Zen, the very word, comes from a Sanskrit root dhyan. It is a mispronunciation of another mispronunciation of another mispronunciation of another mispronunciation. So I am not the only one who goes on mispronouncing words! This is an ancient habit of the awakened ones. The Sanskrit word is dhyan. Buddha pronounced it as jhana – the first mispronunciation started with Gautam the Buddha. When it reached China, the Chinese Masters, Hui Neng and others, pronounced it as chana, and finally chana became shortened into chan. When it reached Japan, Rinzai and other masters pronounced it as Zen. It is the same Sanskrit word, dhyan, but with each change it has taken a different flavor; with each change of climate it has taken a new perfume. It has become more and more beautiful. Now it is far more beautiful than it was ever before, and it has traveled a long way.
From dhyan to Zen there is tremendous evolution; unimaginable new dimensions have appeared, so much so that if ancient Sanskrit, Vedic seers come to know about Zen they will not believe that this is what has happened to their dhyan. It has moved almost to the opposite polarity, but it has become far more beautiful, far more aesthetic, far more graceful, far more feminine. It has not lost anything.
Ordinarily just the reverse happens: as time goes by things deteriorate. This has not been the case with Zen. With each passing age and with new conquest of a new country and climate, of new people. Zen was so capable it absorbed new qualities; it became enriched. It started growing new flowers with new colors.
It is the meeting of the whole genius of Asia because the Indian genius, the Chinese genius and the Japanese genius – these are the three main currents of Asian genius – they all have contributed to Zen.
The first thing to be understood about it is: it is not goal-oriented. It is a way of life herenow; it has nothing to do with a future life, with any paradise. It is not in the ordinary sense another branch of spirituality. It is neither spiritual nor material; it is a transcendence of both. It is not other-worldly, it is not this-worldly either, but it is a great synthesis.
The Zen master lives in the ordinary life, just as everybody else, but lives in an extraordinary way, with a totally new vision, with great exquisiteness, with tremendous sensitivity, with awareness, watchfulness, meditativeness, spontaneity. There is nothing as sacred in Zen, there is nothing as mundane. All is one, indivisibly one; you cannot divide it as mundane and sacred.
Hence you will find Zen masters engaged in very mundane activities; no Hindu saint will be ready to do such things. He will call them worldly things. No Jaina saint can conceive himself cutting wood or drawing water from the well or carrying water from the river – impossible! These are mundane activities; these are for the worldly people. But Zen masters make no distinctions. You can find the Zen master chopping wood, cooking food, carrying water from the well, digging a hole in the garden, planting trees – all kinds of ordinary activities. But if you watch him you will see the difference.
The difference is tremendous, but it is not of quantity: it is of quality. He works with such awareness, with such silence, with such joy and celebration that he transforms the whole activity.