The Zen Art of Seeing Things As They Are - A Story

Seeing with clarity

by Jayaram V

A Zen master Dogen Zenji returned to his homeland Japan after spending several years in a monastery practicing meditation under a Zen master. Some one asked what he learned from his practice. The Zen master replied with a serene face, "I have learned that my eye brows are horizontal and my nose is vertical." Those who heard this answer were surprised by his response. "What is new in that! Every knows it!" they exclaimed with a bit of disappointment and left.

The Zen master was speaking the truth. He admitted to the simple fact that after years of practice he learned to return to reality and see things clearly as they were. He confessed to every one that he removed himself from the processes of perception and understanding by emptying his mind so that he could see the truth as it is. Those whose minds are filled with fear, anxieties, desires and expectations, find it hard to understand. They cannot see the truth because they are not ready for it. They do not understand it because they have become comfortable with the illusions that have become integral to their personalities.

Most of us take things for granted. We go through the motions of life as if we know every thing about it already and as if we have gone through it already. We hardly see. We hardly pay attention. We rarely stay with the moment. We are stuck some where either in the past or in the future, with some notion, fear, fantasy, idea or illusion. We do not see things as they are, but according to our mental states. Our judging, calculating and measuring minds come in the way of our seeing and knowing.

Our thinking stands in between our selves and the reality around us. Our perceptions, conclusions, knowledge and the so called wisdom we acquire through analysis and conditioning, may give us the satisfaction that we have achieved some erudition or intellectual superiority, but in truth we remain as ignorant as ever because we have not learned to open ourselves to the beauty and the truth that surrounds us. Through practice, the Zen master learned to see the truth as it was, in a simple and straightforward way. The complexity of life is an illusion we want to believe to justify whatever desires and ambition we entertain.

World's profound wisdom is hidden in the simple truths of life. Most of us go past it because we are preoccupied with our memories, feelings, beliefs, fears, anxieties and expectations. Our knowledge is an accumulation of memory. It is not rooted in the present. It is not based on the perception that is unadulterated by the conditioning, beliefs, authority, faith and comparison to which we are usually subject. We cannot go beyond it because we depend upon memory and authority and are reluctant to deviate from the paths our minds choose to translate our vision.

If we want to see truth as it is and return to the simplicity and purity of our perception, knowledge and understanding, we need to remain in the present, stop our interfering minds from their machinations and practice the art of pure observation that is not clouded by our judgment, preconceived notions, fears, anxieties and expectations. We have to return to the source, with which we have lost contact eons ago.

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