Zen for Dummies

The first Zen master to teach in the United States was a man named Soyen Shaku of the Rinzai school of Buddhism. He is quoted as saying, “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” Those were profound words considering he was afflicted with neither acid-reflux nor acute blindness.

It is said the Rinzai master devised a list of eight rules and practiced them daily his whole life. The list is pretty straightforward and can be embraced by anyone, regardless of religious belief or socio-political leanings. Soyen Shaku’s list of rules is as follows:

In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.

Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.

Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.

Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.

When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.

Do not regret the past. Look to the future.

Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.

Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.

Of course, Soyen Shaku’s rules were written some time ago and the language is a bit stiff. I bet a lot of people nowadays either get bored and quit reading or become confused and decide to just go on being jerky simpletons the rest of their lives. Pondering that, I decided it might be nice to translate into 21st century English the wise sentiments expressed above so that they might be further proliferated. So here is my contribution to global spiritual enlightenment, a present-day translation of Soyen Shaku’s eight practices:

Inward reflection is best in the morning. Do it naked with some nice aromatherapy candles burning.

Stop partying all night and eating crappy fast food at 2am. And no more super-size!

Keep it real.

Don’t bullshit people and don’t be a flaky asshole.

Don’t be a gullible dipshit or a clueless loser.

Get over it and move on.

Be like Dr. Who.

Crash out hard but don’t waste the day in bed.

There, doesn’t seem quite so daunting now, does it?

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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13 Responses to Zen for Dummies

  1. SweetMisery says:

    great improvement

  2. brownamazon says:

    LMAO @ "be like Dr Who". Of course!

  3. Kirk says:

    "LMAO @ 'be like Dr Who'. Of course!" Truth be told, my daughter Amanda contributed that one. I had "Be like Spider-Man" but didn't think that was quite it, so I asked the family who they thought had the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child. I knew Panda's suggestion of Dr. Who was the one the moment I heard it.

  4. IG says:

    Dr. Who — oh noes, another pop culture reference that's lost on me. So, is this a TV show or something that I should Netflix?

  5. Roboco says:

    okay, so i love a little zen lesson in the AM.
    but I LOVE THAT EGG! i wonder how hard that would be for me to try at home?!?

  6. Kirk says:

    "Dr. Who — oh noes, another pop culture reference that's lost on me. So, is this a TV show or something that I should Netflix?" It's actually a British television series. In fact, I believe it's the single longest-running sci-fi TV show in history. There's really too much to explain here and the Wiki, while lengthy, cannot even come close to doing the show justice.So yes, do try to get hold of some episodes. Now is a great time, too. The new episodes are terrific. David Tennant, the current Doctor, is my favorite since Tom Baker in the 70s.

  7. Kirk says:

    OK, I've uploaded a picture of The Doctor, IG. And I ask you, does he not give an excellent first impression? :)Oh, and the Wiki confirms I was right about the "longest running sci-fi series" thing.

  8. grrrace says:

    yes. doctor who! :Dawesome list. love your paraphrasing. and i love that pic of the egg. now i'm hungry. heh.

  9. Miz Blo says:

    ohh David Tennant. *heart melts into a puddle* But really the Zen for dummies is a great idea.

  10. Erin says:

    You had me at Dr Who. That girl Amanda sure is a smart one!

  11. Erin says:

    David Tennant makes my heart melt too! *drools*

  12. Red Pen says:

    Nice translation.

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