What is enlightenment?

The short answer is: a bad translation of a word that means “awake.” It’s not that the Buddha attained something we call enlightenment. It’s that he woke up. It’s like when you’re dreaming — you think you’re walking on water, or flying over Mars, but then you wake up and see where you are — oh, I’m in bed. There’s the closet. There’s the door. When you wake up, you see what’s actually there and not what you think is there.

Buddha’s waking up was like that, except what he woke up to was his original nature, which is your original nature, which is the nature of the universe — things as they actually are and not as our thoughts distort them.

You can wake up too. That’s the point of Zen practice, to help us cut through the distortions of our thinking and wake up, just as Buddha did.

And, just as every night you fall asleep and have to wake up again every morning, waking up is something we do over and over again. It’s not something we do once and then say: okay, been there, done that. It’s something we keep doing throughout our lives.

Help us decide our schedule of retreats

Our retreat schedule has been pretty much set for a long time: every year we have one 5-day retreat, four 2-day retreats, two 1-day retreats. But does this meet our current needs? In particular, should we add more retreats to give more options and/or more opportunities for intensive practice? And if so, which kind(s)? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Please take our very brief survey.

To practice Zen do I have to believe in rebirth?

The short answer is: no. There are no doctrinal requirements in Zen practice.

 

The longer answer is: what is there to be reborn? I.e., what is your fundamental nature? what is my fundamental nature? what is every human being’s fundamental nature? That is the basic question, independent of any belief or disbelief in rebirth. Zen practice is a way of perceiving our fundamental nature, fully realizing it, and acting accordingly. This nature is independent of any doctrine, independent even of speech and thinking. There are a lot of words and explanations out there about it. But you have to find it yourself.