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Chapter 1: Zen: The Koan of Life

The religious people cannot understand it - I mean the so-called religious. And the world is full of them: there are Christians, and there are Hindus, Mohammedans, Jews, Buddhists, and Jainas - these people cannot understand Zen at all. Unless you get rid of all these ideologies you will not understand what Zen is.

Zen is not an ideology, it is not a philosophy. It is living in an existential way, not in an intellectual way. Zen is not concerned with words, concepts, theories, hypotheses, assumptions, beliefs. Its total concern is with the immediate reality. Reality has to be encountered without any barrier; unless your whole mind is put aside you cannot understand Zen.

It certainly is full of zest, zip, zap and zing.

James Broughton has said: “Zen is another word for zest. For zip and zap and zing. If you have no appetite for life as it is, and are not excited by the koan of what this here life is about, then Zen is not for you.”

What I am doing here is pure Zen. I am helping you to get rid of your mind.

Mind has many characteristics, many aspects. And each religion has chosen one aspect of the mind and made much fuss about it, has dragged that aspect to its ultimate, logical conclusion. This is something to be very deeply understood because it is fundamental for the understanding of the Zen approach.

Ordinarily you think somebody is a Mohammedan and somebody is a Hindu and somebody is a Jaina. That’s not really true. Every human being in his unconsciousness carries all these characteristics within him: he is a Hindu, he is a Mohammedan, he is a Christian, he is a Jaina, he is a Jew, he is a Buddhist. Of course, if he is born into a Buddhist family then the Buddhist aspect surfaces, becomes too big, too overwhelming, and the other aspects of the mind are repressed, are covered up. If he is born into a Mohammedan family another aspect of the mind becomes prominent. But the others are always present and they go on working from your deep unconscious.

So as I see it, each person has all these religions in him. That’s why you can find people who can create a synthesis out of all the religions. That synthesis has no value; it simply shows that they are trying to correlate all the aspects of their minds.

For example, every person is egoistic but Hinduism has developed that egoism to its ultimate flowering of “holier than thou.” Every Hindu believes he is born to teach the whole world, he is born with a special message from God. He inherits the real religion, the true religion - Sanatan dharma, the eternal religion. And he thinks that he is tolerant, that he is accepting, that he is not a fanatic, that he is not in any way trying to interfere in anybody’s life. In fact, he is doing all these things, but in a very subtle way.

Hindus are very intolerant. Even the idea that they are tolerant shows their intolerance. Why should you think yourself tolerant if you are not intolerant?

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