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Chapter 9: Zazen: Just Being

Obviously the very ancient tradition of Indian scholarship could not tolerate him. But in his presence a few blessed ones drank as deeply from his well as possible; but when his body was dead, his last incarnation was finished and he became a part of the total existence. India goes on proclaiming itself the land of Gautam Buddha without seeing the point that they killed him. Of course they killed him with sophistication, not like Jews crucifying Jesus or Greeks poisoning Socrates; they did it in a more subtle way: by not understanding him.

The anecdote has to be understood against this background.

An Indian disciple of Eno, Kutta Sanzo,
on passing through a village
found a monk doing zazen in a small hut he had built.

Zazen means just being, neither doing something, nor not doing anything; an utter silence.

Sanzo asked, “What is the idea
of sitting here all by yourself?”

It is not only Sanzo; it has been asked by this whole country and it is being asked today by the whole world. The question is significant.

“What is the idea
of sitting here all by yourself?”
The monk answered, “I’m meditating.”

Now, before entering into the anecdote deeply, you have to understand that there is no word which can translate zazen. Meditation is just a faraway echo, because a word is needed only if a certain experience requires it. In the English language there are three words: concentration, contemplation, meditation, but all three words point to an object. You can ask, “On what are you concentrating?” “What are you contemplating?” “On what are you meditating?”

Zazen comes from the Sanskrit root dhyan. Gautam Buddha did not use the Sanskrit language to make his existential statement - Sanskrit is the language of the scholar; it has never been the language of the people - but he chose to speak in the language of the people amongst whom he was born. The name of the language he used is Pali. In Pali the Sanskrit dhyan becomes jhan.

It happens in every language: the scholars, the rabbis, the roshis, the pundits, they speak a language with perfection, although their language is dead. But only something dead can be perfect. As the language comes to the people - living people - it becomes more rounded, it changes. Dhyan becomes jhan; and because of the Buddhists - through Bodhidharma and others who reached China - jhan turned into ch’an.

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