Chapter 5: The Essence of Zen
People know what prayer is because ordinarily all the religions depend on prayer. Dhyan is just the opposite of prayer. Prayer is directed, addressed toward a god which is just a hypothesis. You say something, you repeat a mantra, you chant something in praise of God. It is either out of fear or out of greed. Either you are afraid, so you are remembering God, or you are in need of something desperately and you find yourself unable to find it, so you are asking God to help you. But fear and greed cannot be religion, and truth cannot be found by a hypothetical belief. If you begin with belief, you will end with belief; you will never come to know what is in fact the case.
Dhyan is just the opposite, not addressed to anyone - no God, no question of fear, no question of greed. It is something that takes you inwards. Prayer takes you outwards, and anything that takes you outwards is just worldly - whether you do it in the church or in the mosque or in the temple, it does not matter. Unless something leads you inwards, to the very center of your being.nothing else is religious.
So religion is very simple - just coming to your own center. Dhyan is the process of coming to yourself: leaving the body out, leaving the mind out, leaving the heart out, leaving everything out - eliminating everything by “I am not this” - until you come to a point where there is nothing to be eliminated.
And the strangest experience is that when you have eliminated everything, you are also not there as the old person you used to be, the old ego, the old “I.” It was the combination of all that you have eliminated. Slowly, slowly, without knowing, you have destroyed your ego. Now there is only pure consciousness, just light, eternal light.
Dhyan was taken by the Buddhists to China, but in China a great transformation took place because China was under the great impact of Lao Tzu, and his whole teaching was “let-go.”
Gautam Buddha fights to enter into his own being; at the ultimate point he comes to let-go, but that is the last thing. Tired of the efforts, the struggle, the ascetic practices, finally he drops everything. And in that let-go, that which he has been desiring for years happens. And it happens when there is no desire for it. Lao Tzu begins with “let-go” - so there has been a beautiful meeting.
Religions have met in other places, but it has been ugly: Mohammedans with Christians, Mohammedans with Hindus, Christians with Hindus, but all their meetings have been conflicts, fights, violence. There has been bloodshed, a great effort to convert the other.
The only religious meeting which can be appreciated happened in China between the Buddhist monks and the Taoist monks. They did not argue, they did not fight, they did not try to convert anybody. In fact, seeing each other, they immediately understood that they are standing in the same space. Out of this communion of Buddhism and Taoism, ch’an was born.