The Zen philosophy is based on ‘The Four Noble Truths’ as formulated by Buddha:
- Life is suffering
- Suffering is caused by desire
- We must stop the desires
- Desires can be stopped by following the ‘Eightfold Path’
So what do these ‘Noble Truths’ of Zen mean ?
The First Noble Truth is about our discontent with our lives. We are not happy about ourselves, want something we do not have, are irritated by others or lose things we want to keep. Often we even complain about the fact we are complaining: “Why aren’t I happy ? Why am I jealous of others? What do I really want ?” Some people find the idea that ‘life is suffering’ very depressing but what it means is that life does contain suffering, whether we like it or not. It is our unwillingness to accept this that causes the most suffering.
The Second Noble Truth tells us the reason why we are suffering: desire ! We want things, we want things to be different, we want something to happen (or not). A large part of the day we are thinking about our wishes. And more often than not we get carried away with them into a never-ending spiral of ‘if only….’.
The solution to our suffering is offered by the Third Noble truth: to stop the suffering we must lose our desires. No desires means no suffering. To give up your desires does not mean you have to stop loving people or have emotions about the things you do. Just let go of the pain in you heart about the things you think you need. Live your life with what it brings you. It is enough.
The Fourth Noble Truth is what Zen is all about. It shows us the way to give up our desires. By following the Eightfold Path we will learn to see things clearly and live our life the right way. Desires will easy away and so will the suffering.
Zen is something that needs to be experienced more than it is to be learned. Zen is about focusing on the here and now. The best way to get a grasp on this complete awareness is through meditation or zazen as it is called in the Zen tradition.