27 Years of Zen destroyed my life
Posted on Friday, 28 December, 2007 | 133 comments
Columnist: Ken Korczak
So I have been practicing Zen meditation every day for 27 years, and it has destroyed my life. Now, when I say “destroyed my life,” that is not a bad thing, nor a good thing. You see, after 27 years of Zen, for something to be “good” or “bad” becomes a very problematic concept. Things like “good” or “bad” pretty much lose their meaning. Even the word “meaning” loses its meaning. So you can already see why Zen has destroyed my life, even though that never really happened. Zen did not destroyed my life because my life was the way it was even before 27 years of Zen, except I didn’t know it.
It’s like what Zen master Shunryu Suzuki suggests in his book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” He says everyone is enlightened all the time, except they don’t know it. Now I realize that he was right. In other words, you don’t need 27 years of Zen meditation to destroy your life because it has already happened to all of you. Suzuki also says that before you achieve Zen Enlightenment, you think it’s something special, but after you achieve it, you realize that it is nothing special at all. He was dead right about that, too
One of the problems, however, is when you have this realization, it destroys your life, even though that’s not really a problem because it never happened in the first place. In the end, nothing happens, and there even isn’t an “in the end.” The fact that there could be “an end” to something or anything becomes totally ridiculous after 27 years of Zen, believe me.
I drive my wife crazy because I talk like this all the time, which is just one of the many reasons why I say Zen has destroyed my life. For example, my wife will tell me about something Oprah Winfrey said on TV about how important it is for married couples to communicate, and I say, “Oh that Oprah Winfrey is such a phony and a witless blockhead!“ And my wife says that Oprah makes some good points, and then I say the concept of “good” has no basic meaning, and Oprah says what she says on TV because it makes people give her money, and that’s all. My wife thinks I’m crazy and can’t understand what I’m talking about. It’s a problem, yet my wife puts up with it, so it ends up not being a problem. That’s not hard to understand since there was no problem to begin with. You start realizing things like this after 27 years of Zen.
I once wrote a column here on Unexplained Mysteries telling people to stop worrying about things simply because of the fact that none of us have anything to worry about because of the obvious fact that none of us exist. Immediately, about 100 UM users posted responses suggesting that I was absolutely crazy. Some people were extremely insulted by my suggestion that they don’t exist, and some called it a “whacked theory” and a whole lot worse -- and if you don’t believe me, go read the column and the nasty comments right here:http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum...showtopic=63575
Let me tell you something, if you want to get people really upset, just suggest to them that they are not real, but only think they are real. Believe, they will get extremely irritated with you. But why? It’s because people are heavily invested in the idea that they have an existence -- a real, solid existence. They want that. Even if their lives a miserable, boring and bland, they will feel threatened if you suggest that their miserable, bland lives are not real. What’s interesting is that if people are happy, filled with joy, and leading exiting, adventurous lives, they will not be as threatened by the idea that their lives are bogus illusions. They won’t care as much. They’re happy anyway, so why should they mind if anything is real or not? Still, even a few happy people will get upset if you tell them they don’t exist. Suddenly they are less happy because they are afraid of the idea that they don’t exist. They want their happy existence to be real.
Yet, the concept that some people are happy and some are unhappy is a completely facile because these traits or values or nuances have no basic meaning once you start thinking about them. After 27 years of Zen, to say “I am happy” or “I am sad” are empty statements that only diverts one -- and the diversion is not even really a diversion because there is nothing to be diverted from. Get it?
You might wonder how all of this started for me. Well, when I was in college working on a degree in newspaper journalism, I took an elective class from the philosophy department. It was a 1-credit class called “Zen Meditation.” It was about 90 minutes once a week, and what we did was, come to class, sit down on a pillow, and stare at a blank white wall. All we did was stare at the wall and concentrate on our breathing. If we had “thoughts” we were instructed to ignore them and let them ramble on, and not be bothered by them. After about 25 minutes of staring at the wall, we got up and did a kind of walking meditation, which took about 15 minutes. Then we sat down and stared at the wall for another 25 minutes. After that, the philosophy instructor rang a bell, meaning we were supposed to stop. We were supposed to stop trying to do nothing, and start doing something again. That part is weird. Then he led a discussion about Zen, and we were to read Suzuki’s book, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.”
One of the really funny things about the class is that there were two fundamentalist Christian Bible believers in the class. They did what they had to do to earn their single, measly college credit, including the Zen meditation exercise, but then in the discussion portion, they heaped scorn upon the whole thing and kept saying things like, “This is all so ridiculous! Why can’t people just read the Bible and find out what Jesus wants for us, follow His advice, and then lead a good, moral life?” And they would also say things like, “We’d all be better off giving our lives to Jesus and not wasting our time staring at a blank wall!” For some reason, these comments caused everyone to laugh, even if they agreed with the Christians.
Yet, everybody hated the class, and not just the Christians. I hated it, too, and only about eight of the original 20 of us finished the class. I have to give the two Christians credit -- they finished the class, but never gave up their loathing of it all the way through, and they never stopped urging people to “go with Jesus.” Anyway, staring at a blank wall is extremely difficult and it drives people crazy. Nobody wants to do it, or enjoys it, even if it means one college credit toward a college degree. What’s weird is that I not only finished the class, but for some reason, I continued to meditate at least once a day, and I have done so for the past 27 years -- which led to the destruction of my life, and which led me to writing crazy columns like this on Unexplained Mysteries.
Some people here at UM know that I make a lot of comments in the “World Events” forum here, and in case you’re wondering, my online name is “IronGhost.” Along with my name "IronGhost" is a big wacky picture of my eye. Anyway, some people message me and ask me why I always make arguments favoring the Liberal side of things -- they think that this is a contradiction because after 27 years of Zen, I really shouldn’t be a Liberal or a Conservative, and that I should be neither, but this whole question is just a big red herring. Whether someone is a Liberal or a Conservative is not the point. The point is to see that one is either a Liberal or a Conservative. If you’re a Liberal, then be a Liberal, if you’re a Conservative, then be a Conservative. You just see it for what it is. Get it?
Others think it’s strange that after 27 years of Zen, I still think that there is a good chance that the Patterson film that appears to show a Bigfoot walking in the woods is real, and not a hoax. But what does that have to do with anything? After 27 years of Zen, when I look at the Patterson Bigfoot film, it strikes me as real and not a hoax. What’s the big deal? But then some people say, “Well, according to you, Bigfoot doesn’t really exist because nothing exists.” And I say, “So what?” I still think the Patterson film shows a real Bigfoot. I could be wrong. It could be a hoax. It could be Bob Heironimus in a monkey suit. That’s not the point. The point is that it’s either a real Bigfoot, or possibly a man named Bob Heironimus in a monkey suit. You just have to see that. One thing is for certain, whether it was Bob Heironimus or not in a monkey suit, Bob Heironimus is no different from anyone else in that he has achieved Zen Enlightenment, whether he knows it or not. Get it?
I have a good friend named Mike who is a brilliant computer scientist. He’s from North Dakota. When Mike does complex math equations, he figures them so fast it looks like he’s writing a letter. Mike thinks I am nutty and, in his words, “a flake.” Mike is your classic skeptic and atheist and is a real materialistic kind of guy. He doesn’t even believe in psychology unless it is behavioral psychology, because everything is about basic cause and effect to him, and all the rest is speculation. So, anyway, I asked him that if he thinks that I am such “a flake” why does he waste his time talking to me and hanging out with me? And Mike said, “Well, you’re a flake, but you know you’re a flake. That‘s different from being a flake.” And I thought, “Wow! Mike’s life has been destroyed by Zen and the lucky SOB didn’t even have to stare at a wall once a day for 27 years!” But then, neither did I.
It’s the same for you readers. Like my life, your life has been destroyed by Zen. Some of you know it, some of you don’t know it. But it doesn’t matter whether you know it not because the situation remains the same. It took 27 years for Zen to destroy my life, but it wasn’t wasted time. It wasn’t anything. It would have happened anyway. But ultimately, nothing really happened. Nothing HAD to happen, so nothing DID happen. Get it?
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Ken Korczak is the author of Minnesota Paranormala: