Q: How many Zen Masters
does it take
 to screw in a light bulb?

Hi there! My name is Tim Frayser, and this is my Zen page. I've been studying martial arts for many years now, and it was through the martial arts that I was first introduced to Zen. I read that the samurai warriors of medevel Japan found the study of Zen helped them in combat, so I wanted to see what the deal was. What I found was that "What is Zen?" is probably the hardest question in the world to answer. I'm not going to pretend I completely understand it, but I think I understand it more than I used to.

Zen is a way of looking at the world, and to follow what you see is to follow Zen. Let me see if I can break it down: Zen teaches single-mindedness and whole-heartedness, and shows you how to focus on the situation at hand; when you're doing something with Zen, you're completely doing it. Zen teaches intimacy, spontaneity, and an aversion to unnecessary labels and ceremonies. It also teaches that human suffering is the result of the desire for and attachment to circumstances and things which, by their nature, are impermanent. An addiction to something, or an obsession with an object, is a good example of an attachment. We can become lost with attachments, because it doesn't take much for us to become attached to them, which leads to suffering. By ridding oneself of these attachments and desires, including attachment to the false notion of self or "I", one can be free of suffering.

However, let me clarify something: a person can follow Zen without necessarily being a Zen Buddhist. Buddhism is a religion, while Zen is more of a way of looking at the world. When the communists took over China, they closed the churches, but left the Zen people alone. I still have issues with Buddhism, particularly with reincarnation. ,although I'm very impressed with the Four Noble Truths (& the Eightfold Path) . The oriental writer Hojo Nagauji (1432-1519) put it like this:

"Consider that which exists to exist and that which does not exist to not exist and recognize things just as they are."
With Zen, that which is, is. That which is not, is not. The world is full of illusions, and it's easy to be misled. It's important to beware of attachments, because a person can become attached to a belief just like a car or a house. Some illusions can be very appealing, especially if they satisfy a personal need... but they are not real. Zen makes you question the illusions of the world, and gets to the root of the matter. Like a sculptor chipping away at a block of stone, Zen takes you past what you think is there, beyond what you believe is there, or what might be there, finally arriving at the truth within... But for some people, the truth within isn't pretty enough, and they stick with the outer layers.

There's a story that tells about the three stages of enlightenment. In the first stage, a mountain is a mountain, and a tree is a tree. That's the only way we've ever looked at them. In the second stage, a mountain is so much more than a mountain, and a tree is so much more than a tree. When we look at the big picture, that which we call a mountain is only such because of our perspective; to the earth, it's a pimple, and to the universe it's a blemish not even worth notice. The tree becomes our brother, a fellow traveller on the starship called earth... Some people tend to stay at this second stage, and not move to the third stage of enlightenment, for various reasons-- the service is the same, but the view is better than the third stage of enlightenment.

You see, in the third stage of enlightenment, a mountain is, well, a mountain, and a tree is a tree. Maybe the mountain is only a blemish to the earth, but that doesn't make it any less harder for us to climb. The trees might be our brothers, but we still cut them down to build condos. What could be, might be and perhaps should be in the world doesn't change what is. Being completely in the moment, recognizing things just as they are-- being in touch with what is-- is Zen....And when you get down to it, what is isn't all that bad.

Student (upon entering the Zen monestary): "Master, what is Zen?"
Master: "Have you finished your breakfast?"
Student: "Yes."
Master: "Then wash your bowl." At that, the student was enlightened.
Click HERE for a glossary of Zen terms, as well as some frequently asked questions . Anyone studying Zen must have great doubt (in the illusions of the world), great faith (in yourself), and great determination (to find truth and enlightenment). It has been said that doubt is the straightest path to enlightenment and truth. The Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT) searches for the truth, as does The Urban Legends Archive (Is what you've been told really true?).
       "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me,
        than in half the creeds." --Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Zen teaches that words only go so far in explaining something, and that knowledge comes from direct experience. (In scientific terms, direct experience can be equal to verifiable proof.) Many people believe in amazing things because of personal, direct experience, but don't realize their own desires and attachments to beliefs may be clouding their perception of what's really there. Here's not just one but 10 Reasons People Believe amazing things. Click HERE or HERE for lotsa stuff to look up and think about.

"When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer;
superstition ain't the way." -- Stevie Wonder

The path of Zen is not always an easy path, because it can make you face your own self-delusions. Each of us carries a self-image of ourselves, an image which we work at preserving, consciously and unconsciously. People who delude ourselves into thinking they are a failure, for instance, consistently put themselves in situations where they will fail--thus maintaining the self-image. (Some might say this straightforward view of the world takes all the fun out of life. Well, I think every mature person understands that there's a time for fun and a time to be serious... but the serious side of life still has plenty of beauty, majesty, and wonders yet to be discovered.) If you take away all the labels, illusions and attachments , the world is still a beautiful place to live. Here's some more thoughts of mine, if you're interested. Thanks for taking the time to read my page.

A: Two; one to screw it in,
and one to not screw it in.