When We Choose to Live in the ZEN Garden – Beyond Definitions: ZEN Thoughts and Aphorisms

“Both the Zen tradition and tantric Buddhism, but especially the Trika-Abheda Tantra school (which is, in fact, the essence of the path of the Heart) affirm, sometimes using different words, that Samsara and Nirvana are the same thing, the same single existence.
Only the relation to this unique Existence or inner attitude makes some perceive it as samsara and others as nirvana, but it is always the same.
On the Way of the Heart this different reporting that allows the world to be perceived as nirvana, expanding the Self into the seemingly external world is called Adi Mudra.”

Leo Radutz
President of Adanima Academic Society


When we choose to live in the ZEN garden – beyond definitions: ZEN thoughts and aphorisms

A special transmission (of teaching) beyond the scriptures;
Without depending on words or letters;
Aiming directly at the consciousness of the human being,
You see your real nature, and you attain the state of Buddhahood.


Zen is the name of a school specific to Mahayana Buddhism. The term “Zen” is Japanese, being derived from the Chinese term Chán, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit term dhyāna, meaning “meditation” or “meditative state“.
Zen represents an authentic spiritual path, which emphasizes the direct, direct experience of the real nature of beings (particularly of the human being), which spontaneously leads to the attainment of enlightenment (samadhi in Sanskrit, satori in Japanese). Thus, Zen diminishes the importance of theoretical knowledge in favor of the practice of meditation and service to others. Zen teachings include various sources of Mahayana Buddhism, such as Prajnaparamita, the teachings of the Yogacara and Tathagatagarbha schools.

The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism is first recorded in China in the seventh century A.D. Then Zen spreads south to Vietnam, east to Korea, and then to Japan. According to tradition, the father of Zen is considered the Indian monk Bodhidharma (originally born a prince, he chooses to become a wandering monk in search of supreme happiness). The essence of Zen teaching lies in achieving enlightenment during a single lifetime – an experience lived by certain Zen disciples and confirmed by their masters over 1500 years!

The daily practice of Zazen is the indispensable requirement of Zen teaching. This practice aims directly at the deep consciousness of the human being, where knowledge, knower and known subject are but one. In Zazen, there is no reality other than the one experienced here and now. Every moment, every action is imbued with the nature of the Buddha. Sadness and joy, fear and courage cannot be avoided, but we can free ourselves from them by detaching ourselves from them, contemplating the appearance of these emotions in our being, without following them in their unfolding. This mastery of emotions and thoughts gives peace of mind – and we are not talking about a peace that becomes the goal of Zazen, but rather a side effect of Zazen practice!

Zazen is a Japanese term made up of two characters: za – to sit (cross-legged, for example in the lotus or semi-lotus posture), and zen – from the original Sanskrit dhyana, which means: concentration, dynamic peace and contemplation, being a polysemantic term. Path to Self-realization as our essential nature, Zazen refers both to the action of the being (which adopts the cross-legged posture, with the hands in a certain mudra, observing its breathing without intervening) and the state of “being” of that being. To emphasize only one of these two aspects is to fail to understand the subtle, profound meaning of Zazen practice.

In the ordinary state of consciousness, being and doing are two separate, usually disjointed aspects. Such separation leads to the alienation of the human being – a state that has become acute especially in recent centuries! Over time, through sincere efforts on behalf of Zazen practice, mind and body, inner and outer, I and the other become one. This state is referred to as samadhi or satori. In this pure state of existence, the dissatisfaction and meaninglessness of modern life fades. We no longer seek answers from the outside, but find ourselves drawn into an inner journey towards our own essence, the state of Buddhahood.

Zen shows us that what we mistakenly call “ourselves”—our social identity—is but a mask under which our true nature hides. Beliefs, opinions, prejudices, education or family traditions – all these are only circumstantial factors, necessary tools for survival and integration into society, but they are not OURSELVES!

Despite these masks, something remains the same, always. What is this realm within us that keeps itself stable, eternally durable? If the exterior is constantly changing, then surely it is necessary to look within ourselves. But – what is this interior of ours? Zen can help us find the answer to these questions, even if Zen is not an answer in itself. Perhaps Zen is actually the biggest question mark! Zen does not lead us to any kind of faith, but insists on doubting any generally accepted aspect by social convention. But if beliefs are not important, Faith is still a necessity!

Zen represents, we could say, an extensive program of self-discovery. He brings us face to face with our own denial and rediscovery of our deep being, and emphasizes the sufferings emanating from attachments, prejudices and separation. Zen teaches us how to take the steps that separate us from ourselves. Zen resides in our joy, in our tears, in the flight of thoughts, and in the breath that sustains our lives, unconsciously. Zen doesn’t forget us, we forget Zen. Trying to fill the void and vastness within us with external meanings is like pouring water into an ocean to moisten it! “Where are you? HERE. What time is it? NOW.

ZEN aphorisms

☺ ZEN contains no idea. Study it carefully.

☺ Zen meditation: focus on your breath and remove all thoughts from your mind, including this one.

☺ The word “water” does not quench thirst.

☺ Saying the name hides the nature of the object.

☺ Only one thing is certain: everything passes. Only one thing is constant: change.

☺ There is only one thing: the present moment.

☺ Before lighting: cook food, wash dishes. After lighting: cook food, wash dishes.

☺ I searched all day, but found no evidence that there would be a tomorrow.

☺ NOW seems to be as good a time as any other.

☺ He who laughs at his own stupidity has a constant and eternally new source of amusement.

☺ Not to act is to act.

☺ Raise your hand and knock lightly into the night sky. Then listen!

☺ The future that had just arrived had a brief encounter with the past from which emerged an ephemeral present moment.

☺ There is no point in looking south if your thoughts are facing north.

☺ If you want the same dream back, you leave no room for another dream.

☺ Past love: only memories. Future love: just fantasies. True love: only NOW.

☺ A centipede passed along a path, its 100 feet moving in perfect synchronicity. A toad looked at him wonderingly: “How do you manage to coordinate your legs so well? Which one do you move first?” The centipede stopped to think and has not known how to walk since.

About Zen practice… and not only…

☺ Zen has nothing to get. When Zen disciples do not notice this, it is for them that they approach too impatiently. (Ying-an)

☺ There are no sacred books or dogmatic texts in Zen. Therefore, if I am asked what Zen teaches, I will answer that Zen teaches us nothing. Any teachings come from one’s mind. We teach ourselves. Zen just shows us the way. (D.T. Suzuki)

☺ In a sense, Zen means living life, instead of living something out of life. (Alan Watts)
☺ Surrender yourself to others. Surrender to life itself. Let go of the struggle to give meaning to life. Simply abandon yourself. (T’ao-shan)

☺ The idea about Zen is that it pushes contradictions to their extreme limit, where we have to choose between madness and innocence. And Zen suggests that any of these are worth living on a cosmic scale. Crazy or innocent, we’re already there. It would be wonderful to open our eyes, and see. (Thomas Merton)

☺ Believe those who seek the truth. Doubt those who found it. (Andre Gide)

☺ In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the mind of the expert there are few.
(Shunryu Suzuki)

☺ Our eyes initially saw well, but they evolved poorly thanks to our teachers.
(Zen proverb)

☺ The paths to the One are as numerous as people’s lives.
(Zen maximum)

☺ All religions will fade, but this simple thing will persist: sit down in a chair, and look into the distance. (V.V. Razanov)

☺ It is not necessary to run outside to see better; rather, stay at the center of your being. The more you run, the less you learn. Look for your heart and see; This mode of action means being. (Lao-Tzu)

☺ It is like clouds in the sky: now it is, now it has disappeared without a trace. It is like the footprint left on water: neither born nor died. This is cosmic peace and eternal rest. (Ma-tsu)

☺ To wait for truth to emerge from thinking is to confuse the need to think with the need to know. (Hannah Arendt)

☺ Things are not what they seem; And they are not otherwise. (Lankavatara Sutra)

☺ There is a path from the eye to the heart that does not pass through reason. (G.K. Chesterton)

☺ Live in the present. The present contains everything. It is a holy land… (Alfred Whitehead)

☺ To swim, we have to take off our clothes. In order to aspire to truth, it is necessary to strip ourselves in a much deeper sense—of all inner clothes, thoughts, conceptions, egoism, etc. – before they are naked enough. (Soren Kierkegaard)

☺ Reality floats. That doesn’t mean everything is moving, changing, or becoming. Science and everyday experience tell us so. It means that movement, change, becoming are all there is. Otherwise, there is nothing; Everything is movement, change. Time as we commonly conceive of it is not real time, but an image of space. (Henri-Louis Bergson)

☺ “Enlightenment” and “Nirvana”? They are like dry trees, ready to be loaded on the back of a donkey. Scriptures? They are just pieces of paper to wipe the mud off your face. The four merits and the ten steps? There are shadows in the graves. What do these things have to do with your release? (Te-shan)

☺ Knowing yourself is not only the most difficult thing, but also the most inconvenient. (Henry W. Shaw)

☺ I realized that the past and the future are really illusions, that they exist only in the present, which is what it really is, the only one that really exists. (Alan Watts)

☺ We look back too much and look forward too much; thus, we lose the only eternity of which we can be absolutely sure—the eternal present, for it is always NOW.
(William Phelps)
☺ That’s it – right now. Start reflecting on it, and you’ll lose it. (Huang-po)

☺ Only when we realize that life leads us nowhere does it truly begin to have meaning. (P.D. Ouspensky)

☺ Life tomorrow comes too late. Live today. (Martial)

☺ Seriousness is an accident of time. It consists in placing too much value on time. In eternity there is no time. Eternity is just a moment, long enough for a joke. (Hermann Hesse)

☺ Proverbs remain meaningless until they are included in customs (Kahlil Gibran)

☺ Zen is the vehicle of reality. (Jim Harrison)

☺ As for your home, try to be as close to the ground as possible. As for meditation, go as deep into your heart as possible. (Lao Tzu)

☺ The wise do not collect precious objects. He does not attach himself to ideas. He brings people back to what they have lost. (Lao Tzu)

☺ When you truly feel that equal love for all, when your heart has expanded so much that it encompasses all of creation, you will certainly not feel that you are giving up anything. You will simply abandon ordinary life, as a ripe fruit falls from the branch of the tree. You will feel that the whole world is your home. (Ramana Maharishi)

☺ Always now – only now – live. Always now – only now – offer yourself to death. This is synonymous with Zen practice. (Soko Morinaga)

☺ Zen has no gates. The purpose of the Buddha’s words is to enlighten people. So Zen must be devoid of gates. But how to pass through a gate that does not exist? (Mumon)

☺ If my heart can become pure and simple like that of a child, I believe there can be no greater happiness than this. (Kitaro Nishida)

☺ Don’t just do something. Just sit down there. (Zen proverb)

☺ If something bores you after two minutes, try doing it for four minutes. If it’s all boring, do it for eight minutes, or sixteen, thirty-two, etc. In the end, you will discover that it is not boring, but very interesting. (Zen proverb)

☺ By creating, and not possessing, life is revealed to us. (Vida D. Scudder)

☺ The more absorbed we are in so-called philosophy, the greater will be the deception and blindness. (Emanuel Swedenborg)

☺ Great knowledge is universal. Little knowledge is limited. Big words inspire you; Small words are just gossip. Chuang Tzu

☺ To know and not to do is not yet to know. (Lao Tzu)

Some “Zen” ideas for those who take life too seriously!

Save the whales! Catch them all.
A day without sun is a night.
99% of lawyers give others a bad name.
I feel like I’m parked diagonally in a parallel universe.
Remember, half of the people you know are below average.
The one who laughs last thinks the slowest.
Depression is nothing but unenthusiastic anger.
I drive way too fast to care about my cholesterol.
Support bacteria! They are the only culture that some have….
Monday is a terrible way to spend 1/7 of the week.
A clear conscience is usually a sign of poor memory.
Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow!
Try to always be modest, and be proud of it!
If you think no one cares about you, try not to pay a few installments…

How many of you believe in telekinesis? Raise my hand.
What is the speed of darkness?
How do you know you’ve run out of invisible ink?
Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness is rewarded now.
Everyone has a photographic memory. But some have run out of film.
I used to have an open mind, but my brain kept falling out…
I couldn’t fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder.
In every elderly person there is a younger person who wonders what God happened.
Remember – you are unique! Just like everyone else….
Never try the depth of water with both feet.
Before criticizing someone, walk a few miles in their shoes. So, when you criticize him, you’ll be a few miles away and you’ll have his shoes too….
If you lend someone $20 and never see them again, it was probably worth it…

If you are used to telling the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
Right judgment comes from many bad experiences, but they come from many bad judgments.
Generally, you don’t learn much when you move your lips.
Never miss a chance to shut up.
We are born naked, wet and hungry, and then we are patted on the back… Then things get worse.
Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
Never, no matter the circumstances, take a sleeping pill and laxative on the same night!

An article by psych. Aida Surubaru
AdAnima Academic Society

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