Chapter 1: Never Pretend, Even about Skulls
“Yes, he is very fond of me.” That is what prayer is all about. It is not only that you love God - that alone won’t help. If you can also feel God’s love flowing towards you, only then; if you can feel his presence all around you, only then will prayer become possible.
Prayer is possible as a shadow of his felt presence. You cannot pray in an empty room if he is not present. To whom will you pray? To whom will you utter your heart? To whom? Prayer is futile if the presence is not felt. If the presence is felt, then you are in prayer - whether you say something or not. You may not say a single word, you may be simply so full with awe that you remain silent, but you will feel the presence. Yes, to feel the presence of God is what prayer is all about.
But if God is dead, if you don’t feel anything, if no song arises in your heart for God, if the presence has disappeared from the world - you look at trees and you only see trees and no God hidden there, you look at the sky and you only see the sky and not his infinite presence - then Zen is going to be your path.
Zen is going to be the religion of the coming century because science has killed, or damaged very badly, the capacity to trust. But there is nothing to be worried about - you can move from another direction. But then there is no question of love, of presence, of God, of prayer - nothing of the sort.
When the Western world for the first time became aware of Buddhism, Jainism, Tao, they could not believe it. What type of religions are these? There is no God in them. They could not believe that religion could exist without the concept of God; God has always been the center of religion. So they thought that these must be just moral codes. They are not. They are a totally different kind of religion. And India, in the days of Buddha and Mahavira, twenty-five centuries before, reached to the same scientific attitude as the Western world has reached now. Twenty-five centuries before, India realized - at least, those who were very, very intelligent, brilliant, alert - they realized that the old God was dead. They realized that the God of prayer was dead.
To say this was simply to say that the heart of man was dead; it was no longer functioning. So a new path had to be found in which heart was not a basic necessity. Buddha and Mahavira worked out a new sort of religion - the religion of meditation, without any God, without any prayer, without any belief. Nothing is required of you except a seeking, except a searching mind, except a deep inquiry - that’s all.
The world is going to be more and more “zenist.” Zen is the ultimate flowering of the Buddha-mind.