It’s a Zen thing

Imagine for a minute what it would be like if your university prof, sports coach, or Sunday school teacher taught like a Zen master. From The World’s Religions (1991), by Huston Smith (emphasis mine):

…it has its own texts… but one glance at these distinctive texts will reveal how unlike other scriptures they are. Almost entirely they are given to pressing home the fact that Zen cannot be equated with any verbal formula whatsoever. Account after account will depict disciples interrogating their masters about Zen, only to received a roared “Ho!” for answer. For the master sees that through such questions, seekers are trying to fill the lack in their lives with words and concepts instead of realizations. Indeed, students will be lucky if they get off with verbal rebuffs. Often a rain of blows will be the retort as the master, utterly uninterested in his disciples’ physical comfort, resorts to the most forceful way he can think of to pry the questioner out of his mental rut… Zen masters may order their disciples to rip their scriptures to shreds and avoid words like Buddha or nirvana as if they were smut. They intend no disrespect. What they are doing is straining by every means they can think of to blast their novices out of solutions that are only verbal… Zen is not interested in theories about enlightenment; it wants the real thing. So it shouts, and buffets, and reprimands… [to] force the student to crash the word-barrier. Minds must be sprung from their verbal bonds into a new mode of apprehending.

Zen masters are determined that their students attain the experience itself, not allow talk to take its place (131-132).

I wonder how often our profs wished they could just haul off and smack us on the head with a meter stick. Probably best not to ask.

But regarding the bolded parts… I think all us grad students ought to be banished to monasteries to meditate on those bolded parts before we’re allowed to open our mouths (or blogs), but I’m in a good mood and this is supposed to be a happy place. :D As a wiser man than me pointed out, I don’t want to end up like those two old guys on the Muppets. Still, I think there’s a point or three to be made here.