“All things that appear in this world are illusion. If you view all appearance as nonappearance, you will see your true nature.”
“When you are able to stay perfectly clear by cutting off all thinking and yet not falling into a trance-like sleep, this is sitting.
When inside and outside become one, and no circumstances can hinder you, this is Zen.”
~ Zen Master Seung Sahn (image from the Kwan Um School of Zen Twitter account)
[This is a chapter from a currently-unpublished book I’m writing on meditation and mindfulness.]
As a spiritual being, one possible way to think of life here on Earth is as a “game” that serves as a training ground for the soul. It’s a game like other games, so it has many levels, and they get harder and harder as you progress. So in this case, the better you become at the game of spirituality — the Soul Game — the harder the levels become.
To help set some rules for the game, let’s say that it has fifty levels. The first time you play the game you’re born here on Earth in Level 1. Hopefully you score some points and move up, so maybe by the time it’s “game over” for your first lifetime, you’ve passed Level 9 and you’re playing on Level 10. Maybe you get a brief break in between lifetimes, but the next time you’re born you start right where you left off, at Level 10.
This brings me to a very important rule: Once you start playing the Soul Game, you’re strapped in for eternity. (That was clearly mentioned on page 52 of the End User License Agreement.) Once you’re in the game there are only two ways out:
“Originally, nothing. Who made past, present, and future? If you don’t make anything, you will see and hear clearly. Then everything is your original face.”
~ Zen Master Seung Sahn, kwanumzen.org
When I first started learning Zen I didn’t understand the quote shown in this image, and I truly was a carpet to walk on. Then I woke up and thought, “You need to run your business. You need to find the middle way between accepting ‘just this’ and what you need to do to be successful at work.”
It would have been helpful if I had seen this quote then, but the book, Making Zen Your Own, wasn’t available then.
Once upon a time I lived in Alabama and had a 52-mile daily drive to work at a NASA facility in Mississippi, which gave me a lot of time to think. At one point on the trip you pass eight churches in ten miles — a friend referred to that stretch as “The highway to heaven” — and seeing weddings, funerals, and other gatherings at those churches led me to think about life, death, and spirituality.
I was very aware that I was a spiritual being since I was 16, but despite that I never cared for a religious framework; every church I’d ever been to seemed superficial compared to what I had experienced. That being said, I always thought prayer was a good thing — it helped to create a proper state of mind — so I tried to come up my own prayer, something I could believe in.
One idea I came up with was to write some sort of prayer that would honor the ancestors that led to my life on Earth. But, I thought, a problem with this approach was that my ancestors weren’t all that honorable. My mom is probably the nicest person in the world, so there was no problem there, but without getting into details, my dad, my grandparents, aunts and uncles ... there weren’t many people I was concerned about honoring.
From an interview with Zen Master Bon Shim, for people who live with a lot of fear, worries, and insecurity:
Question: Do you feel that Zen has helped you?
Zen Master Bon Shim: Yes, yes, tremendously. I was a different person forty years ago. I was always very scared, scared of life, of people, of situations.
Zen Master Bon Haeng talks about feeling the pressure of being a Zen Master.
In Jason Quinn’s Inka Speech he describes “original nature” very clearly. When you find the mind before thinking, you find Zen.