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Why are there so many nature pictures on this website? Close-ups?
We are encouraging you to notice things. To see what is right there in front of you... This simple lesson lies at the heart of Zen and is the essence of the Buddha's Flower Sermon.
Buddha's flower sermon
Zen began with a simple lesson from Buddha. He held a flower before his students and spoke no words of explanation. This profound and infinitely subtle lesson said far more than words ever could.
Not everything can be articulated verbally. Words have severe limitations. The inexpressible must be felt rather than thought.
The awakening of consciousness is
the next evolutionary step for mankind.
Words cage the mind
The danger with words is that they do not represent reality. Consider: a verbal description of an event...
You walked into the room and you took the coffee cup off the table, drank some and then noticed that Mike, Anthony and James were also in the room watching television.
The verbal description gives the illusion that these events occurred sequentially.
Consider: what happens in the very instant you enter a room...
As you enter the room you simultaneously see the coffee cup/the television/the images on the television/Mike/Anthony/James/what they are all doing/ how and where they are seated/what they are wearing/the layout and configuration of the room/the distance of things relative to another and to you/the weather outside/the bird on the branch eating red nuts from the green plastic feeder/the decor of the room/the quality of light, smell the coffee/other aromas, hear the ambient noises inside and outside the room/television/Mike/Anthony/James/your own thoughts/interpretations/suggestions/impressions/memories, feel the texture of the floor covering/your clothing/the air circulation/temperature of the room.
Words cannot render the complexity of that first instant but you probably get the idea.
Koan serve to demonstrate the folly of words. You cannot box reality into words and hope to have a healthy, functional relationship with it.
Words can shape and twist and warp your perceptions of things, but reality itself is unchanged. The problem lies with the fact that we experience reality in our minds.
If we interpret sensory data in a distorted way, then our relationship with reality and the choices we make will be questionable.
I awoke, only to see that the rest
of the world is still asleep.
(Leonardo da Vinci)
Learning tai chi is not simply a matter of copying somebody else. Logic and reasoning may help a beginner understand the basics of body movement, but little more.
Intuition and direct physical sensation are the ways in which we gain a feeling for tai chi. Nobody can tell you what tai chi really is - you must feel it for yourself.
Consider: you cannot eat the word 'bread'. Students of tai chi gain a growing sense of what it is about - like a thought at the back of the mind. Yet, it cannot be thought or said.
The human mind is not to be trusted. Few people are logical, clear and internally balanced. Decisions are often reached and actions taken without any rational thought taking place.
It like rummaging through an old box of junk and pulling something out at random.
Choices are justified by the ego, but seldom considered at length. Contemplation is not popular these days. It takes too long and people fail to understand the benefits.
Rather than examine the consequences, the relationships involved or the variables present - people simply blunder forward and then express surprise when things fail.
Our minds are a rampaging mess of thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, memories, received knowledge, rules, codes, symbols and influences.
Meditation is the beginning of sorting out the mess. The aim is to empty the box completely.
There are three classes of people:
those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.
(Leonardo da Vinci)
If the mind is empty of extraneous thoughts, we can pay attention to what our senses tell us. The information is there and we notice it. This is the outcome of a calm and quiet mind.
Seeing only what you want to see?
We cannot walk around looking for things that interest us, otherwise we will only see what pleases us and disregard what does not.
Being in the moment requires receptivity and openness: let it all in, see it all, notice the details. Avoid linearity of perception.
Your thoughts interpret reality and then your emotions are added to ideas you consider to be valuable. This is when matters become complicated.
In tai chi practice a novice tenses-up when they are attacked playfully.
The physical process of tensing is caused by the contraction of the psoas muscle attempting to curl the body into a protective foetal position.
Your body is responding to what the mind decides is happening.
Do you tense-up when your loved ones touch you? No. Your mind interprets and then the body responds accordingly.
Tai chi students should not tense-up at all, so this habit must be worked through until you no longer tense-up your muscles when somebody touches or attacks you.
Learn to flow
How can we make the change? We simply choose to regard all physical contact as acceptable. We do not fight with the attacker. We do not add emotions to the event. We do not prepare.
Adding emotions is the outcome of fear. The mind is desperate to control the outcome of a situation and speculates on the variables involved.
This process of anticipation is energetically-costly; you worry and you plan. Your very fear and tension may actually cause a neutral situation to move towards an adverse outcome.
It is said that soon after his
enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the
Buddha's extraordinary radiance and presence.
The man stopped and asked, "My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?"
"No," said the Buddha.
"Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?"
Again the Buddha answered, "No."
"Are you a man?"
"Well, my friend, then what are you?"
The Buddha replied, "I am awake."
9 March 1997
Last updated 07 January 2020