Entering a book shop a couple of days ago, I noticed a ‘Zen Dog’ birthday card. The dog was laid back in a sun-chair, obviously enjoying chilling out.
It is certainly an interesting take on zen, and perhaps it symbolises a common view of zen. In that zen has something to do with being calm and chilled out, unruffled by the assorted goings on of our life.
This is a bit of a misleading understanding of zen, as it is neither a calm state of mind nor an agitated one.
Like all words, to understand it we need a definition, and this is where trying to understand what is zen comes unstuck. Words fail us, not due to the specialness of zen (for zen is sometimes special and often not special), but rather due to the limitations of our linguistic minds.
So in coming to an understanding of zen we hit these linguistic limitations. Our linguistic minds cannot grasp all of reality.
To understand zen mind is rather like getting a joke. Often we either get a joke or don’t. But if you try and explain a joke or understand it literally, it loses its’ meaning.
Similarly with zen, when you get it you need no words, it is a spontaneous sense of life and living, and our immediate expression and experience of that life.
Still, if you’re so inclined, you can ‘get it’ whilst enjoying chilling out in a sun-chair. Immersed, in your un-analysed enjoyment of the moment.
© David R. Durham