Friday, April 26, 2013

Tao #1 : How to Seek Without Seeking

"Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
"Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations."
This idea could apply to anything from finding a significant other to pursuing spiritual enlightenment to seeking new discoveries in physics. The common thread is that there are big, mysterious forces out there that we really want to understand; yet the harder we try to understand them, the more we get mired in complexity. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Good Ideas from Tao Te Ching

Today Zensnacks is launching a series to take you on a tour of Tao Te Ching's best ideas, one from each of the 81 verses in the book, posted weekly as time permits.

Tao Te Ching is like a Cliff Notes summary of ancient Chinese wisdom complied by the mythical "Old Master" Lao Tsu around 2600 years ago. You wouldn't think it has much advice for 21st century Americans, but you'd be surprised. If you can get past the impenetrable mysticism of its language, you'll discover some radically useful ideas and values that apply very well to our society. Indeed, the age and foreignness of the text indicate that these lessons can be truly universal.

Zensnacks' TTC series is going to focus on ideas in the book that you can potentially try yourself. Experimenting with them is highly encouraged. 

Quotes will be adapted from the 1972 translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, and from the 1992 translation by Stephen Mitchell.

Read on:
Tao #1: How to Seek Without Seeking
Tao #2: Taking Credit

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Salvaging Salvation

My grandfather had the same kind of curiosity that I have. He had a room full of books about philosophy, science, religion, and world cultures. But he died before I was born, so my only connection to him was through those books. Reading them as a young person definitely influenced my life, so you could say that he managed to give me some posthumous guidance, but books don't replace a real relationship. I've wondered what kind of conversations we might have had; whether his advice would have set me on a different course in life or saved me from spending my 20s figuring out life while my peers were busy building careers and starting families.

Monday, April 15, 2013


"The truth is something living, moving ... this living thing is what you actually are -- your anger, your brutality, your violence, your despair, the agony and sorrow you live in... This is the truth, and you can understand it only if you know how to look at those things in your life. And you cannot look through an ideology, through a screen of words, through hopes and fears.... You cannot depend on anybody. There is no guide, no teacher, no authority. There is only you -- your relationship with others and with the world -- there is nothing else."
                                       - Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known
J. Krishnamurti

The story goes like this: Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in India in 1895, and he was "discovered" in adolescence by an international movement called Theosophy, which had about 30,000 followers. He was educated and groomed by the movement, indoctrinated with its beliefs and with the prophecy that he would become the next World Teacher--a messiah, the reincarnation of Christ, a Buddha. At a convention of Theosophy's religious offshoot called the Order of the Star, he stood up in front of 3,000 followers and said that truth cannot be reached by any path, through any system, or by following any authority. He dissolved the religion, distanced himself from the Theosophists, and moved to California.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What is Zen, Again?

I've kept a running list of my working definitions of "Zen" since I started practicing it. You can see how my feelings have evolved as I've gone through various phases of enthusiasm and disillusionment with the practice, periodically answering the question:

What Is Zen?
  • To appreciate and promote harmony.
  • Expressing our fundamental nature simply.
  • To seek no particular thing, but be open to all things.