Zen and Creativity 01 10 | Zen | Tao

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This document can be acquired from a sub-directory coombspapers via anonymous FTP and COOMBSQUEST gopher on the node COOMBS.ANU.EDU.AU The document's ftp filename and the full directory path are given in the coombspapers top level INDEX file. date of the document's last update/modification {18/09/93} This file is the work of Stan Rosenthal. It has been placed here, with his kind permission, by Bill Fear. The author has asked that no hard copies, ie. paper copies, are made. Stan Rosenthal may be
  This document can be acquired from a sub-directory coombspapers via anonymousFTP and COOMBSQUEST gopher on the node COOMBS.ANU.EDU.AU The document's ftpfilename and the full directory path are given in the coombspapers top levelINDEX file.date of the document's last update/modification {18/09/93} This file is the work of Stan Rosenthal. It has been placed here, with hiskind permission, by Bill Fear. The author has asked that no hard copies, ie.paper copies, are made. Stan Rosenthal may be contacted at 44 High street, St. Davids,Pembrokeshire, Dyfed, Wales, UK.Bill Fear may be contacted at 29 Blackweir Terrace, Cathays, Cardiff, SouthGlamorgan, Wales, UK. email fear@thor.cf.ac.uk.Please use email as first method of contact, if possible. Messages can be sentto Stan Rosenthal via the above email address - they will be forwarded on inperson by myself. ..............................Beginning of file.................................1 of 10 INTRODUCTION It is often the case that the most simple questions have the most complexanswers, and this is especially true of the question, What is Zen?  However, the fact that the answer is complex, should not allow us to avoidit, for if the question is sincerely asked, the complexity of the answer islikely to provide more information than we thought we would receive. Whether weactually want as much information as the answer provides, it of course up to usto decide, but where such an answer is provided as printed matter, we do atleast have the choice as to whether or not we should proceed, and can continueat our own pace, retracing our steps where necessary. The question, 'What is Zen?', has of course been asked on inumerableoccassions in the past, and it has given rise to many answers. Some of theseanswers are easy to understand, some defy the comprension of even the initiated,but most have a quite unique and poetic quality. Whilst many of these answers are shortprovided In the hope that it will aidyou in your quest for understanding, I will tell you a few of the answers givenby masters far more accomplished than I.Quite recently, the teascher Shih-tien wrote, It is the sound of the bellwhich awakens the mind.  In the preface to his book, 'A Time of Blossoming', the teacher Suitekiwrote, It is the water in the watering can.When it is sprinkled upon the bud,it enables that bud to burst opento become the flower.  Some eight-hundred ago, Engo wrote in his notes on the 'The Blue CliffRecord', which was srcinally compiled by Setcho, It is the single arrowwhich shatters all barriers.    But a long time before this, in the year five hundred and twenty-six, theBoddhidharma, who was the twenty- eighth Budhist patriarch, and the founder ofZen, is believed to have told the Emporer Wu, It is vast emptiness,with nothing holy.It places no reliance on scriptures,for it is a transmission beyond words. Although you may find these answers quite different from each other, as youbecome conversant with the method of Zen, you will see that each of thesedescriptions compliments the others. They are rather like four paintings bydifferent artists, each painted in the artist's own style, but of the samelandscape. As we become familiar with the styles of the artists, so werecognise the landscape as being one and the same in each case. In much the same way as we may become conversant with art itself by lookingat the work of different painters, so too might we gain in our understanding ofZen by examining a little closer, the answers given by the masters of Zen. Forthis reason, I will say a little more of these four descriptions which I havequoted. Shih-tien was an admirer of Bokutaku, a Zen teacher whose name translates as'A large bell which is struck with a wooden beam'. Such bells were used in Zenteaching places, and Bokutaku's teaching was said to have been of a similarnature to the sound of such a bell....and nobody could sleep whilst he wasteaching. Since Shih-tien admired this style of teaching, it is not surprising that heused this analogy, for Zen does in fact awaken the mind. The 'koan' or riddlesused in Zen to help our development, make us consider each aspect of a situationfrom different viewpoints, and from differing frames of reference. It is saidthat those who become really accomplished in this technique can actually examinea situation from any conceivable point of view. However, not all Zen teachers are as powerful in their manner as Bokutaku.Suiteki, for example, was so named by his teacher because the name Suiteki means'a drop of water', and his teacher thought his manner to be like the drops ofwater which become a stream, and then a river. He achieved what he set out todo by the Zen quality of adaptation. It is said that, like water, he couldadapt to any situation in which he found himself, and was so persistant that hecould eventually overcome any obstacle he met, just as the river eventuallywears away the rock which is in its path. I have already mentioned that Suiteki wrote the book known as 'A Time ofBlossoming'. This is usually considered to be quite an important Zen bookbecause it contains so many of the fundamental principles of Zen teaching. Itis sometimes refered to as one of the 'Zen arrows' ( I think, because it can beread so quickly, and because it seems to 'go straight to its target). I havereproduced part of it here for you. It reads as follows: From the seed, there grows the shoot, and then the bud appears, a tightbut secure knot, providing its own protection. But the bud does not remain thebud for ever, for as the plant matures, the bud begins to struggle to freeitself, and with a mighty effort, bursts open to become the flower. The flowers and trees have sun and rain in which to blossom, and we, ofhumankind, have love to aid our time of blossoming. From the babe, the child should grow, secure in the environment which itsparents provide. And the child should grow into the adolescent, who throughmaturation, develops into the self- realizing adult, safe and secure in the  knowledge and experience of his or her own being. What a great joy it is, when, in the process of maturation, we become opento receive experience, just as the blossoming flower receives the summer dew,and become free to accept ourselves for what we are; which is the birthright ofevery being, just as the life giving warmth of the sun is the birthright ofeverything that grows. One of the major inhibitors of human blossoming is probably lifeitself, for in living our lives to the full, we are required to accept that muchof what we will experience cannot be described as beautiful or enjoyable. Thus,to protect ourselves from pain, we erect barriers to our experience. So it is that in order to learn of love and peace and ecstasy, and of thefreedom to grow, we must look into ourselves, and find the courage to break freefrom those concepts of ourselves which we have allowed to predetermine who andwhat we are, what we should be, or what we should remain. Then we can see thatour potential has no bounds, other than the boundaries which we set ourselves,or allow others to set in our name. When we find the courage to accept that our potential has no bounds, then wecan begin to find that energy which changes the whole of humankind, for just asthe parting of the petals which form the bud, allows that bud to blossom intothe flower, thus changing the face of the earth, so does the blossoming of evenone of us, change the face of mankind. The third master from whom I quoted, Engo, was speaking of much the samething as Suiteki when he likened Zen to an arrow which can shatter all barriers.Suiteki was really stating that by setting up barriers, or even by allowingothers to set them up, we might deny ourselves experience which is essential toour blossoming. Engo was implying that there are many barriers to ourdevelopment; to making real our potential, and that Zen is a means of shatteringthose barriers. Zen in fact uses this idea of barriers quite frequently, sometimes reeferingto them as 'gates'. The idea of this analogy is that, like a gate, the creativemind can be 'unlocked', and so liberate the concepts or memories which hadpreviously inhibited our growth. Many students of Zen find it quite helpful torealize that the very thing which was used to hold us back, namely the mind, canbe used to liberate us. Understanding the last of the four quotations I used is very helpful to ourunderstanding of Zen itself. It can be read at two levels, one being humerous,and the other very deeply philosophical. The quotation is from a saying of theBoddhidhrama. He was a strange man, a very firm disciplanarian, but with astrong, if somewhat zaney sense of humour. If you decide to study Zen, you willundoubtedly see satues of pictures of him. He is usually depicted as being sostern that he looks almost comical. We often smile at pictures or statues ofhim, but we do it with a deep respect, since he was our founder, and a very wiseman. If you interpret his aphorism humorously, it means,'Everything is a myth, and there is nothing which is so holy that it cannot bequestioned, even the scriptures attributed to the Buddha himself, for words area load of rubbish'. In order to understand ther deeper or more philosophical meaning of hisstatement, it is useful to know that the word 'holy', means 'complete', andcomes from the same root as 'heal', or 'to make whole'. The Boddhidharma was  therefore saying,'Beyond the material world is the metaphysical,the spiritual or psychological, which cannot be perceived, andin which all things should be at one with each other, in order to form anintegralwhole. However, this process of healing (or making whole)cannot be achieved merely byreading, or listening to a teacher, for suchcognitive learning is insufficient, and must beconsolidated, that is, made real, by experience.' Considering each of these statements, it is possible to to answer yourquestion, at least provisionally, by saying that it is a system through which wecan become whole, by overcoming those barriers which prevent our gaining theexperience necessary to the realization of our potential. ZEN AS A PHILOSOPHICAL SYSTEM To say that 'Zen is a system' is more than a little unsatisfactory, for sucha statement does not tell us what kind of a system Zen is. Some people think ofit as a religious system, but although it has its sages, who are akin to holymen, and who we would certainly describe as holy or spiritual, Zen has no diety,and so cannot truthfully be described as a religion. But having said that Zen is not a religion, it must also be said that incommon with the great world religions, it has, or even is a philosophy. If weare to be honest, any of us can only describe a thing as we ourselves find it,and for me, Zen is a philosophical system, and is similar to religious systemsin that it provides a framework of values, known in psychology as a 'frame ofreference', which, it is argued in Zen, enhances the quality of our existence. The orthodox Buddhist frame of reference is found in 'The Four Noble Truths'and 'The Eightfold Path', just as the major frame of reference of Judaism isfound in the Ten Commandments. The name given to the frame of reference orphilosophy of Zen, is 'The Precepts'. Those Zen practitioners who see Zen as a 'living philosophy', try to liveaccording to the precepts. I know that you are interested in psychology, but Ido not know whether you have an interest in philosophy, but in case you do have,I have listed the precepts so that you can at least know what they are, andrefer to them if you wish. As you will appreciate when you read them, most of them are straightforward,but you will probably find others quyite difficult to comprehend. I hope youwill believe that this is not deliberate, but arises beacause Zen, like anyphilosophical system, expresses itself in its own language. As we becomefamiliar with the philosphy, so we become familiar with the language, andvice-verca. If you require, further explanation, I will do my best to answeryour questions, but in the meantime, these are the precepts. Knowing that all beings and all thingsexist only in relation to all others,act in harmony with them, and with nature,from which we all arise. Since none of us is a separate entity to ourselves,but part of one functioning whole,have compassion for all sentient beings,causing no unnecessary hurt, nor needless harm. 
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