Zen or zen buddhism may be one of the most abused concepts of our time. Does it matter? No.
I use the word “abused” but what I mean is “misused” because zen and mindfulness are often deployed as marketing gimmicks.
A pretty pebble sells for more if you call it a zen pebble and a garden pond becomes more special if you start calling your garden a zen garden, which helps sell ponds.
Zen is not about the pond. It is about the garden.
It is about what is right here, right now.
And it just struck me that that’s where things often go wrong too. Zen does not say “if there is a bear in front of you that is about to attack you, right here, right now, smile at it sweetly because it is probably empathy bear and empathy bear feels your pain”. But that’s what a lot of people seem to think.
Zen says “if there is a bear in front of you that is about to attack you, right here, right now, get out of there but do not forget to grab your rucksack”.
Because if the bear gets you, it won’t matter whether you took your rucksack or not, but if the bear doesn’t, it will.
When you fall off a cliff, get stuck on a branch and find tigers waiting below and a juicy ripe berry in front of you, go for the berry because it won’t matter to the tigers. But it will make a difference for you, regardless of whether the tigers get you or not.
Zen is practical. Zen says “look after your garden and stop obsessing over the damn pond.” The garden will bring you food. The pond won’t. Zen also says “don’t discriminate between people with pond and people without pond”.
A veggie patch is much more zen than a pond (unless the pond was already there anyway).
Zen is about letting go of the idea that you have to have a pond.
Zen is not about hedonism either, however. That would be the same as obsessing over the pond.