Originally posted by vistesd
Well, “huh” is a pretty broad question.
Zen is about experience. Zen-talk points to experience, but is not a substitute. If your mind is divided, thinking about work while eating your lunch, say, then you are missing the fullness and richness—the “just like this”—of the experience of life.
Because “the map is not the territory,” Zen masters tend ...[text shortened]... ink about it that you separate your “self” from the experience (“Quick, get it on videotape!” ).
Yes, the essential Zen experience points toward two "things" -- 1. the lack of inherent existence of any objective phenomena, and 2. the lack of inherent existence of the self. Seen together, the result is a "luminous emptiness" (*shunyata* in Sanskrit). In Zen, this is usually called "satori", or the breakthrough into enlightenment. A satori in and of itself, however, is not the end of the path, but rather an important signpost on the way. Most committed Zen practitioners have a number of satoris in their life.
I like the way the Tibetan Buddhists use the conceptual mind to point toward emptiness. A neat example is as follows...
We have the idea of "the body". But can the body be truly located? What is the body?
If we examine the matter, we find that the body is composed of parts -- legs, arms, etc. None of these parts is, in itself, "the body". So the entire body is comprised of non-body elements.
Now, can a group of non-body elements make a body? That would seem to be absurd. For example, 5 cows do not make a horse.
So what exactly is "the body"? Clearly, it's an abstraction, a concept only.
Similarly, let us look for our "hand". What do we find? A set of fingers, bones, skin, etc. That is, a grouping of non-hand elements -- none of which can be said to be a "hand". And a collection of non-hand elements cannot logically make a "hand", anymore than 5 pigs can make a tree.
So again, this idea of "hand" is purely an abstraction, a convenient conceptual label.
By why stop at the hand? Focus on any objective phenomena, and you are led to the same conclusion -- everything exists only as an appearance
of a collection of components (down to subatomic levels), that is in turn conceptualized
. Nothing exists inherently in itself, independent of anything else.
Same happens when we turn this reasoning back upon the self. Where is the "I"? As we examine ourselves, we see a collection of many elements -- moods, feelings, thoughts, memories. But we cannot say that our anger is "me", or our fear, or "I am this memory, but not that one," etc. So clearly, we can find no definable distinct entity inside that is "I".
And so, "I" is yet another conceptual lable, a convenient abstraction, but not existing inherently in itself.
That is the intellectual grasp of emptiness.
The experiential grasp of it is entered into via the Zazen and koan practices that Vistesd mentioned. Also via certain Tibetan practices like shamatha, or Dzogchen ati yoga, etc.
As the non-existence of the self is glimpsed, fear tends to diminish and peace arises, because we begin to realize that all problems in our lives are related to the idea that something is wrong with ourself, or that our self needs to get more things, become more, etc.
Similarly, to see into the "emptiness" of reality is to see beyond the illusion that lead to unhappiness, being related to our craving and grasping and clinging to elements of so-called objective reality. In short, our attachments.
Emptiness, by the way, doesn't mean that nothing exists. It simply means that nothing exists inherently
from anything else. In other words, all is One. It's only the phantom appearance of a separate self within us that in turn projects the phantom appearance of a divided and disconnected universe out there.