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What is Zen ?

A story of a Zen master.

There was a Zen master whom everyone respected, but who had no teaching to impart. He always carried a huge sack on his shoulders; this would contain many items, and some of it would be sweets. 

In every town and village that he visited, children would gather around him, and he would distribute sweets and leave. People asked for teachings, but he would just laugh and go on his way. 

One day, a man who was himself known to be a Zen master of great repute, came to meet him. He wanted to ascertain whether this man with a sack was really in Zen or not. So he asked him, “What is Zen?” Immediately, the man dropped the sack and stood straight. Then he asked, “What is the goal of Zen?” The man picked up the sack, slung it over his shoulders, and walked away.

Think about it for sometime, or ... here's what I think this story means.

The sack is all the baggage we carry within our minds, and this baggage we carry is due to a lifetime of conditioning. At the root of this conditioning is materialism. We're told that to find peace and happiness, we need to acquire objects, and the desire for acquiring objects, as you know, never ends

Enter Zen.

With Zen, one practices Zazen, which is Zen meditation. In due time, the conditioned mind starts to dissolve, and one understands that true lasting peace is not acquired via objects. The only way we can find this ever-lasting peace is to turn our attention inwards, the subject (rather than objects) is all that matters. All we truly seek is within, that's what wise women and men have been saying for thousands of years.

Now when the two Zen masters met, one asked, what is Zen ? the other dropped the sack, meaning, he let go of all his conditioning or mind. Then he asked, what is the goal of Zen ? he picked the sack up and walked away, meaning, after he attained Zen or Kensho, he could carry the mind without feeling its load. The Zen master transcended his mind.

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