Descriptive Essay : Zen Masters

Descriptive Essay : Zen Masters

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Zen masters enlighten their followers about importance of non-duality in realizing that everything is impermanent and there is no substantial self. Nothing has a fixed identity, if something had a fixed identity that means it would be permanent. Living is to be understood as an event as we are infinitely reborn through cycles of being born and dying (samsara) until enlightenment is found. The central theme in Zen is emptiness which is the absence of svabhava thinking (‘own being’), meaning a thing is a thing not another thing, it is essential to understand the non-duality between things. “Only because there is no self can the self be reborn. Only because the self is empty can the self be reborn.” Self is collection of parts (skandhas), what passes from birth to rebirth are these skandhas or aggregate parts. When we lose this sense of attachment can Nirvana be obtained. In Nirvana, “All the skandhas will disappear. All that is left is ease, naturalness, and freedom.” As long as there is something that you are attached to, the self will go through the infinite cycles of samsara with nirvana never being secured. 'Before I became a monk I looked at the mountain and river as the mountain and river. For twenty years of practice I saw that the mountain and river are emptiness. They are not the mountain and river that I was attached to. After practising for almost forty years, the mountain and river are just mountain and river again. ' This passage, originally stated by Ch’an Master Qinyuan, portrays the three stages leading up to a non-dual state. First, there is the illusion of essentialism (svabhava), that things are what they appear to be; eventually, after realizing emptiness, the practitioner notices that things are not what th...


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...ctory but possible if the concept of non-duality was utilized. The traditional monastic practices and rules are also disregarded in favor of a lay life. This is due to another inversion from Shinran. Traditionally, Pure Land Buddhism was neglected as the easy and inferior way for people who couldn’t partake in more serious and demanding practice. Although, Shinran, because of his own experience as a monk, reversed the teachings and concluded that, the monastic practices were the ones that were inferior. We can notably think of the repetitive nature of the mind training, the general disregard for knowledge and conventional wisdom and means of teaching, and the importance of intense effort that leads to a sort of epiphany by “giving up”. All these factors combine to enable the practitioner to reach enlightenment, which in both schools is not seen as gradual but sudden.

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