When the Buddha first had his enlightenment, he was asked, "Are you a God?" "No," he replied. "Are you a saint?" "No." "Then what are you?" And he answered, "I am awake."
From this moment 'ZEN' is born.
From the above we understand three things:
- Zen is not a religion
- Zen is not a philosophy
- Zen is a way of liberation
Path of Self-Actualization
The word 'personality' comes from the Latin word "persona," which originally referred to an actor's mask. But just as an actor might play Hamlet overzealously onstage, we usually take our own role in society very seriously, forgetting who we really are. Zen is the insight of seeing through the role we are playing and thus beingaware of the self - the real actor behind the mask.
Zen teaches, not by words, but by direct pointing, by engaging us in a game or contest with ourselves in which the only answer is a new level of consciousness. Zen is the art of insight, the art of discovering who we are underneath the masks and roles that we call our personality.
Early Concepts of India and China
The goal of Indian religion was the realization of man's identity with Brahman, and of the essential unity underlying the apparent opposition of Reality and appearance, of Nirvana and Samsara; and, for the Chinese, harmony with the Tao was the main object.
To Indian religion the attainment of complete realization meant deliverance for man from the round of birth and death as we know them and the passing of his consciousness out of this realm of manifestations. But Chinese religion felt no pressing need to transcend everyday consciousness. Man was at one with Tao here and now.
When Zen first came to China, Mahayana still retained some of the Indian desire to escape from the ordinary world of physical form; but under Taoist influence it lost this feeling completely and became a world-transforming instead of a world-escaping religion.
Thus Zen came into being through the merging of the Hindu-Buddhist understanding, that the esential Reality of life can be discovered through non-attachment to any of its particular forms or shapes.
In an early sutra, the Buddha taught: 'In what is seen there should be just the seen; in what is heard there should be just the heard; in what is sensed, there should be just the sensing; in what is thought there should be just the thought.' These teachings of the Buddha, paved the way for 'Zen' to be a psychological approach rather than religious.