Chapter 1: Zen: The Koan of Life
The first question:
Do you really think Zen is full of zest, zip, zap and zing?
Zen is not a religion, it is living life in its totality, herenow. Religions are always postponing life: they give you beautiful illusions about life somewhere in the future, far away, beyond death. That is a strategy to divert and distract you from the realities of life. It is pure cowardice. It is also a rationalization so that you can be consoled: “If life is miserable today there is nothing to be worried about, tomorrow everything is going to be well.” In fact, to suffer life today is a preparation for enjoying life tomorrow, so the more you suffer the better. There is no reason to complain, no reason to rebel, no reason to revolt against all those things which are causing misery. Religion protects the establishment and the vested interests.
It is a very subtle strategy - so subtle that for thousands of years man has lived under its weight without ever becoming aware of what is being done to him. Karl Marx is almost right, that religion is nothing but opium for the people. It keeps you drugged, it keeps you hoping, waiting - and tomorrow never comes. Desiring, fantasizing about life after death is a sheer wastage of time, energy, and also it keeps you stupid. Life is herenow - there is no other life. Life knows no past, no future, it knows only the present.
Zen is of tremendous importance. It is the greatest flowering of human consciousness yet achieved and it is one of the fundamental revolutions: it cuts the very roots of the so-called religious structure of the mind. It is not religion, it is pure religiousness. It is not religion in the sense of being Hindu, Mohammedan, Christian, Buddhist. Hence to call Zen, “Zen Buddhism” is wrong: it has nothing to do with Buddhism at all. It is not oriented in the past, it is not inspired by the past - it has no goal in the future either. It is living your life passionately, intensely, ecstatically this very moment.
The very idea of this very moment is shattering to the mind because mind lives in the past and the future. And Zen is a tremendous blow to the mind: it cuts it in a single blow, it destroys it, it takes you beyond, immediately. Zen is a device of sudden enlightenment.
Mind wants to be slow, gradual. It wants to move carefully, cautiously, guardedly, thinking about the pros and cons. Zen is a jump into the very thick of life. And life surrounds you within and without. Just as a fish is in the ocean you are in life. Don’t wait for the next moment, live it now. Zen is a challenge - a challenge, a risk, a gamble; putting everything at stake for the moment.