How to upset a Zen monk

I upset a Zen monk the other day.

I didn’t mean to, of course.  In fact, I used to love the Zen koans – What’s the sound of one hand clapping?  What was your face before you were born?  Great stuff and a wonderful way to by-pass the conceptual mind.  And I used to love the Zen books by the likes of Suzuki, Bodhidharma, Philip Kapleau and Alan Watts.

The koans and the books are the essence of the teaching.  Behind that, and something we don’t often see, are the traditions and the rituals.  My Zen monk had clearly invested years of practice and dedication to achieve his current status.  Perhaps he had a different coloured robe to designate his more lofty position, I don’t know.

And we all like to do that, whatever path we follow, whether it’s religion, academic, some social activity or the work we do.  We study, we work hard and we achieve, and that achievement is recognised in the status or position we are then granted.  We know where we are and where others are around us, and there’s great comfort and security in that.

We feel like we’re progressing, getting somewhere.

So along comes Hubbard with his Time-Light message that progress is an illusion.  There’s nowhere to go and intelligent observation is all you need for the false – your sense of a self built by the past – to drop away.  Once the past is understood and finished with, there’s no projection of time – nowhere you’ve been and no destination to reach.  There’s just the delicious, inexpressible present.

My apologies go out to the Zen monk and anyone who likes different coloured robes.

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