Ice Cream and Stomachaches: Zen in Everyday Terms (5)

In many explanations of Zen you will run across, “enlightenment” is presented as a more or less all-or-none affair: either you have an overwhelming revelatory experience, or you are just one of the unenlightened, deluded masses.

The reality, I (along with many authorities on the subject) would say, is that matters are much more complicated than that; different individuals may have many different experiences, but your experience is the right one for you. The most important thing to keep in mind is that, whatever “enlightenment” may mean, it will be of no use unless it becomes part of your everyday life and gives you daily benefits there.

In that sense, “everyday mind is the Way” means, not that your mind in its present state has nothing wrong with it and you can ignore the whole business, but that you need to work daily on making whatever insight you gain by Zen sitting, working on koans, and other practices into something that is fully incorporated into your ordinary life. Best of luck!

Recommendations for further reading:

Shunryu Sukuki: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Weatherhill, 1999) 

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” In very simple, clear language, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center lays out how Zen opens out those possibilities for everyone in these transcripts of talks he delivered at the center.

David Chadwick, ed.: Zen is Right Here: Teaching Stories and Anecdotes of Shunryu Suzuki (Shambhala, 2011)

“ ‘Zen is everywhere,’ Suzuki Roshi said, agreeing with a student. ‘But for you, Zen is right here.’ ” More engrossing, illuminating scenes from his teaching career.

Thomas Cleary, translator: Shōbōgenzō: Zen Essays by Dōgen (University of Hawaii Press, 1986)

Dōgen was the 12th century founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan. A good way of taking first steps into the mysterious but fundamental writing, the title of which is translated: “Treasury of the Eye of True Teaching.”

Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (Tuttle Publishing, 1998)

An ever-popular handy collection of some of the best-known Zen nuggets which every Zen student should know.

qedd© Jon Johanning 2011