Zen is a method to help one find oneself
Hosokawa says the main purpose of Zen is to search for oneself. “In Zen teachings, there is no God to save you. You must save yourself.” In order to do so, one must reach the spiritual staircase known as enlightenment by achieving a certain mental state through Zen meditation. This is very difficult to explain with words because it is known as a non-verbal physical state of being. “For example, let’s say you just ate something incredibly delicious. How would you explain this experience to someone else? Words can only do so much. The only way to effectively portray the feeling is to have the other person physically taste the food. Meditation is similar, so it’s best to just sit down and meditate instead of trying to explain it through words.”
Of course, there have been many books released discussing Zen, and with the help of temple master Taido Matsubara, the cultural practice to put Zen teachings into words really picked up in the 1970’s. However, Zen is about “spiritual awakening”, meaning it is believed that the only true way to teach Zen is through experience, not words. One thing you must not forget is that Zen, a non-verbal practice, is different than meditation. Although they are often used to describe each other and indeed have certain aspects in common, they should be thought of as different things. Meditation is useful for bringing out one’s “automatic” self. Through meditation, the subconscious self can be known which can lead to the realization of what one truly wants to achieve. Inside oneself exists a self that is different from the outside world.
But for Zen, the ultimate goal is to achieve spiritual awakening. Ideally, reaching spiritual awakening means one becomes “empty”. At this point, there is no consciousness or unconsciousness, no difference between oneself and the world around, nor any difference between males and females. “A clear mirror reflects whatever is in front of it perfectly. A tangerine is a tangerine. Trash is trash. Mirrors reflect the world around one as is. Zen is about achieving a level of focus to see the world around oneself in the same way. If you can find this mirror, you’ll be able to find your true self.”
The Zen lifestyle is looking at the world as it is and not thinking about it with any human understanding. It’s important to focus on the world in front of your eyes in every moment, without thinking about pros and cons, likes and dislikes, past and future, or cause and effect. Just like an infant seeing the world for the first time, “it’s about being able to view something with a sense of wonder, no matter how many times you may have seen it before. If you can achieve this, you will be able to lead a life that focuses on the world in front of your eyes. Of course, this isn’t a simple thing to achieve.” Zen has created physical techniques to help reach this goal. Here, I’ll go into detail about two of those techniques.