“Empty your cup,” the master said. “Your cup is overflowing.”
“Maybe stop pouring then?” I replied.
“It’s a metaphor,” he snapped. But it was too late anyway. My loafers were ruined.
“Now clean up that mess,” he ordered with a stern look. ”And brew another pot!” I quietly walked back to the kitchen. This was not how I pictured my blissful weeklong vacation at an authentic Zen monastery.
There was once a monk who carried a mirror where ever he went. A priest noticed this behavior one day, and thought to himself, “This monk is so vain and shallow. He shouldn’t concern himself with his external appearance–it is the inside, not the outside that really matters. I’ll teach that monk a lesson today.”
The priest approached the monk and asked, “Why do you always carry that mirror?”
What is Zen?
Zen Buddhism is a way and a view of life which does not belong to any of the formal categories of modern Western thought. It is not a religion or a philosophy; it is not a psychology or a type of science. It is an example of what is known in India and China as a “way of liberation,” and is similar in this respect to Taoism, Vedanta, and Yoga. A way of liberation can have no positive definition. It has to be suggested by saying what it is not, somewhat as a sculptor reveals an image by the act of removing pieces of stone from a block.
– Alan Watts, The Way of Zen
If Zen has no positive definition, then everything is Zen. And if everything is Zen, then naturally every blog is Zen too. Right?
Actually, this argument is a perfect illustration of New Age rhetorical misdirection. While one can say that everything is Zen in its transcendent sense, such a statement cannot serve as the premise for an immanent logical conclusion. In other words: Zen proves nothing, by definition.
Applying transcendent or non-dual definitions to conventional worldly contexts is a popular tactic amongst false gurus.
This is Zen:
Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?
This is not Zen:
Tazo Zen Tea (24 bags)
An enlightening blend of the finest green teas and rare herbs available in this world.
An Unauthorized Bibliography
There’s nothing new within this book; there are no secrets. “It’s nothing special,” Bruce used to say. And so it wasn’t.
With over 750,000 copies sold in nine languages, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the bestselling martial arts book in modern history. Although Bruce Lee’s name and photo appear on the cover, dedicated fans know that he did not actually write Tao of Jeet Kune Do—at least not in its current form. (The book is a compilation of Bruce’s personal notes, organized and published posthumously by Dan Inosanto, Linda Lee and Gilbert Johnson.)
While credit for fighting methods expressed in Tao of JKD is rightfully given to boxer Edwin Haislet, fencers Hugo and James Castello, and others, we are left to infer that Jeet Kune Do’s philosophical underpinnings are Bruce’s unique contribution.
Quite the contrary, Jeet Kune Do is an orthodox expression of Taoist, Buddhist, and Western metaphysical principles. From the poem on the book’s opening page, to the passionate expressions of its final chapter, ideas in Tao of JKD can be traced directly to earlier written works. Here is a sampling of these sources.
The principle of Subjective Reality—that the universe is consciousness and nothing more—has been employed by authentic spiritual traditions for millennia. Its intended function is not to reveal Universal Truth, but to prepare a seeker for the next stage in their development by dispelling their material illusions.
In other words, Subjective Reality is a spiritual colonic, which for best results must be followed by healthy wisdom food. New-age teachers who skip this critical lesson are like surgeons who excise a tumor, but neglect to close the incision afterwards.
By day, I am a mild-mannered software developer; when darkness falls, I step away from the computer for more vigorous pursuits. During the past few days, I’ve been moonlighting as a private dick. My latest case: to find those responsible for the destruction of the Shaolin Temple village, and bring them to justice.
Su Dongpo occupied a government post on the northern shore of the Yangtze River. Across the river at Jinshan Temple lived the Chan master Foyin.
One day, Su Dongpo, feeling proud of his accomplishments in meditative practice, wrote a poem and dispatched it to Foyin for approval:
I bow my head to the heaven within heaven
Whose light illuminates the universe
The eight winds cannot move me
Sitting still upon the golden purple lotus
When Foyin received the poem, he read it, wrote a single word in reply, and sent it back.
In this video clip from the documentary Abbot Hai Teng of Shaolin, the 70-year-old Shaolin monk demonstrates his famous “One Finger Chan” posture.
Shi Yongxin, Abbot of Shaolin Temple, speaks on the greatest benefit of studying martial arts:
The ultimate Shaolin Kung Fu is to train to have a mind that does not stir. If you develop a mind that does not stir, then you won’t be afraid of death. Not being afraid of death does not mean not loving life. In contrast, you will love life even more. To love life is the real purpose of learning zen! What kind of life is worth loving? Only a life without worries and pain is worth loving. To reach a state where there is no worry and pain, one must practice to have a mind that does not stir. Martial arts zen is a path towards a mind that does not stir.
Translation provided by Kah Joon Liow, author of Shaolin: Legends of Zen and Kung Fu