Chapter 2: Let the Christian Ship Drown
But these so-called religions are murderous. They must have been ready. If he showed any interest in Japan and not going back to his monastery directly from Bangkok as the conference ended - the murderers must have been already there. And because he mentioned in his last speech to the conference that he was immensely interested in Zen, and he would like to go to Japan from there, this statement became his death.
So it is not only Ayatollah Khomeini. There have been murders and murders, century after century, of people who wanted to get out of the slavery and seek and search the truth on their own; who wanted to get rid of all systems, who wanted to have a direct experience of life.
Thomas Merton’s words are beautiful, but they are empty words because there is no supporting experience behind them. I will read those words again.
“Zen is not a systematic explanation of life” - but this can be said very easily by anybody reading books about Zen. It is not a systematic explanation of life; in fact, it is not an explanation at all. That makes the difference. He is denying: “Zen is not a systematic explanation of life.”
I say unto you, Zen is not an explanation at all about life or existence. It is an experience, not an explanation. It is not an ideology.
This can be said by anyone who is reading a book on Zen. But it is stated with such certainty by so many people who have only an intellectual understanding, that it is not a great indication of whether Thomas Merton had had any experience. Zen certainly is not an ideology, it is not a world view. All these are different words for the same thing: “a systematic explanation, an ideology, a world view, a theology of revelation and salvation.” He is simply being tautological, he is saying the same thing again and again in different words.
“It is not a mystique” - there he is wrong. It is, although it is not stated. That’s why he thought it is not a mystique. It is the greatest mystique, but it is not said because it cannot be said. Because it is never said, he thought that it is not a mystique. These small things indicate that he’s just read about it - because nowhere is it said that it is a mystique. Because no master ever indicated in words that it is a mystique, he thinks it is not a mystique. It is. It is the greatest mystique, the greatest mystery, the greatest miracle.
But to say it in words has not been the way of Zen. It attracts people, takes away their ideologies, their theologies, their religions. It leaves you absolutely fresh at the very center of your being. Without saying anything, you experience the mystique, you experience the mystery of existence and life.