Finished reading: The Way of Zen by Alan Watts 📚
There’s a concise history of sorts in this book about Zen Buddhism and its evolution from Taoism and Confucianism as well as the roots of it from India.
However, I basically ended up skipping most of the first section. The meat of this book resides under “Part Two: Principles and Practice,” particularly sections (or chapters) 1 & 2 titled “Empty and Marvelous” and “Sitting. Quietly, Doing Nothing” respectively.
A few highlights:
Presence! This is something that definitely awakens once you have a kid.
On the contrary, the measuring of worth and success in terms of time, and the insistent demand for assurances of a future, make it impossible to live freely both in the promising present and in the “promising” future when it arrives. For there is never anything but the present, and if one cannot live there, one can- not live anywhere.
I like this idea of not clinging to the past, not dwelling on the future (you’ll never know it) but to keep moving…
The identification of the mind with its own image is, therefore, paralyzing because the image is fixed-it is past and finished. But it is a fixed image of oneself in motion! To cling to it is thus to be in constant contradiction and conflict. Hence Yün-men’s saying, “In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.” In other words, the mind cannot act without giving up the impossible attempt to control itself beyond a certain point. It must let go of itself both in the sense of trusting its own memory and reflection, and in the sense of acting spontaneously, on its own into the unknown.
This is why Zen often seems to take the side of action as against reflection, and why it describes itself as “no-mind” (wu-hsin) or “no-thought” (wu-nien), and why the masters demonstrate Zen by giving instantaneous and unpremeditated answers to questions. When Yün-men was asked for the ultimate secret of Buddhism, he replied, “Dumpling!”
In regards to meditation, the West often has a hard time to just sit. It’s seen as a “waste of time.” We can also see in other religions0 that it is to always just be in action. However we should stop and consider…
…it should be obvious that action without wisdom, without clear awareness of the world as it really is, can never improve anything.