American Zen, Taoism: Navigating the MAZE of the Modern American Zen Experience
I think first it’s important to understand the purpose of why the label is defined the way it is. Tao cannot be defined externally; it is something internal, quite literally the way we perceive the reality that we exist within.
Taoism in this perspective is not defined as religion. Rather, it’s a teachable way of coming to awareness of one’s individual perspective. It’s a method of discovery for tapping into the conscious flow of existence.
By the time the Buddhist movement had entered into China, the political influences of Hindu controlled India had transformed it into a cultural religion that practically worshipped Buddha. When the Taoists learned of what Buddha had taught and what Buddhism had become, they saw a disconnection. This was the birth of Zen Buddhism, and why statues of Buddha as a fat man or angry character came into being. The idea was to clash with Buddhism in a way that shifted the focus from the being to the message the being had delivered.
For the sake of this discussion, Zen is defined as the point of connection that creates destiny, and destiny is defined as the absolute of what is, rather than what is meant to be. Only what is can be meant to be because what’s meant to be cannot be anything other than what is.
Taoism is sometimes referred to as the watercourse way, finding Zen through awareness of how we flow with the current of our existence. When Buddhism entered the watercourse way, it discovered the Zen that unlocked it from what it had become.
Most people, when they discover Buddhism, get caught up in its cultural aspects, the rituals and traditions that associated with it. The lessons that Buddha taught are what define it, Buddha taught India how to find a way of Zen, how to find its Tao.
American culture creates unique challenges to traditional Taoist concepts. The Modern American Zen Experience is about finding the flow of consciousness within modern American Culture through the science of Zen.
Zen doesn’t mean tranquility; it doesn’t mean peace or happiness or ease of mind. These are the products of Zen, what Zen leads to, but these things are not to be confused with Zen.
Zen is the process through which life happens; it’s the entirety of the connections that become entangled to produce a result. Zen is not always peaceful, at times it’s cataclysmic in its happening, but ultimately it leads to a peace, harmony and balance which lays at the center of our existence.
What is the purpose of the Modern American Zen Experience; is this an attempt to teach people about Buddhism?
The purpose of MAZE is to teach people about Zen and how to find it while living within modern American society; Buddhism is a religion, and though many find Zen through it, one should not be confused, Zen is a state of being, not a religion or philosophy.
But Zen is a Buddhist idea, isn’t it?
While Zen is an idea that Buddhists focus a lot of attention on attaining, its meaning originates in Taoist teachings.
Do you worship Buddha?
Sadly, this is a question I’ve been asked on multiple occasions; I say sadly because this question exposes a great deal of ignorance of what it was that Buddha taught; Buddha wasn’t a God, he was a human being that came to discover a path to finding Zen through the process of enlightenment.
Enlightenment, isn’t that like omniscience, that seems like something Godly.
Many people have the wrong idea about what it means to be enlightened; enlightenment is a process of conscious recognition; it means coming to a sudden understanding, an instantaneous awareness that you’re going about something entirely the wrong way which leads you to the discovery of universal truth.
What is universal truth?
Universal truth is that which is true, not from your perspective or mine, but from all perspectives; it’s what’s true beyond simply our perceptions.
Okay, so then what exactly is Zen?
Zen is a state of being, quieting the mind which brings about a heightened awareness and understanding that brings the connections into place; it’s sometimes referred to as “being in a zone”, it’s a kind of an awakening which can be found as a result of meditation.
Meditation, you mean like yoga?
Not entirely, Yoga teaches a specific type of meditation, but meditation literally means silencing the mind, stopping the chaos of thought and contemplation in such a way that it allows you to tap directly into a stream of consciousness; it’s any technique which is used to discipline the mind to unlock the full potential of your being; but there are many different ways to meditate, in fact many people do it without even knowing that they are.
What do you mean by “many people do it without knowing that they are”?
Driving a car, exercising, listening to music, dancing; there are all types of moments where suddenly your mind just goes quiet and you’re there fully within the experience, totally aware, but without the buzzing of the mind; this is what’s known as active meditation, it’s a core principle of the Modern American Zen Experience.
Okay, so then how does one find Zen while living within American society?
That’s a question with a lot of complexity; in a society as diverse as America’s there are many different paths one can take to find Zen. That’s what I created the Modern American Zen Experience to do, to help people discover the steps to be taken to find their own unique path. Sometimes it’s simply an awakening to the perspective of another, or even the recognition that multiple perspectives exist, which can be enough for someone to find their direction. MAZE simply teaches how to find Zen by teaching people how to create moments of meditation within their experience.
I’ve studied ZaZen and your use of the word Zen is different to what I’ve read about.
While many people think Zen is a Buddhist word that comes from ZaZen, a type of meditation, Zen has roots in Taoist teachings from long before the Buddhist message had ever reached China. The word Zen is used to describe an experience, a state of being within the flow of existence that allows one to come to a point of deep awareness and conscious ability; when I refer to Zen, it is this experience Iâ€™m referring to.
What temples do you belong to, what teachers have you studied under?
These are questions of conditioning, an attempt to distract from the message being communicated about the state of Modern America and guidance towards achieving a state of Zen within the constraints of society while it goes through a challenging and tumultuous time. Much the way people refer to the blending of Taoist and Buddhist ideas as the birth of Zen Buddhism; I believe this is the birth of Zen Americanism, the creation of a Modern American Zen Experience.
What’s the difference between me and my ego?
You are what ultimately lies at the core of your being, your ego is everything that extends externally from that point; specifically, the ego is all things which exist beyond the center of our spirit, the total perception we have of our physical reality removed from the consciousness which is perceiving it.
I don’t like meditating; I have a hard time sitting still.
You don’t need to sit still in order to meditate; meditation is the act of silencing the mind, it can be done anywhere at any time; MAZE teaches unique meditative techniques, designed to achieve meditation and still the mind while being immersed within the Modern American experience.
Do you do private consulting?
Yes I do.