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© Nanabozho (the Great Hare)
This page updated April 1st, 2003

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Just a reminder that this section is not meant to be an English speaking site, but only to provide the following texts.

Zen on the Radio

Some days ago, a radio presenter from the Cote d'Azur called me on the phone, asking that I speak about Zen on his broadcast. What had attracted his attention was the fact that my site is entitled "Some Southern Zen". Naturally, when he asked why, I had to tell him that it was some kind of inside joke about a friend's site, Eric Romeluère's, entitled "Zen Occidental" (Western Zen) while I share with him the preoccupation of putting Zen INSIDE our lives , rather than putting it on during a few periods, every day or every week (or even less).

Indeed, what is often offered as "Zen" in many places in France, is little more than an oddball setting for Japan lovers, and which often seems strange even unto Japanese, since they end up not even understanding what's supposed to be done in their imitation. And often, with a lot of those who take part into that carnival in black, you'd look in vain for what the popular wisdom reckons as being a "Zen " attitude.

I have therefore tried to expound in a few words the essence of what is for me a sound practice of Zen Buddhism. Which is that Zen is an attitude towards existence, which amounts to create a balance and a form of happiness, based on action at the present moment. I gave some example relating to sports and the motorcycle. Had I disposed of more time, I might have sprawled, but the necessary concision of a reduced intervention forced me to use as few words as could tell of such a vast subject. I just hope I wasn't too clumsy.

I had been particularly astounded to realise that the supporters of the variety of "Zen" heretofore evoked, profoundly hated that popular use of the word Zen, as it were a trademark of which they were the owners. And even more so astounded to realise how they were totally inadequate in respect to that use.

This is what incited me to look for the origin of those mental blocks. I felt it was a pity that those people had dedicated so much time of their precious lives without their everyday lives showing any positive trace of it. Of course, often they will counter that the practice ought to be done without aim or goal. I'll agree. However, I can't see why without-aim should correspond to without-effect.

I shan't insist on the origin, social and historical, of those mental blocks. I'll limit myself to insist on the following points:

    a) Zen cannot be parted from Buddhism. If you do so, you rob Buddhism from its marrow and engage into an ethicalless path, which is deadly. 

    b) Zen (and thus Buddhism) is an attitude. An attitude towards existence, one's own and that of others, for they form but one indissociable whole. This attitude is one of mild optimism.

For instance, if you say that pessimists start on a relationship by giving a 0/10 note to any new acquaintance, in the hope that this will eventually better his/her notes, optimists start with giving a 10/10 note. The first thus shut out many possibilities from the start, while the latter expose themselves to unavoidable disappointments. One ought to start with a 5/10 note and observe how that note is going to evolve along with time, with benevolence. When you're forced to see that this benevolence was misused, you can put a term to it, without too much dramatisation.

Benevolence allows to understand (without necessarily excusing) certaine attitudes, allows not to make a mountain out of a molehill, and to free the spirits for things well worth it. Benevolence ("to want good", or "to wish well", this is by the way how modern Italian says "to love": "voler bene") is not merely a silly attitude. Slapping a kid who's done something stupid, is also teaching him that in life, there are much nastier, much more malevolent and much harder slaps, if it's not careful of the order of things. Benevolence can even be exertend in the shadow.

This attitude of Buddism is also one of availability. Not necessarily of a permanent availability, like "I'm letting go of everything for the other", but a subtler availability, where you're ready to observe, to listen, to hear, to see what's around you. And that can at times manifest itself as an intense fit of happiness in front of a landscape, a scene, a scent or a sound. And at times as an intense reactivity to what's happening, just as a sportsman in the middle of action.

Finally, an attitude must be developed. It needs training and study. And not necessarily litterary study, even though this ought absolutely not be pushed back. But study in a wider sense, like when you talk of studying a face, or a situation. And as with music, you need training, training. Music, for instance, sounds best when you get the impression that the musician doesn't do any effort, that his playing is totally natural. But, in order to get there, he'll need a remarkable quantity of effort, of practice, practice and still more practice and rehearsals. Wht's funny, is that if the whole of these efforts is insufficient, they'll say that the performance was laboured, painstaking, etc.

Globally, in a finished produce, you ought not feel the effort, and this is the reason why at the moment of playing his score, the musician doesn't do it for a purpose, but, to the contrary, casually, just because he's got to do it, or as said one of my teachers in the Conservatory: "What deserves to be done, deserves to be done well".


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