Thank you ED for your questions giving all of us the opportunity to reflect 
upon them and to Bill the opportunity to write a clear response of his personal 
experience in the practice of zen and from which we all get nourishment.
--- On Tue, 19/10/10, <> wrote:

From: <>
Subject: RE: [Zen] Questions, questions, question
Date: Tuesday, 19 October, 2010, 10:02



My responses are embedded below:

For an insight into zen, one may better seek answers to a series of
questions such as:
• What, if any, is the worldview of zen?
[Bill!] I think most people think of zen as an eclectic subset of Buddhism
which involves a lot of meditation and crazy questions.

• What are the most common motivations and expectations that direct
individuals toward zen practice?
[Bill!] This varies a lot, but probably the two most prevalent are:
• Zen is mysterious and cool.
• Becoming enlightened will solve all their problems.

• Is it the case that zazen and other zen practices, over a long period of
time, under the guidance of an accredited Zen master, can alter the
neurophysiology of the brain, resulting in the experience of
 'enlightenment' or equivalently, the realization of one's  'Buddha nature'?
[Bill!] I don’t think zen practice alters the neurophysiology (physical
changes) of the brain; and even if it did that would not be valuable
information for me to know.

• Is the enlightenment process something other than what is suggested
immediately above?
[Bill!] If you left out the phrase ‘can alter the neurophysiology of the
brain’ I would think that description is okay.

o   Can a person ever cultivate enlightenment in the frantic ambiance of the
world of today?
[Bill!] Yes. Where else would they cultivate enlightenment? Are you
suggesting people have to go ‘somewhere else’, or that enlightenment no
longer occurs today?

• What are the recommended lifestyles, foci,  practices,
behaviors, attitudes, etc. recommended for the pacification of one's mind
and the realization of Buddha nature?
[Bill!] I would just recommend including zazen in your existing daily

• Is it the case that pacification of the discursive (see below) mind is
essential to the realization of Buddha nature, and is also one of the
hallmarks of such a realization?
[Bill!] Yes, with the caveat that I’d use the word ‘halting’ or the phrase
'dropping attachment to' rather than ‘pacification’.

o   What would the usual feeling state of an enlightened person tend to be
[Bill!] It would be like Just THIS!

o   How does enlightenment influence moral and altruistic behavior?
[Bill!] It stops the imperative to classify things as moral/immoral or
o   What are the benefits to self and others of the realization of Buddha
[Bill!] It reveals the concept of ‘self’ as illusory. It puts an end to all

o   In order to attain and maintain his/her enlightened state requires
focus, time and effort. This being the case, is the pursuit of the
enlightened state and its maintenace compatible with productivity and
creativity in the modern world?
[Bill!] The attainment of the realization of Buddha Nature requires focus,
time and effort. The maintenance requires nothing. Explaining it requires
focus, time and effort. Buddha Nature does not classify, quantify or
measure things such as productivity or creativity. Others might impose
classifications and measurements on Buddha Nature, but I do not know what
that result would be.

o   Could an enlightened person even function satisfactorily in the world of
[Bill!] Of course!

o   (Please suggest other questions that might further an understanding of
[Bill!] You’ve changed your request from an ‘insight’ into zen (above) to
now an ‘understanding’ of zen. You might be able to get an insight, but
you’ll never have an understanding – nor will anyone else. I will
paraphrase a little children’s song to give you some questions to work on to
gain insight:

Tell me why the stars do shine,
Tell me why the ivy twines,
Tell me why the sky’s so blue,
Then you'll be one with Joshu’s Mu!


o   discursive: dianoetic + digressive
o   dianoetic:  proceeding to a conclusion by reason or argument 
o   digressive:   rambling thought or speech; tending to depart from the
main point; not relevant, focused or precise
--- In, <billsm...@...> wrote:
Zen is definable.  All terms (names) are definable.  Whether any particular
definition accurately communicates what's intended and is useful is another
question entirely.
Merriam-Webster Online defines zen as ": a Japanese sect of Mahayana
Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation".
That is a good definition of Zen Buddhism, but it is not the way I would
define the zen I practice.

Is 'zen' definable at all?

If so, what is a defininition of 'zen'.


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