Two Piers, Michael Kenna, Imazu, Honshu, Japan, 2001
Two Piers, Michael Kenna, Imazu, Honshu, Japan, 2001

We are going to examine the different conclusions of Zen and Tantra. If we begin to discuss the two approaches, we will be lost. If we take a glimpse at the conclusions, we might have something more concrete. The reason is that all of us are more or less thoroughly involved in, or at least interested in, the practice of meditation.

At this stage in the Buddhist development of America, both Zen and Tantra have become extraordinarily seductive. In comparing the two, we are not talking about competition between them or which is best. Instead, we are looking at the landmarks that have developed in the Zen tradition, as well as the landmarks of the Tantric tradition. Although we are mainly talking about different landmarks, we still cannot dismiss the gradual, linear process in which the teachings were presented by the Buddha. We cannot dismiss the turning of the dharma wheel of the sutra teachings of the Hinayana and Mahayana and of the teachings of both lower and higher tantras. We still have to go through that linear approach.

First comes Zen. In the Zen tradition, the basis of life or the basis of discipline is accuracy. We could quite safely say that: It is accuracy. To a certain extent, it is the accuracy of black and white. That is the paramita of meditation: dhyana practice, Zen practice, or Ch’an. In the Zen tradition, there is no gray, nor is there yellow, red, green, or blue: it is black and white. The very nature of black and white brings a student of Zen into a highly disciplined place, without any escape. A practitioner of Zen or Ch’an has been cornered by the choicelessness and also cornered by the lack of entertainment. So we could say that Zen is a practitioner’s lineage, and a Zen student is a traditional practitioner in the Mahayana school of discipline, the highest one of all.

Another branch of the Mahayana school, which developed in Tibet, can be seen in the Gelugpa tradition. In India, the Nalanda and Vikramashila Universities developed a school of logic in which, instead of doing pure sitting practice, you replace the sitting by the practice of sharpening your intellect. This demands that the basic sophistication of intelligence is raised up to the highest point, as much as one can, to the point of limitlessness. At that point, ordinary logical conclusions and logical debates become meaningless, and one develops higher thinking—the epitome of the highest way of relating with the reasoning mind.

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