What is Zen?

A transcription from a talk by Daizan Roshi

Simply the word Zen - a Japanese word, comes from the word Chan which is Chinese which goes back to the Indian word Dhyana, meaning meditation. The Zen approach strongly emphasises meditation.

But more than that, Zen has come to mean what you find when you seriously & deeply meditate. When you come to practise Zen you can find who you really are. You can find a source of happiness that nobody can give you, nobody can take away from you, it's independent of external conditions.

This goes right back to the Buddha himself who said Nirvana is the highest happiness. Now, it's possible for even ordinary people like us to tap into this source of happiness & to find another level of meaning & value to life that's not around buying & selling, success & failure & the world of the opposites. So as we grow, as we develop as human beings we live in the world of the opposites, the world of me & you, the world of success & failure, the world of life & death and this world is true - but it's a perspective, it's not the whole picture.

Now it's very easy to think of this as the one & only reality because for example, our language is structured in a very dualistic way - subject & object, our thinking processes are dualistic, typically. But there's another kind of knowing, another kind of being that we can access which isn't based in this world of subject & object. This other place, this other 'mode' we can call non-dual.

It's very akin in some ways to what we already know of as intuition - there's another human function of knowing that can develop. Now, in this non-dual place we actually have no problems. We can find a kind of ease, a peace, a happiness. We can know that we're home & actually we always were and we always will be. We gain nothing & we lose nothing. 

Now, when we come into this non-dual perspective more & more it doesn't mean that the dualistic world disappears or that we become unable to function within the dualistic mode, it's actually both are true at the same time so we actually live within the world, this world of me & you, subject & object, and in this non-dual world at the same time, they interfuse with each other, they actually interact, they actually are each other. Our happiness is found here & now, we don't have to go anywhere else. It's getting to know who & how we are right now, right here that all this opens up.


Our teacher, Zen master Julian Daizan Skinner Roshi

Our teacher, Zen master Julian Daizan Skinner Roshi