True Meaning of Zen and of Life… In Just 3 Words

True Meaning of Life 

The students at No Wind Monastery were flabbergasted!  They could hardly believe what they had just heard.  Master Blusime, the greatest Zen Master since Dogen Zenji had just revealed what they never thought they would hear.  In their traditional morning congregation Master Blumise had said, “My most beloved family, I really need your help.  Yesterday evening a guest at our renowned monastery asked me a very good question.  He asked me, ‘What is the True Meaning of Zen?’ and asked if I could summarize it for him in just 3 words.  My loved ones, please help me as I don’t know what to reply.  I have asked the visitor to wait till the end of the week and then promised him my response.  So please, by the end of the week, in 3 words give me the definition of Zen.  The definition of Zen is also the definition of life.  I look to you for help in this great crisis that has befallen me and the reputation of our great institution is at stake.  Please save us from humiliation.”

Meaning of Zen

Master Blumise had just confessed that he had been stumped by a question!  That he did not know the answer and that too, to such a fundamental question.  Perhaps he was loosing his mind, maybe senility was setting in, maybe this was a test, maybe he was no longer enlightened and had fallen back into Maya (illusion), the rumors were thick in the air.  All the students had their take and all of them also saw this as a great opportunity to shine — to be the hero — to be the one who would save the day — all the students save one — our wise monk Tara.  Midst all the excitement and gossip stood Tara, every so often just having a big laugh whenever the conversation was breached in her presence.  She laughed and laughed all week in some secret delight, while the others mulled and mused the answer to this most interesting question.

Finally, the week ended and as requested by Master Blumise all the answers were written and submitted.  They were to be read out after the morning breakfast in the Great Hall.  The monks were anxious and excited… all but Tara, who continued to enjoy her private joke.  Some monks, irritated by her mysterious behavior, finally approached her and inquired into the reason for her weird demeanor. 

“The monastery is in trouble, Master Blumise has confessed he can’t answer the question of the visitor, this is a very serious situation for us and we have all worked very hard to solve this puzzle, but all week we have not seen you make any effort.  All you do is laugh and giggle constantly.  What is so funny?”

Tara, though, did not reply and shrugging her shoulders made off toward the Great Hall for the answer reading ceremony.

All is One:    Wrong

All is Nothing:    Wrong

Just be Yourself:    Wrong

Follow Your Heart:    Wrong

All is illusion:    Wrong

All is Love:    Wrong

Be Here Now:    Wrong

I am God:    Wrong

Zen is Zen:    Wrong

I am nobody:    Wrong

Bliss, Being, Consciousness:    Wrong

I am That:    Wrong

All is Mind:    Wrong

All is Emptiness:    Wrong

All is Buddha:    Wrong

All are Enlightened:    Wrong 

Tick Tack Toe:    Wrong

Then Finally….

I Don’t Know:    RIGHT

Tara had realized that Master Blumise was right all along when he said that the answer to the Question, “What is the True Definition of Zen?” was “I Don’t Know.”  She also knew that the great master was far from loosing his mind.  Master Blumise bowed to Tara with a blissful smile for her right answer and Tara bowed back utterly grateful to her teacher for sharing his wisdom and love.

The True Meaning of Zen is also the True Meaning of Life.  If you can understand this answer completely you will understand all there is to understand.  You will understand the heart of Zen, you will understand the heart of meditation, you will understand what all the great teachers have been trying to teach mankind over the centuries. 

I can explain this answer in great detail, but instead let me suggest another way for this insight to explode in you.  Can you right now, absolutely, sincerely, actually come to the point where you can say “I don’t know” to the question “What is the purpose of life?”  Which is just another way of asking “What is the Meaning of Life or Zen?”  If you can come to that point where you are have no answer to offer, the mind will have nothing to pursue.  As long as you think you know what the answer is, think you know what is important, think you know what is worthwhile, think you know what to do to get where you think you need to go, you will chase.  As long as you chase, you will never find.  Can you drop the apple and not take the next bite?  Heaven is waiting…

Read Related Articles Below:

39 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Lisa Moore
    Lisa Moore says:

    It’s the last time I nag the children when they say “I don’t know”, he he he

    But in all seriousness, it was a thought provoking article and one very much in tune with my beliefs.


  2. Look Deeper Within...
    Look Deeper Within... says:

    Hey Anmol,

    I like this one quite a bit. A great deal of my study has been letting go of the need to be certain and the need to understand (as well as the assumption that all can be intellectually known and understood). Just that acceptance creates a significant place of peace, particularly when I maintain the practice.

    But not surprisingly, occasionally I need to be reminded…;^)… so thank you!

    keep smiling,


  3. stevieh
    stevieh says:

    Why can’t we all just say “I don’t know “, today? It’s a 21st century epidemic, that we feel we have to have the answers, everytime! How refreshing to hear the truth, so eloquently put forward! Stop chasing, stop trying to figure it all out, start being here, now, thats enough!

    peace and love to all, thankyou.

  4. shobha mehta
    shobha mehta says:

    The very concept gives one, freedom to live freely,in a care free atmosphere and “WHAT IF” fear dissappears. One can just live. I like it.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    This is such a life saver. We can just live. Not knowing what am I living for, always kept me looking for that answer. It is such a relief to know that “It is Ok tobe like that.
    Thanks and tons of love.

  6. sweetjessyfc
    sweetjessyfc says:

    Hello all,
    I’m a 35 years old woman, divorced and with children. I have an employ as geography teacher, part-time, so I can use the time to take care of my kids and it goes pretty good like this. During the never ending spent in my house i like to do something, in particular that is watching soap operas on tv on my satellite . I also like to look at classic movies. I don’t dislikesometime to see the wheater forecast either.
    I am enough sadisfied with my life and overall about my relationship with my kids. I just hope to remain in good health, so just an normal happy life.
    ‘ll see you

  7. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hey KL, Christy,

    To live in this spirit (not knowing) needs courage and an open, adventurous heart… and these qualities I see in you both from your comments. Willing to be true to one’s own heart and simply responding to life from moment to moment.

    Thank you for sharing. I need a clip art for bowing as that is what I am doing right now. Best Wishes.

  8. Christy
    Christy says:

    I often feel like I don’t know what I am doing. I look around and feel like everyone has life figured out but if I do what they are doing I will not be happy. I am happy doing what I am doing even if I don’t know where it is going and why.
    This post has helped me to understand these feelings of unknowing, they are okay.
    KL’s post directed me here today to your site and I am glad she did.
    Thanks KL and Thanks Anmol!
    Best Wishes!

  9. Kara-Leah Masina
    Kara-Leah Masina says:

    I so love your parables… and of course, read this article just when I needed to.

    This afternoon, after doing some work on my blog and before teaching a private yoga class, I felt awful.


    Because I don’t KNOW anything. I don’t know what I’m doing with my blog. I don’t know what I’m doing when I teach…

    I felt like such a fraud.

    And then, right before I started my yoga practice, I just thought… all I have to do is open to the moment.

    Even though I felt like I didn’t know what to teach or what to do, my student was more communicative and more full of thanks after this session than any of our previous. (Might have been the heart opening kriya I taught from your on-line class).

    Coming home to write tomorrow’s article, I was again struck by what I don’t know. I don’t know ANYTHING!

    But out of the depths of my ignorance came my passion for yoga and I wrote with joy and abandonment in that moment (see my site tomorrow for the result.)

    I feel so uneasy about all this personal development, goal setting and manifesting stuff…

    ‘Cos I just don’t know anything about where I’m going or what I’m doing. I kinda feel like I’m just along for the ride…

    So thank you, for a post that illuminates what I was feeling all day so articulately.

    I feel free – like I can get up from my computer and go downstairs and throw some Madonna on the stereo, pour myself a glass of wine and start cooking dinner.

    Like it’s ok to just live and feel in the moment…

    Its ok to not know anything.

    Many blessings Anmol, you are a true teacher.



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] to be honest, one of the things that has always attracted me to zen buddhism are all the wonderful teaching stories. anmol mehta tells us one in true meaning of zen and of life? in just 3 words. here, zen master blumise asks his students to help him answer the question, “what is the true meaning of zen?” so … what is it? you’ll just have to read the article. after anmol reveals the answer, he issues this challenge: can you drop the apple and not take the next bite? […]

  2. What is the meaning of life/zen? : Curious Georgette’s says:

    […] ( December 10, 2007 | Filed Under * Advice and Solutions  […]

  3. Yoga News | Yoga Video » Blog Archive » Why is Everything for Free & Applying The First Law of Tantra says:

    […] Previous in series Next in series […]

  4. Carnival of Truth #3 says:

    […] Anmol Mehta presents True Meaning of Zen and of Life? In Just 3 Words posted at Mastery of Meditation, Enlightenment & Kundalini Yoga. I love Anmol’s writing style, using parable to illustrate Truth, and I must admit, he totally caught me out with this one. I was trying so hard to think of the RIGHT three words to describe the true Meaning of Zen and life… and I was wrong! See if you can get it before the true answer at the end of the article. […]

Newer Comments »

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.