Karen Maezen Miller on how Zen is misunderstood because of its simplicity.
I seem to recall that Maezumi Roshi said something like, “People misunderstand Zen because it is so plain.” Maybe he didn’t say it. My memory doesn’t always serve me because memory doesn’t keep things plain and simple. Perhaps I remember it this way because it serves my purposes right now. That’s what memory usually does: whatever we want it to do.
Even if he didn’t say it quite like that, we can see right away that it is true.
We can see how our effort to understand something makes it complicated, and therefore, more easily misunderstood. Why, how, what does it mean? Explain it, debate it, defend it, describe it! The search for meaning robs our life of meaning.
I say this because I saw a post by Norman Fischer in the New York Times this weekend, a short reverie about a sesshin, or Zen meditation retreat. There’s not much to be said about people sitting silently in a room for several days, and wisely, Norman didn’t say too much. What struck me were the comments that followed, more than 200 so far, some from people offended, enraged, confused, or just plain unimpressed. Scattered among them was an occasional “amen.” Like a sigh, wordless and yet utterly complete.
Amen. Even that, two syllables too much.