Seeing things as they really are

October 29, 2009


Yesterday I met a representative from the StoneWater Zen Sengha. The Sangha is part of the White Plum lineage established by Taizan Maezumi Roshi (1931-1995), one of the great pioneers of modern Zen, who opened up a unique tradition of Buddhist practice to a worldwide movement. Born into a prominent Soto Zen family, Maezumi received transmission from his father, Baian Hakujun Kuroda. Unusually, he then went on to receive transmission from two Rinzai masters, Nyogen Senzaki Roshi and Koryu Osaka Roshi. With this exceptionally rich background Maezumi was able to express the teaching of the Buddha in a very broad and colourful way. Originally sent to the USA in 1956 as a priest for the local Japanese community in Los Angeles, he went on to found Zen Center Los Angeles and Yokoji Zen Mountain Center. As well as guiding thousands of students, he gave transmission to twelve dharma successors, each of whom is an important teacher in their own right, including Genpo Merzel Roshi and Tenshin Fletcher Roshi.


Zen is a form of Buddhism that gives central importance to meditation, to personal experience of its teachings and to the expression of the great matters of life and death – not in theological or metaphysical terms, but in practical everyday forms.

Zen’s aim is to give direct experience of life itself, free of dualistic distinctions such as I/you and true/false. This unadorned reality is known in Zen as Buddha-nature, the ‘ground of being’ or ‘authentic nature’. We may, however, substitute God, Tao or the Great Life, or another appropriate word or phrase. In this respect the Zen tradition is a universal one, sometimes called ‘the religion before religion’. Anyone may practice it, independent of creed… indeed, the idea of being a ‘Zen Buddhist’ may itself be discarded. This is not to say that Zen lacks a code of ethics. Its fundamental precepts were born out of Buddhism and at the heart of Zen teaching lies a deep compassion and respect for all beings and an appreciation of the innate wisdom of each individual once that person is unclouded by desire.

zenAlthough details may change, depending on the age, culture and circumstances of the teaching, Zen training is based on zazen meditation, the koan (enigmatic question), dokusan (private interview with the teacher) and samu (a daily period of physical work that brings the other training methods into accord with daily life). These specifically Zen essentials operate within the Buddhist fundamentals known as the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma (teachings of the Buddha) and Sangha (a Buddhist community or group of people).

Zen is universal and applicable to anyone, anywhere. One of its basic beliefs is that Buddha nature is inherent in all people and that it is perfect. This true self has compassion and love of one’s fellow creatures, but, as the Buddha said, ‘because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this’. The Zen student aspires to see through the delusion and into his or her own true self and thus perceive the nature of all existence.


Now talking about seeing things as they really are … lunch took place at the World Cafe, Neal’s Yard, London. It is a wonderful cafe, delicious food and not at all expensive, well worth visiting.


2 Responses to “Seeing things as they really are”

  1. Andre said

    really very informative and inspiring !!!

  2. I think Zen can be contrasted with the modern culture of presumption. You might enjoy the short Zen tale I just posted at

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