Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Zen: No Zen

Quintessa, St Helena Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

April 26, 2019

Good "Enlightenment is giving up the notion that you are unenlightened." ... Laurence Platt, BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING 
Better "Enlightenment is giving up the notion that you are enlightened." ... James "Jim" Tsutsui, Landmark Seminar Leader 
Good "Those who tell don't know, and those who know don't tell." ... Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Better "Those who don't know tell, and those who know speak." ... Laurence Platt, Shout About It
This essay, Zen: No Zen, is the fifteenth in an open group on Zen: It is also the prequel to What Is, And The Story.

I am indebted to James "Jim" Tsutsui who contributed material for this conversation.


Of all the disciplines he studied, practiced, learned, before creating his magnum opus  of transformation, Werner says Zen was the essential*  one.

It is entirely appropriate for persons interested in Werner's work to be interested also in Zen.

On this refined, fragrant Spring morning, it's probably true to say that the essential paradox of Zen (in other words, the essential Zen koan), the not-getting  of which is sure to earn you (when you're least expecting it) a terrific blow on the shoulder - whack!  - from the master's wooden broadsword, is that in the monastery, if you share your Zen using Zen's lexicography, culture, and stories ie if you share your Zen deploying the very same symbols and lore which defined Zen in the first place, and which originate in Zen and which depict Zen, then you have no Zen.

And if that's not mind-breaking enough, it's actually worse than that. Way worse. It's if you use any and / or all of Zen's symbols and lore to share your Zen, then whatever Zen you say you have, stinks.

Ah, the the stink  of Zen ...  I find that much heralded (and improperly maligned) phrase "the stink of Zen" to be beautifully poignant. Ironically, your Zen stinks when you share it while practicing it (say whut?). Yet it's sweet when people get you're Zen when you're not practicing it (say whut?).

Now that's  a koan worth engaging in.

We aspire. We aspire to be something more than whatever we perceive ourselves to be - that is to say we're thrown  to aspire. It's learned behavior. And the learned automaticity  of our thrown-ness to aspire, is almost beyond our peripheral vision. We've taken it for granted that aspiring is mandatory  for us human beings. What's worse is we've taken it for granted there'll be some reward  (happiness, fulfillment, completion etc) once our aspirations are realized. Oh, our foolish, foolish  ways ...

Wait! I'm not necessarily referring to aspiring to a better job or more money or a bigger house or even to accomplishing something great - and yes, there's all of the above also. The thrown aspiration I'm referring to is to just be in a better place with ourselves ie for  ourselves - which is to say to have a better relationship with ourselves, and to feel better  about being a human being alive (listen: "feeling better" carries far less reward than ordinarily anticipated - so its use in this conversation, is only good enough for jazz). We're thrown to aspire to having a better experience  of ourselves, of who and what we are, of what it is to be human in the world.

I assert that's an interesting if not a futile  thrown-ness to have. OK, why do you call it "futile" Laurence? Because it flies in the common-sense transformed face of we're already  whole and complete, and this is already it, and there's nothing to get, and this  (exactly this) ... is what that feels like. The discipline of Zen (if I may risk calling it that) offers the resolution of and living who we really are, and our appropriate positioning in relationship to others and with everything that already is. Once that's realized, the discipline of Zen is fulfilled. A-Ha!  But then it's no longer a practiced discipline: it's then simply the lived truth.

And therein lies the paradox of Zen: the practice of it, traps it in the realm of discipline, preventing it from being the lived truth - which is what causes the stink. That's the bad Zen. Now consider that what's called for if you're going to live Zen completely, is surrendering (or surpassing, or even transforming)  the practice of Zen, and simply being who you are in front of what's so. And that's all there is. Look: paradoxically, even practicing Zen is bad Zen. This is the good Zen: no Zen. Paradoxically.

* Citation:
Professor William Warren "Bill" Bartley III, Werner's official biographer, in intersection 4 "Zen", in chapter seven called "Quest" in part II, "Education", of "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man - The Founding of est"

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