When you’re first confronted with it, the language of Zen can seem like nonsense. Zen is concerned with getting to the ultimate nature of reality. It’s hard to accurately express it in words.
Yet there are some great books that are worth reading, including Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, D. T. Suzuki’s What is Zen?, and Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching.
Because enlightenment, the ultimate realization of Zen, is impossible to put into words, any attempt to do so just ends up obscuring what it’s all about. This is because it’s essentially ungraspable. As soon as you think you have the “truth”, the truth disappears.
Zen can only be personally experienced through non-rational meditative contemplation and developing your own intuition, which takes years of practice to fully realize. That’s why Zen comes across as a mystical language that’s designed to awaken something inside of you so that you can directly experience enlightenment on your own.
Does that mean it’s useless to write an article about the teachings of Zen? I don’t think so. These insights are incredibly valuable, especially in today’s world where life is changing fast. The wisdom can change the world for the better.
Here are some of the most important principles I’ve learned from Soyen Shaku (1860-1919), a senior teacher of the Rinzai school of Zen. He’s known as the first Zen Buddhist priest to come to the United States.
10 Rules to Live By From the First Zen Master in America
Below is a list of rules to live by that Zen master Shaku set for himself and lived by each day, until his passing on October 29th, 1919:
1. In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate
Daily meditation, particularly at the beginning of the day, is incredibly important. However, what about incense?
Incense is very symbolic. Zen Buddhists use it as a symbol of the unity of everything. When used with absolute selflessness and respect for life it can help keep what’s really important at the forefront of your mind.
Incense also helps to reduce stress, with scientific studies demonstrating it can even help reduce the risk of getting cancer.