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Chapter 1: The Heart of Knowing Is Now

Ascending to the high seat, Dogen Zenji said: “Zen master Hogen studied with Keishin Zenji.
Once Keishin Zenji asked him, ‘Joza, where do you go?’
Hogen said. ‘I am making pilgrimage aimlessly.’
Keishin said, ‘What is the matter of your pilgrimage?’
Hogen said, ‘I don’t know.’
Keishin said, ‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’
Hogen suddenly attained great enlightenment.”

Zen is just zen. There is nothing comparable to it. It is unique - unique in the sense that it is the most ordinary and yet the most extraordinary phenomenon that has happened to human consciousness. It is the most ordinary because it does not believe in knowledge, it does not believe in mind. It is not a philosophy, not a religion either. It is the acceptance of the ordinary existence with a total heart, with one’s total being, not desiring some other world, supra-mundane, supra-mental. It has no interest in any esoteric nonsense, no interest in metaphysics at all. It does not hanker for the other shore; this shore is more than enough. Its acceptance of this shore is so tremendous that through that very acceptance it transforms this shore - and this very shore becomes the other shore:

This very body the buddha;

This very earth the lotus paradise.

Hence it is ordinary. It does not want you to create a certain kind of spirituality, a certain kind of holiness. All that it asks is that you live your life with immediacy, spontaneity. And then the mundane becomes the sacred.

The great miracle of Zen is in the transformation of the mundane into the sacred. And it is tremendously extraordinary because this way life has never been approached before, this way life has never been respected before.

Zen goes beyond Buddha and beyond Lao Tzu. It is a culmination, a transcendence, both of the Indian genius and of the Chinese genius. The Indian genius reached its highest peak in Gautama the Buddha and the Chinese genius reached its highest peak in Lao Tzu. And the meeting.the essence of Buddha’s teaching and the essence of Lao Tzu’s teaching merged into one stream so deeply that no separation is possible now. Even to make a distinction between what belongs to Buddha and what to Lao Tzu is impossible, the merger has been so total. It is not only a synthesis, it is an integration. Out of this meeting Zen was born. Zen is neither Buddhist nor Taoist and yet both.

To call Zen “Zen Buddhism” is not right because it is far more. Buddha is not so earthly as Zen is. Lao Tzu is tremendously earthly, but Zen is not only earthly: its vision transforms the earth into heaven. Lao Tzu is earthly, Buddha is unearthly, Zen is both - and in being both it has become the most extraordinary phenomenon.

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