Zen Teachings on God & How to Get His Help
Zen Buddhism Teachings of God Giving
Shunryu Suzuki Teachings of Non-attachment
I wanted to share with you some very profound wisdom from Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki about God, giving, non-attachment and living in the now.
Book: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Author: Shunryu Suzuki
Chapter 65: God Giving
According to Christianity, every existence in nature is something which was created for or given to us by God. That is the perfect idea of giving. But if you think that God created man, and that you are somehow separate from God, you are liable to think you have the ability to create something separate, something not given by Him. For instance, we create airplanes and highways. And when we repeat, ” I create, I create, I create,” soon we forget who is actually the “I” which creates the various things; we soon forget about God. This is the danger of human culture. Actually, to create with the “big I” is to give, we cannot create and own what we create for ourselves since everything was created by God. This point should not be forgotten. But because we do forget who is doing the creating and the reason for the creation, we become attached to the material or exchange value. This has no value in comparison to the absolute value of something as God’s creation. Even though something has no material or relative value to any “small I,” it has absolute value in itself. Not to be attached to something is to be aware of its absolute value. Everything you do should be based on such as awareness, and not on material or self-centered ideas of value. Then whatever you do is true giving, is “dana prajna paramita.”
When we sit in the cross-legged posture, we resume our fundamental activity of creation. There are perhaps three kinds of creation. The first is to be aware of ourselves after we finish Zazen. When we sit we are nothing, we do not even realize what we are; we just sit. But when we stand up, we are there! That is the first step in creation. When you are there, everything else is there; everything is created all at once. When we emerge from nothing, when everything emerges from nothing, we see it all as a fresh new creation. This is non-attachment. The second kind of creation is when you act, or produce or prepare something like food or tea. The third kind is to create something within yourself, such as education, or culture, or art, or some system for our society. So there are three kinds of creation. But if you forget the first, the most important one, the other two will be like children who have lost their parents; their creation will mean nothing.
Usually everyone forgets about zazen. Everyone forgets about God. They work very hard at the second and third kinds of creation, but God does not help the activity. How is to possible for Him to help when He does not realize who He is? That is why we have so many problems in this world. When we forget the fundamental source of our creating, we are like children who do not know what to do when they lose their parents.
Analysis of God Giving:
This is a great chapter in the book, and I almost wanted to include everything from it in this article. Instead let me in this analysis try to highlight some of the profund wisdom that is being conveyed by Suzuki in this excerpt.
Non-attachment is the most important teaching of Zen Buddhism. In fact, when Buddha was asked to summarize all his teachings in one statement, he said, “Don’t attach to anything.” Keeping in mind that all things that we do or create, is a gift from God and being done by Him, takes the “small I” (ego), entirely out of the equation and is the basis for non-attachment.
2. Getting God to Help:
Getting God to help, is remembering the real source of everything, always. Remembering you are the “Big I”. In Advaita Vedanta terms, cling incessently to the real Self. If you can live and operate from there, everything will simply flow. Problems take place when you look start to look at life from the standpoint of the “small I” or ego, but if you look at everything from the standpoint from the “Big I”, then life is just a moment by moment unfolding of creation.
3. Living in the Now:
Hidden above in the excerpt, Suzuki offers a very interesting perspective, when he speaks about the absolute value of something. Normally, some things have more value than other things, when we look at it’s value from the perspective of the ego, but if you realize that everything has absolute value, then every moment becomes sacred. If you remember that all things are being created and done by God, then all things are sacred and deserve your full attention.
4. Life is an Offering:
A very nice approach to life, is simply to look at everything as an act of giving. Look at all that you do as a an offering, then too you will not attach. Using the words of Dogen Zenji, “To give is non-attachment,” but that is also to say that whenever you are not attached you are giving. Either way works. The most important aspect is to keep the “small I” out of it as far as possible.
The origins of Zen Buddhism are ascribed to the Flower Sermon, the earliest source for which comes from the 14th century. It is said that Gautama Buddha gathered his disciples one day for a dharma talk. When they gathered together, the Buddha was completely silent and some speculated that perhaps the Buddha was tired or ill.