Chapter:

Zen Buddhism

“Why is the ultimate Prajna-Truth that Zen tries to illustrate so indefinable and ungraspable? “To define” means to settle the limits of, or to declare the exact meaning of a certain thing. “To grasp,” in the sense used here, means to comprehend the import of a thing and retain it. Since the very act of defining is to confine something within a certain boundary, it cannot be otherwise than finite, narrow, and exclusive in its nature; and again, since “to comprehend” means mentally to grasp something, but not everything, it must also be restrictive and thus limitative in its nature. But the ultimate Prajna-Truth that Zen tries to convey cannot possibly be a thing that is narrow, finite, or exclusive; it must be something vast, universal, and infinite—all-inclusive and all-embracing—defying definition and designation. How, then, can Zen-Truth be otherwise than indefinable and ungraspable? The very word “defining” suggests a finger pointing to a particular object, and the word “grasping,” a hand holding something tightly and not letting it go. These two pictures vividly portray the narrow, tight, and clinging nature of the human mind. With this deplorable limitation and tightness deeply rooted in the [the intellectual animal mistakenly called] human way of thinking, no wonder the free and all-inclusive Prajna-Truth becomes an evasive shadow forever eluding one’s grasp.” Garma C. C. Chang, Practice of Zen

Illumination. This mighty word in essence and strength is used in this chapter to emphasize the transcendental mystic experience that consists of experiencing the Tao, true Zen, Reality.

It is not enough to comprehend something; we need to grasp, to apprehend, to capture, its inner meaning.

“The Second Patriarch asked Bodhidharma, ‘How can one get into Tao?’ Bodhidharma replied:

“‘Outwardly, all activities cease;
Inwardly, the mind stops its panting.
When one’s mind has become a wall,
Then he may [begin to] enter into the Tao.” Garma C. C. Chang, Practice of Zen

It is important to know that

“‘Zen’ is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word ‘Ch’an,’ and ‘Ch’an’ is the abbreviation of the original phrase ‘Ch’an-Na’— a corruption of the pronunciation of the Sanskrit word Dhyana or the Pali, Jhana.” Garma C. C. Chang, Practice of Zen

...an extraordinary form of Mahayana Buddhism.

Unquestionably, Zen studies and practices allow us to grasp the innermost meaning of the Buddhist teachings endorsed by the Mahayana school, which is both a marvelous antithesis and a complement to the Vajrayana school of the realization of our Innermost Self.

“Voidness is not easily explained. It is not definable or describable. As Zen Master Huai Jang has said, “Anything that I say will miss the point.” Voidness cannot be described or expressed in words.” Garma C. C. Chang, Practice of Zen

“The Buddhist teaching on voidness is comprehensive and profound, and requires much study before it can be understood.” Garma C. C. Chang, Practice of Zen

Only in the absence of the ego can we directly experience illuminating emptiness.

Deifying the mind is an absurdity, because it is in itself only a fatal prison for the consciousness.

To assert that the mind is Buddha, to say that it is Tao, is nonsensical, because the intellect is only a jail for the consciousness.

The mystical experience of the Illuminating Void is always attained outside the intellectual field.

Buddhist illumination is never achieved by developing mental power nor by deifying reasoning. On the contrary, it is attained by breaking any ties which attach us to the mind.

Only by liberating ourselves from the intellectual jail can we experience the happiness of the Illuminating Void, free and entirely insubstantial.

Emptiness is simply a clear and precise Buddhist term which denotes the insubstantial and impersonal nature of beings, and an indication of the state of absolute detachment and freedom outside of time and beyond the mind.

Drink the wine of meditation in the delightful cup of perfect concentration.


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