The true reality is that of the inner world
The follower of Zen is protected from the incursions of the world by an inverted (in our Western terms) understanding of what is real and what illusory.
One of the all-time favorite koan 1 helps to make this clear. The koan describes three monks watching a banner flutter in the breeze. One monk observes, "The banner is moving," but the second insists, "The wind is moving." Finally, the third monk says, "You are both wrong. It is your mind that is moving."
The point here is that, in modern times, most Westerners view the physical world as the operative reality and the unseen, nonphysical world as an abstraction (comforting or not, depending upon our beliefs or immediate needs, the spiritual world is said to grow less abstract to those in foxholes). But Zen takes the opposite tack; it holds that true reality is the fundamental unity of mind and matter, inner spirit and external world. When life is viewed in such terms, there can be no success or failure, happiness or unhappiness; life is a whole, and you are simply part of it.
There are no dualities, hence there is nothing to worry about.
The result is perfect tranquility.
Of course, one small thread remains to be tied. What do you do about daily life, where the world carries on as though it really does exist, dualities and all? Quite simply, Zen would have you treat the physical world exactly as followers of Western religions sometimes treat the spiritual world—as a convenient fiction whose phenomena you honor as though they existed, although you know all the while that they are illusions. The world of strife and relative values may trouble those who mistake it for the real thing, but the Zen-man echoes the words of Hamlet, "We that have free souls, it touches us not."
The world is in fact meaningless. It is one's mind that is moving.
However startling such a doctrine may be to Western rationalists, it has engendered such Japanese phenomena as the samurai swordsmen and the kamikaze pilot, both of whom could, in the Japanese phrase, live as if already dead. On a less dramatic scale, it allows the modern Japanese to be spiritually content and enjoy mental repose in a crowded subway, or to find solitude in a paper-walled house amid noisy neighbors. They wrap their cocoon of tranquility about them and become spiritually apart
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Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change.
Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every de-partment of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.
The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.
One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and have a necessary connection. But the basis of morality is really very simple and doesn't require religion at all. It's this: "Don't do unto anybody else what you wouldn't like to be done to you." It seems to me that that's all there is to it.
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