Pale Blue Zen
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In rural Missouri, the night sky is a coal-black canopy pierced by millions of crisp, white stars. The Milky Way, many evenings, is a lush, creamy band dividing the sky. Staring up into the face of all that celestial enormity, "here" seems to barely exist. Where, if anywhere, do I, my people, my interests, my activities fit into such an immeasurably vast cosmos? That’s a great Zen question...
At the core of Zen lie two interlocking, and potentially discomforting propositions – "Dependent Generation," which is the simple observation that everything that is was caused by something that preexisted it, therefore nothing can be said to be independent of, or even truly separate from, everything else in the universe; and "No-Self," which is to say that, if, from an ultimate standpoint, you can’t really separate any one thing from another, then there ultimately is no separate me standing here in my back yard looking up at the stars. It would be truer to say that the universe is simply happening, and both my looking and the stars’ being seen are inseparable aspects of that same, simple happening, like shining facets adorning opposite sides of a single jewel. Turn the jewel this way, you see me, alone in my back yard, staring up into the sky. Turn the jewel again and bring it back to your eye. Now the universe is looking down into my back yard, at what passes for me, looking up...
A free full chapter excerpt from "Zo-Zen" by Harold Zo.