disappear of themselves. Don’t feed them, don’t settle on them. They have no title to steer your life. They are nothing but rubbish. Traces of passed situations that have caused distress. Let them go. Keep in contact with reality.
Taiun JP Faure, June 2021