[THE FOUNTAIN] Zen Buddhist Winter Training

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[THE FOUNTAIN] Zen Buddhist Winter Training

In Buddhism, Zen is a practice which aims for reaching enlightenment by means of meditation and direct, intuitive insights. The practice of Zen has its foundation in a belief that people may reach the Buddhist enlightenment not depending on the words in the Sutras. Therefore, Zen emphasizes that one should not solely follow the logical interpretation of the Sutras, the scriptures, because it is possible to forget the ultimate goal of entering Nirvana, and become preoccupied and bound by the means, not the goal. It shares a relation with the famous Buddhist teaching that when someone points at the moon with his finger, we should be careful to actually look at the moon, not the finger.

Zen priests normally start their practice by arranging their surroundings neatly and tidying up their robes. They begin sitting in meditation with their backs straight and legs crossed as in Buddhist statues. It is a process to attain a state of perfect self-effacement, dissipating 108 earthly desires.

Sitting in this position patiently is also a part of reaching the moment of experiencing a spiritual awakening after contemplating the catechistic question for meditation given by their teacher. Other Zen practices include a practice of enduring being seated for 24 hours while being allowed to drink only water. Gautama, who sat under a bo tree and experienced spiritual awakening, continued the practice of "dhyana paramita" - sitting in Zen meditation - after his enlightenment whenever time permitted. Until the moment of his death, reaching Nirvana, he consistently practiced Zen.

A few days ago, 1,666 Zen priests reportedly held a Buddhist mass celebrating the completion of three months of ascetic practices in winter at 82 Zen monasteries throughout the nation. During their winter meditation, they meditated facing the wall for 10 to 18 hours everyday in complete silence. Leaving the door of the monastery, the Zen priests will wander the country seeking truth until they join summer meditation three months later.

Zen has its conceptual base in the belief that we all have Buddha in our minds.

In Zen, one does not see Buddha as an absolute being existing outside of our world, but believes that Buddha exists inside of everyone's heart. Therefore, Buddhism teaches that every living thing on earth has the seed of Buddha in him.

Living in the busy secular world, we may envy the placidity of Zen priests, who can meditate tranquility during their winter training. However, we do not have to be Zen priests all the time. We may be able to make some spare time in our lives and contemplate ourselves. Who knows? You may see the brightly smiling face of Buddha in your heart at any instant.

by Bae Myung-bok

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