At its core, Zen is a philosophy of life which can be applied to any area of experience. It teaches that by removing all extraneous conceptualizations and simply being one's self – action and thought in harmony with the world – one can achieve true peace.
Living in a state of pure being, one can act and react naturally to the world. There is no fear or worry over future consequences because there is an acceptance that all things are ultimately beyond one's control.
The world is a scary place. There are many things which we do not control, and thus cannot predict or plan for – only react to as they occur.
The peace of Zen is found by letting go of all the worry and conceptualizations about what may or may not happen, allowing oneself to flow with the world and be at one with it.
Zen is a philosophy of life which promotes peace and harmony with the world.
There is a real and tangible peace to be found in surrendering oneself to the world.
First, let us define what 'Zen' is. Zen is a way of life that involves meditation and being at peace with one's self.
This is not easy to do, as people are generally full of themselves.
In addition, there is much suffering in the world. This has lead to people being unhappy and they need help.
The best way to help people is by being at peace with yourself and helping others in the same manner.
Meditation is the way to achieve this. Meditation helps you enjoy life and be with your self.
Zen is very good for this.
I would describe Zen as a practice that has been in existence for centuries, yet no one is quite sure exactly what it's purpose or means to be. The concept of zen is an esoteric Hindu religion-based spiritual system and philosophy which originated from ancient India in the 6th century BC and is now prevalent throughout many eastern societies including Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
Zen has several key components including samadhi (a state of being where 'being itself' can be experienced), Dharma (the way things are) and Nirvana (a goal of enlightenment). This triple principle directly correlates to Buddhism; however whereas Buddhism was more popular among people within Asia than outside its boundaries in the past; zen grew much faster through out Europe after World War II because many people were attracted by its focus on experience rather than doctrine.
So, you see, zen has a very rich history and although it's written texts are over five hundred years old there is still much to learn about the practice. It is as if the spiritual system was designed for complete human freedom.
The main idea behind zen is that in order to understand the true nature of things, one must first experience it directly. First-hand knowledge can be achieved through meditation and other forms of practice which allows for an individual to fully concentrate on a single object or concept without being distracted by anything else.
In this sense, zen is not a religion per say; it is simply a way to achieve direct experience and enlightenment. The practice of zen goes back hundreds of years in history when the Buddha meditated under the Bodhi tree for seven days right after achieving enlightenment.
I would say that zen is also a way of life.
The teachings and practices are passed down from master to student, or else written in books and can be learned by reading the text. In this sense, people who practice zen do so because they want to better themselves as human beings.
Part of zen is about being in the moment and completely immersed in whatever you are doing. When one focuses on a single object for long periods, they will eventually reach a state where their mind becomes clear and relaxed.
A man in a white robe approaches you. 'I am the Zen master,' he says, and then asks you: What is this?' You look at him but don't answer, because you have no idea what he's talking about. He nods and smiles before continuing. 'What I mean to ask is this: Would it be correct to say that this thing here'—he points with his finger—"is real? Or would it be incorrect? If so, why?'
You must answer, because the Zen master is an asshole and will not let you leave until he gets some kind of response.
So you think about the question: What is this thing here that I'm pointing at? At first it seems impossible to answer. But eventually, after much consideration, you conclude that what this 'thing' refers to can be described as a finger. After all, there's no other reasonable description….
On closer inspection, though, it seems that this explanation is not entirely satisfactory. After all, you just said that the thing here could be described as a finger.
But if this thing were actually a finger, then how could there be any uncertainty about what it was? So perhaps what 'this' refers to isn't really something out in the world at all but rather some kind of conceptual construct—a way of thinking about things.
The Zen master nods knowingly, as if he could read your thoughts. 'Good,' he says. 'But what is thinking? And what is this thing here that I call a finger?' He points again.
You feel compelled to offer a response. But what can you say? In the end, there seems to be no way of answering this question that doesn't beg the very same question: What is thinking? And so on ad infinitum. So eventually you decide it's best not to answer at all.