Recently I have been coming across this phrase that John Lennon coined called Zen Pagan. I like the name, it seems that many other people like the name as well. I have read on a few websites people calling themselves Zen Pagan. They talk about how they use meditation techniques in tune with their pagan ideology. They ignore that beyond the literal meaning of Zen (it means meditation) the idea of Zen has become a whole way of expressing Buddhism. Zen has its own ideas of spirituality, afterlife, meaning of life as does many forms of paganism. (We should also remember that the term Paganism as we use it today is of modern invention. The word pagan comes from Latin and it meant country dweller or someone uneducated.) Others have written about it being an atheistic path that uses both pagan celebrations and zen meditation techniques. Both of theses views are correct for some and incorrect for others. Just like my own views are as well. I do not wish to start another schism or sect and ultimately Zen Paganism is more of a mirror than a hardened path. Zen pagan can be whatever a person wants it to be. Zen Paganism is a bridge between east and west. Something I think Lennon would have enjoyed immensely.
Before I wrote this I was going to purchase the book called Why Buddha Touched the Earth but then refrained. I thought it best to take what little I know about the movement as a whole and come to my own conclusions as someone who has studied both Paganism via various people and the Sacred Order of the Blue Flame and Buddhism by studying the Sumatra, listening to Alan Watts, reading books, and practice. Both Paganism and Buddhism are active religions meaning one has to engage them in order to truly understand them. You may read about Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and by doing so gain an understanding of them. Though one can read about Buddhism and Paganism until one engages in meditation or encounters nature it is only a superficial understanding. Anything you read about Buddhism and Paganism is only a slight ripple into the vast ocean of both these paths.
In being a simplistic person I tend to break things down to the barest form. So, I have done with my understanding of both Buddhism and Paganism. In what follows is not me telling you how you should think, or act, accept, or not to accept. This is me showing you my own reflection.
Since Zen is the coming together of Buddhism and Taoism I have also included some aspects of Taoism that I find complementary. It is in my opinion that anyone who wants to fully understand Zen should have some study of the philosophy of Taoism.
I am reminded of an old Persian proverb: “You want find the truth in moldy old books.” I agree whole fully, books can offer a starting point but in no way should they become your soul source of authority. All texts should be viewed with a critical eye, disregard that which goes against ones own understanding, as well as that which may be outdated by the passing of time. Much has happened since most sacred texts were written and it would foolish to try to live by a book that did not have our advantages of archaeology, history, and science.
The above being said all sacred texts should be respected since they do help to guide peoples lives. They are full of lessons, many of these lessons can still be used today. In conjunction with sacred texts personal experience is just as authoritative as any book can be, even more so. We all make decisions based on our life experiences. Our experiences with other people, with nature, with animals, all shape who we are in one way or another.
If any true authority exists it would be Nature. Nature is the entire universe it is the sum total of everything. Everything, including humanity is an aspect of Nature, animals, plants, planets, are all nature. We can learn from every aspect of nature. Nature can also be experienced within your own body. Everything in nature is made up of everything else, the atoms that make your body were ounce atoms that made stars, planets, oceans etc. Some of your structure may have been a dinosaur or an alien race we have yet to encounter.
The sacred texts that resonate with me are: Pali Canon, Mahayana Suttra, and the Taozang. I also enjoy reading about the universe, different animals, as well as mythology. I would suggest that all those who would like to walk a Zen Pagan path be open to doing the same. Always remember that these are “fingers pointing at the moon” only experience can gain deeper insights.
It should be clear that there is no set Dogma, intuition, personal preference, and values are above all dogma. This path is anti-authoritative, and highly individual. That being said anything that is harmful to self and to others must be done away with. Harm can be physical or mental, if someone asks you do something you feel uncomfortable with you have every right to say no. You are the authority for you.
At the heart of this Pagan Buddhist blend is the understanding that the Universe created itself spontaneously and will annihilate itself in the same way. It has done this before, will do it again, on and on and on. One can even say that it is happening right here, right now. Birth, aging, and death seem to us to happen in a linear fashion but in reality everything is now. You are being born, taking your first step, your last breath and dying right here, right now. Just as the Cosmos is doing right here, right now.
Time is a construct that exists in the minds of sentient beings. Time is not actually real, Nature simply is, but if we are to graft our concept onto the universe then time becomes cycles upon cycles. This is represented in the wheel of the year were you have the different celebrations and seasons on a circle or wheel. We may add a date to make it appear to be a linear process but in reality it is cycles on cycles. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring over and over again. The moon has its cycles, women of cycles, our solar system has cycles, the entire Cosmos has its own cycles. Creation and destruction is also a cycle, a cycle that is always in process, never halting.
Since we are sentient being attached to the concept of time and we conclude is only a construct within our own minds we must then conclude that Nature is timeless. Therefore in reality Nature exists outside of time. Humans can experience this timelessness through meditation, path working, at celebrations, or altered states of consciousness. (You don’t need drugs to alter your consciousness).
Since Nature is the source of everything we may also accept that nature may hold within itself multiples dimensions. All dimensions are in reality One, all from the same source.
By observing the Universe we will come to understand that everything, including ourselves are in flux. Nothing is permanent, this fact helps us to stop clinging to the world and ourselves as if its unchanging. Everything changes, nature itself is constantly changing, to cling to life is like clinging to quicksand. It will not support you or help you escape. Neither will clinging to life, the world, possessions, and even religion. We, like everything in nature must be come into manifestation and leave manifestation.
Everything is the universe, at all times, whether in manifestation or not. The substance that makes up these bodies will go on to make up other things. Animals, plants, rocks, suns, moons, stars, planets, solar systems, galaxies, should be respected because they are all us and we are them. When we harm any aspect of the Cosmos we are only hurting ourselves. Reverence for the natural world is reverence for one another. We are all aspects of nature, what makes a plant now could make up a human ounce that plant dies, what makes you now may make up a plant after you die. Nature reuses itself to sustain and create life.
Life occurs in the Universe because that is part of the universe. Life and death are aspects of the universe, reusing itself to create life is how the universe does it. The Cosmos does this simply because it does without design or reason.
I am calling this section theology because it will express opinions about god or gods, but it will most likely not be as you expect, just to give a warning.
There is no Creator deity as some would have us believe. This is the main difference between eastern thought and western thought. It makes sense to me to have no creator god because that would imply that we are not living a real existence. If something created us then were ever that being lives is the true reality. It would mean that we are living to the will of another being subjected to its whims. Also, I have read various scriptures and none of them have convinced me that such a being exists. Every scripture portrays god in an anthropomorphic light. Anything that gets jealous, has temper tantrums, changes its mind, supports genocide, slavery, surely cannot be worthy of reverence let alone worship.
The gods whether they are pure imagination, metaphors, exalted humans, aliens, or beings with technology and power we have yet to understand one thing is clear, they are born and they will die too. They may live longer but in the end they are an aspect of a fluctuating nature and they too will die. They too have to work life out for themselves. One can learn from them but to worship them would be folly.
There are no saviors, if you want to be liberated, reach a higher consciousness, achieve whatever you want to achieve you must do for self. Nothing is going to come and make everything perfect. The only savior you have is yourself.
Angels and Devils are people you meet everyday. Some people are kind others are ruthless these are your angels, your devils.
Heaven and Hell are merely positive and negative state of mind. Only you can decide whether you are in heaven or in hell. All depictions of such realms are depictions of inner states rather than actual places.
Good and Evil are concepts which we ourselves as a society create, We view some acts as moral and other acts immoral but these may change from place to place and in differing periods of history.
Suffering and pain are aspects of life, it should be accepted. Life has many experiences, some pleasant some not so pleasant but that is the result of an ever changing universe which we are one with. Our sensations, perceptions, mental outlook, and consciousness are always in flux. The acceptance of this causing us to be able to see things as they are. This causes pain and joy to become seen as what they really are, aspects of the universe. This acceptance will cause us not to be swept away with ups and downs of life but to maintain a form of stability. This stability is what ends pain and suffering because we will gain clear sight. The ability to see everything as it is without an illusion placed over it. We can gain this insight by being mindful and cultivate right intention, right view, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Everything happens because of dependent origination which is that everything is influenced and shaped by its environment. Everything happens because it is in response to something else. If my parents did not meet and have sex I would not be typing this article, just as if my family didn’t leave England/Ireland in 1618 or Italy in 1830 for America my parents would not have been born nor I. Everything happens in response to something else. If one studies history this becomes abundantly clear, if Sumeria didn’t exist then Egypt, Persia, and Rome would not have existed which means the United States never would have come into existence. Everything causes other causes on and on and on.
Humanity is a part of nature, not above it, nor outside of it.
Our purpose in life is whatever we want it to be. It is up to every individual to forge their own path in this life, that is the meaning of our existence. No god, or other person or thing can tell you or give you a meaning, a purpose for your life. Those that say they can are liars.
To have a better understanding of humanity as a whole and as individuals we only have to study nature, by studying nature we are studying ourselves. To study is to use logic, reason, and to be critical about our discoveries.
Accept the realities of life, birth, death, joy, sorrow, love, and hate. See them as they are, part of the fluctuating universe, study why they come and go within your own being instead of pointing out these aspects in others.
PARTS OF A HUMAN
There are no rituals apart from the ones that you wish to do.
Meditation, Chanting, Recite Mantras, or whatever else helps you to study yourself, acknowledge yourself as an aspect of nature, and brings about balance in your daily interactions.
Also, strive to unite the positive (male) and negative (female) aspects of yourself to harness the energy thus dispelling obstacles in your day to day existence.
Footprint, dharma wheel, lion, empty throne, conch shell, lotus, endless knot, pentacle, pentagram, tree of life, circles, caves, big dipper, pole star, clouds, sun, moon, stars, and planets.
No clergy, you are your own authority.
No Temples, or churches are needed, small gatherings of people who share similar worldview should get together to comfort one another, share experiences, learn from one another, and to aid one another on there life’s path. Spontaneous gatherings preferred.
4 Noble Truths: The truth of suffering, The truth of the cause of suffering, The truth of cessation of suffering, and The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.
8 Fold Path: Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, Right Concentration, Right view, and Right response.
9 Noble Virtues: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance.
Those in political positions should be fair and obey the laws that they either create or are sworn to uphold and provide grants for businesses.
Encourage freedom of thought, expression, and differing ideas be they political, spiritual, or philosophical.
To encourage the end of sexism.
To encourage environmentalism.
NO Afterlife, there is only life though it may appear to different. There are no heavenly or hellish realms, when we leave manifestation we simply become a different aspect of nature. We will live on in memories until all those who remembers us pass away. We are now what we will always be, that is nature.
Now that I conclude one may argue that Zen has very little influence in my Zen Pagan and that might be true. Then again it might not be true, depends on your view of Zen. To me having a stripped down form of Buddhism and Paganism is essential because it gives a basic structure to work with. There is plenty of room to add new ideas or adapt to your own personal taste. As I stated before this is not me telling you how to be a Zen Pagan but instead showing the reflection of my own Zen Paganism. Please feel free to share with me your self reflections as well.