When, where and how do you have “fun” Arnaud?
D, a very good friend of mine leaving in San Francisco told me the following over the phone:
“Practicing Zen Buddhism for many years at the San Francisco Zen center and reading your blogs, I found that Zen philosophy and its Zen Masters teachers are somewhat dull, pessimistic, depressed and even boring. hey seem to live without expecting anything”
“ Why that”? I replied.
D: “ All Zen literature talks about controlling our ego, controlling our emotions, desires, pleasure, expectation; not having nostalgia of the past, controlling our dreams about the future…. This is pretty grim, bleak and gloomy. In other words no fun, don’t you think”
“This is your view Denise, not mine”, I replied”.
D: “ Be honest with me Arnaud: when, where and how do you have fun in your life if you respect
the Dharma and your teaching 100%”?
I did not reply immediately to this very challenging and intriguing question.
Indeed and for most lay people, the perception even understanding of Zen Buddhism philosophy & practice is one of no fun, no dream, no pleasure, no joy, no expectation, no optimism, just living in the moment as it is and in controlling our emotions 24/7. Somewhat a robotic, emotionless life.
This is a misinterpretation of the teaching and nothing could be further from the truth.
On the contrary, Zen Buddhism wants each of us to be serene by controlling our restless mind and be compassionate with self. This is the first mandatory step in order to help others achieve the same goals.
Reading zillion of books and listening to teachers will not help someone to understand this philosophy.
It will be understood only thru the practice of mindfulness either during formal meditation and/or on the go. Zen is a mind-body experiencing concrete reality and not an intellectual exercise.
I added to Denise the following:
“Apart during work hours, looking for fun is OK and normal but looking for it all the time can become an addiction. Addiction, down the road, is painful and dangerous since there is no limit to it.
“So, I am not looking actively for fun, nor creating it artificially.
If fun is there, I am enjoying it the best I can whatever it is physical, intellectual or emotional.
If fun is not there, I am enjoying the moment as it is without complaining that life is no fun.
She replied “ So, you have no expectations”?
“ It is the matter of proper balance between two extremes: not having expectation and having them all the time.
There are 2 types of extremes to avoid: on one hand too few / too little and on the other too many / too much.
For example it is obvious that not having enough food, sleep, love, money, understanding, desire, expectation, friends, etc. is not good or healthy. But having too much is also neither OK nor proper.
In other words experiencing both extremes will have exactly the same detrimental effects on
1) our health (mind and body),
2) our family/social behavior
3) our work.
Such detrimental effects can be acute or chronic.
When Zen talks about extremes it is addressing almost anything around and inside us that is not only our material and socio-professional life but also our mental one.
The more we have the more we want and there is no limit to wanting and graving. We can dream of money, health, relationship, goods, fun, sex, etc. Desiring more and more fun becomes an addiction almost impossible to fix because there is no end to it and the ego will search for more and more often.
Complaining of not having or craving for more of this or that have exactly the same negative mental impact: stress, anger, anxiety, impatience, jealousy, fear, and resentment.
Joy, fun and happiness are all caused from the outside world. There are limitless, transient and without our control.
On the contrary, serenity is self- created, under our control and permanent…..and this is genuine fun.