What is Zen ?
A story of a Zen master. There was a Zen master whom everyone respected, but who had no teaching to impart. He always carried a huge sack on his shoulders; this would contain many items, and some of it would be sweets. In every town and village that he visited, children would gather around him, and he would distribute sweets and leave. People asked for teachings, but he would just laugh and go on his way. One day, a man who was himself known to be a Zen master of great repute, came to meet him. He wanted to ascertain whether this man with a sack was really in Zen or not. So he asked him, “What is Zen?” Immediately, the man dropped the sack and stood straight. Then he asked, “What is the goal of Zen?” The man picked up the sack, slung it over his shoulders, and walked away.
Think about it for sometime, or ... here's what we think this story means.
The "sack" metaphorically represents the accumulated emotional and mental baggage borne through a lifetime of experiences and conditioning. This conditioning can manifest as materialism, the pursuit of power, fame, and various external desires. Societal norms often dictate that fulfillment and contentment are to be sought externally, further entrenching the individual in the ego and its desires.
Zen practice, primarily through Zazen or Zen meditation, gradually dissolves the conditioned mind, revealing that true and enduring peace cannot be found through material possessions. Instead, Zen guides individuals to redirect their focus inward, recognizing that the inner self, the subject, holds the key to lasting contentment. This insight aligns with the wisdom imparted by sages and philosophers over millennia.
In the encounter between two Zen masters, the first inquired, "What is Zen?" The other master responded by metaphorically dropping the sack, signifying the release of conditioning and mental baggage. Then, when asked, "What is the goal of Zen?" he picked the sack back up and walked away, symbolizing that after attaining Zen or Kensho, one can carry the mind without being burdened by its weight. The Zen master transcended the limitations of the conditioned mind.