Applied Zen for an Active Life
In my last article, I talked about not needing to be a monk to learn, or even master, Zen.
Now, let's talk about getting there.
Zen as Prelude to Action
The samurai did not shave their heads (unless they were retiring!), yet they were nonetheless practitioners of Zen. Monks might have been expected to be the true masters of Zen, but everyone was free to try and live according to its fundamental principles: liberating the mind from worldly vices such as greed, anger, and ignorance.
This does not, however, mean that Zen need be a passive endeavor, doing nothing but accepting the world around us.
Certainly, acceptance is a key issue. Truth is all around us; it stares us in the face every day, yet we do our utmost to deny and repel it with our minds. This feeds our ignorance and fuels our anger. Greed leads to frustration, which fuels our anger. Anger blinds us to Truth.
When we are angry, we are fighting ourselves. For the warrior, anger means wasting energy fighting yourself instead of the opponent. In some battles, this waste will prove fatal.
Thus, the Zen-practicing warrior accepts the truth as it is before him. If he is stronger than his opponent, he accepts that is true; he also accepts that a weaker opponent can kill him. If he is outnumbered four to one, he accepts that; if he must fight, he makes taking his life a costly endeavor.
Acceptance is the prelude to action.
Here, Zen is not passive; it is inner calm, employing the principle of One Mind to focus on the task at hand without prejudice, denial, or anger. The warrior is 100% focused on the task at hand. He wastes no effort feeling sorry for himself and applies his entire mind and body to that which is expected of him.Continued on the next page