Zen Fables for Today-R Mclean, Dick Mclean

  • Title: Zen Fables for Today
  • Author: R Mclean, Dick Mclean
  • Released: 1998-03-01
  • Language:
  • Pages: 144
  • ISBN: 0380795612
  • ISBN13: 978-0380795611
  • ASIN: 0380795612


About the Author Richard McLean is a Catholic Zen who is also a member of a Jewish temple. He has a dual career as a writer and advertising consultant. He lives in San Rafael, California, with his wife, two daughters, and three stepchildren.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


For those interested in the principles underlying Buddhism, this section may prove informative. It strives to simplify rather than complicate at the risk of only skimming the surface. But even at its surface Buddhism and its child, Zen Buddhism, offer new ways of viewing old problems with solutions that have enriched participants for over twenty centuries.

As noted in the Foreword, the author claims no profound knowledge but rather a sense of awe--somewhat like the gatekeeper who only points the way to the temple.

Zen Buddhism

Zen is impossible to approach from a purely logical stand point. Zen pays limited homage to the intellectual and insists that to understand the metaphysical universe one must rely upon intuition and experience to break the old patterns of thought and come to stunning insights. Zen warns about the "trap of words" that substitute intellectualization for true insights. Thus, for the beginner Zen seems filled with paradoxes and contradictions. However, with time these problems become less troublesome. The noted scholar Huston Smith summarizes the condition of life that Zen seeks to obtain as follows:

The condition in which life and the awareness that forms its core are experienced as distinctly good.

With the perception of life's goodness comes an outlook that others are as important as we are.

The life of Zen does not draw the individual away from the world but returns the individual with a new perspective. (and responsibility)

With this perspective of the infinite there comes an attitude of agreeable acceptance of life in its totality.

As the concept of oneness grows, the separateness of self and others, finite and infinite, life and death are transcended until ultimately the individual finds singular joy in today without fear of a tomorrow.

Zen is not otherworldly. Zen is compassionate. Zen addresses the problem of today as aptly as did the Buddha 2,500 years ago.

Buddha, the Man,

Buddha stands as a unique personality among the founders of other great systems of metaphysical thought. He refused to accept the adoration of the masses. In a famous interchange he was asked:

"Are you a god?"


"Are you an angel?"


"Are you a prophet?"


"Then what are you?"

"I am one who is awake."

He eschewed the trappings of religion and forbade ritual and religious structure. Buddha's focus was upon the here and now and pragmatic ways to live a richer, fuller life.

Two of his key teachings:

1. The conviction that each person must find his or her own answers, that all learning is only a tool. And these essential answers must come from the person's experience both internal and external. Buddha asked of his followers great faith, great doubt, and great effort.

"Be a lamp unto yourself."

2. Enormous sense of compassion for life and all living things. Tough-minded and a strict teacher, his essential characteristic was one of love.

When a friend accidentally served him a poisoned meal, one of his dying acts was to assure the disconsolate disciple that it was "okay," that the meal had been one of the two best meals of his life--the meal that fueled his body when he achieved enlightenment and the meal that ended this last incarnation.

Since his words are as fresh today as when they were first uttered 2,500 years ago we know that they have universal wisdom and relevance to today and today's problems.


Satori, or enlightenment, is one of the goals of Zen Buddhism. In much of Zen literature it is described as a sudden and dramatic awakening to the central concepts of the universe and our place in that universe. It mirrors the quest of the original Buddha, who stubbornly sat beneath the bodhi tree until he reached his state of enlightenment.

In much (too much, in some opinions) of Zen literature enlightenment is the climax of a drama wherein an individual meditates and studies and wrestles with Koans (riddles) until some nonrelated event triggers this shattering religious experience that leaves the individual changed forever and initiates the person in the first step in Zen development.

This kind of enlightenment is fine, but there are also gradual awakenings, little bursts of insight that in the aggregate form a new vision of reality and the universe. Whether there's a sudden or a gradual awakening, the result may be similar.

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