Zen… one of those concepts we’ve all heard of, some people have an idea of what it might represent, and no one really knows what it actually is.
There are numerous definitions and perceptions of what zen is. The idea of zen and Zen Buddhism attracted my attention because of the samurai, who experienced zen as both a philosophy and a practical application, whether it be meditation, swordsmanship, or tea ceremonies.
Although it’s hard to break into the essence of zen, a glimpse of what zen might be can be found in anecdotes and koans (both in terms of dialogues and short narratives, as well as in terms of problem-riddles posed to zen students).
The collection “Zen Stories and Sayings” (serb. “Zen price i izreke”), edited by Dragan Milenkovic, consists of about a hundred short stories, sayings of zen teachers, and explanations of the concept of koan. All of this fits into a smaller-sized book of around 120 pages.
The stories are quite short (averaging about a page each) and, at least for me, were quite interesting and charming. With some, I grasped the message they conveyed, with others not… I guess I haven’t achieved enlightenment yet 😀. But, there are definitely stories here that will make you think. I particularly liked “The Overflowing Cup”, “Obedience”, “Argument over a Lodging”, “The Light May Be Extinguished”, “The Miserly Artist”, “Great Waves”, “In the Land of Dreams”, “Killing Buddhism”, “In the Hands of Fate”, “Calling Card”, “My Heart Burns Like Fire”, and “Carrying the Girl”.
What you must understand is that not all stories here are steeped in some deep, profound philosophy. For example, the stories I just listed are more like anecdotes, many of them quite humorous, showing examples of wisdom, resourcefulness, as well as giving smart, but witty responses.
To be honest, the sayings of various zen teachers did not leave a particular impression on me. Maybe it’s me and that I failed to see some deeper point, but I can’t help feeling that we would understand these sayings better if we knew the background of the events/conversations that led to these sayings. As it is, I get the impression that only the creators of these sayings know their true meaning. Perhaps that’s exactly why they have attained enlightenment, and we have not! 😀
All in all, even though the theme is zen, these are not stories that are difficult to read. You will see for yourself how charming and relaxing they are.
I can’t tell you what zen is, as my search continues. But what about you, dear readers, do you have any inkling of what your zen might be? 🙂
Price of the book in Serbia: Japanorama