For years I’ve been moving towards eastern philosophy for the answers to my questions. I tried to find my place in conventional western belief systems, but I just couldn’t get past the invisible man in the sky thing. The Force, Universal Consciousness, call it what you will, but that’s what madeÂ sense to me. I wanted to cut through the BS, to get to the point.
A friend gave me a copy of The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. In this book I saw the question phrased in a way I understood it, and the open ended answer seemed to point directly at me.
Born and breed Irish Catholic the idea of a non-theistic religion took a long time to sink in. Over the next few years I read voraciously on the subject. I read the popular books; The Celestine Prophecy, The Alchemist, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and even The Dancing Wu-Li Masters. I also read dozens no one’s ever heard of. I went to workshops on “Realizing Your Chakra Energy,” participated in Drum Circles, and other like-minded New Age-y things.
I did a lot of meditation, but I wasn’t very consistent. It was this style one week, this tape the next and so on. No matter how much I sat I didn’t realize any realizations, skies opening or enlightening, but there was something there, something I couldn’t quite grasp, something that kept me coming back.
So, when I moved to Brooklyn last July I made it a point to go to the Zen Center Of New York City to see what they had going on. I wrote about my experience that first Sunday on this site, but not much since. There’s a Buddhist saying: He who knows does not speak, He who speaks does not know. So read further at your own risk.
People always ask, “What do you do there?” Well, we mostly sit, there’s some chanting, and some great teaching.
“You just sit?” Well not exactly, we do Zazen, a form of sitting meditation which is hard to explain, you just have to do it.
“Do you chant prayers to Buddha?” No, chanting isn’t praying, and Buddha isn’t a god.
For something fairly simple it’s very hard to explain. Zen Buddhism is experiential in nature, and it takes time for the clouds in your mind to part for it all to start making sense, and even then it only comes in glimpses. There is something about theÂ practice of sitting quietly and doing nothing, to sit with your own mind, which opens a whole realm of possibilities.
All the books I’d read pale in comparison to an actual thirty-five minute session of sitting. As it was told to me that first Sunday in beginning instruction after describing the mechanics of sitting Zazen; a very easy to say, but to truly enter into it is the most challenging thing you will ever do.
The challenge is the question, “What is this life?” and for twenty-five hundred years people have been coming to The Buddha for a path to the answer. An answer that can’t be given to you, one you must figure out for yourself.
More to come…
Leave a Comment April 20, 2008