Zen Tao Flow


Eastern Philosophy – Zen Buddhism towards Spiritual Awakening and Taoism of Flow towards Ultimate Harmony. 1

I. The mystical wordless teaching styles of Eastern sages. 1

II. Zen Buddhism towards Spiritual Awakening through Meditation. 2

III. Taoism of Flow towards Ultimate Harmony in Life and Nature (inspired by Lao Tzu) 3

IV. Philosophy of Zen and Flow in a nutshell 5

V. List of Books and References. 5

I. The mystical wordless teaching styles of Eastern sages

When it comes to studying Eastern religions/philosophies and sharing some pieces of those with my Western friends, I cannot just give them some quotes from a “Great Book” attached with a quick-and-clear interpretation like the way they do for me from their beloved Ultimate Bible. When approaching Eastern religions and philosophies, it actually takes time to walk through a tremendously rich doctrinal and textual background of various teachings and sutras or scriptures from which we need to carefully hand-pick and put them together for a gradual contemplation and thorough reflection, then to incorporate what we’ve been absorbing into our own words.

You can only share the Eastern philosophies with others once you have truly sensed (to feel as with all matters of the heart and mind) the meaning behind and put them into your own soul letters. Because this has been always the style of great sages from the East:

“For 49 years, I have not said a word…” – Buddha          

“A special transmission outside the scriptures,

Not standing upon words and letters;

Directly pointing to the mind and heart

Seeing into one’s true nature and attaining Buddhahood.” – A famous four-line stanza attributed to Bodhidharma (the Great Zen Master) in his teaching of Zen.

“Therefore the Master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything” – Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching

Or according to Osho – one of the best known philosopher, mystic and spiritual teachers of our time in his translation book of The Diamond Sutra – the first text to record the Buddha’s own teachings, one of the most popular Buddhist sutras, especially for Zen Buddhism:

“This whole diamond Sutra points towards silence. It contains no philosophy, no system, no theory, no words, it is an empty book.”

Those all mean the limitation of human language in conveying the enlightened ideals and that in the Eastern Philosophies, we always need to think outside the words to get the true meaning. When it comes to translate Eastern sages’ words, we will find ourselves constantly translate their mind instead of their words per se.

That is the true way to access Eastern philosophies, especially the Zen Buddhism (a school of Buddhism which focuses on Zen – Meditation) and the Taoism (The Way in Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu).

Every time my Western friends give me some beautiful quotes from their beloved Bible and ask me something similar from the East, I always begin with: “I come from an Eastern culture where we embrace Zen Buddhism towards Spiritual Awakening through Zen-Meditation and the Taoism of Flow towards Harmony as a Philosophy (not a religion to me personally)”.

As far as my walks through Eastern religions and philosophies, I’m really into the idea that Buddhism is a religion and a philosophy, meanwhile, Taoism is naturally a pure philosophy. And Zen Buddhism has a less sense of traditional religion (which usually emphasizes a special worshiping) and a more sense of philosophy.

Both Zen Buddhism and Taoism share a nature in common that encourages people to embrace all the differences spontaneously without any discrimination or duality and also, to be fully present…

II. Zen Buddhism towards Spiritual Awakening through Meditation.

Among the giant treasure of various Buddhism traditions (Pure Land Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism…), Zen Buddhism is the one that has been significantly spreading out to different parts of the world through its inspiring Meditation and Zen philosophy.

It is a branch of Buddhist tradition that emphasizes simplicity, present-moment awareness as known as Mindfulness (Chánh niệm), Non-duality (Bất nhị nguyên), Non-Conceptual (Vô niệm) and Non-ego (Vô ngã) through the powerful practice of zazen (a Japanese word means “just sitting”) meditation – the key ingredient to awakening ones’ inner nature, compassion and wisdom – a means of attaining enlightenment which was introduced, as we have known, by the Buddha.

Some main principles of Zen philosophy are the continuous letting go of the ego, the focus on interconnectedness in the universe, the recognition of attachment as a source of suffering, and the realization that human perception is faulty.

The Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Minh Niem also mentions human’s ego as “a baby boss” in his spiritual teaching. It is childish, full of desire, keeps asking for more feeding and more control, with whom we should be facing and hanging out with during our own meditation in order to slowly let go pieces of it.

These principles are quite close to the modern psychological ideology by Dr. David Hawkins in his teaching and contemplations about the ego and in his book “Letting go: A pathway to surrender” about the letting go of the energy underlying our feelings which underlie our thousand thoughts that are produced by the programmed ego.

Here is some of my own words after meditating and pondering upon plenty of wise words from a highly recommended scripture by most of Zen Masters – the Diamond Sutra plus some profound teachings and books by Dr. David Hawkins1 – an international renowned spiritual teacher, psychiatrist, psychologist and developer of the widely-known Map of Consciousness® :

Keep holding on to the ego,
You’ll get lost in pain, shadow and discrimination
Keep attaching to external things,
You’re still far away from the True-Being2

*2Your True-Being is deeply connected with the Universal Being, and directly guided by the Higher Being which can refer to all the Divine Beings across the realms of religions.

*1Dr. Hawkins is also my favorite author and mystic, who has infused the truths found in the precepts of Western religion with the core of Eastern philosophy, bridging the linear-scientific and physical world to the nonlinear and spiritual domain. His great work is a great source of motivation for me to pursue my second major of Psychology and Philosophy.

III. Taoism of Flow towards Ultimate Harmony in Life and Nature (inspired by Lao Tzu)

The Art of Flow or Taoism, a philosophy attributed to Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu, together with Confucianism, a dominant teaching by the ancient Great Teacher of China, make two great streams of Chinese culture and ideology which have largely influenced other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam…

Taoism and Confucianism are like Yin and Yang.

Confucius is the way of the Yang which equals a sharp way of firm government, law and order, ultimate loyalty to the King and strict cultivation of personal ethics and morality.

Meanwhile, Lao Tzu is the way of the Yin which prefers soft way, natural way, the water way, effortless action – doing not-doing.

This is the way to be free from regular lifestyle and free from vanity while still contributing to the society within one’s spontaneous nature in a downstream effort. And then one can step back when the work is done to feel the whole and the true-being, no attachment.

The basic theory of the whole philosophy by Lao Tzu in his ultimate book “Tao Te Ching” is the conception of Tao or “The Way”, which means the natural order/ the being rules of the Universe and Nature which one must go diving in to sense the Oneness and the True Wisdom, Non-Duality (similar to Zen Buddhism).
The key practice of The Way is “Wu Wei”, meaning “effortless action” or “action-less action”, “doing not-doing” or doing with downstream effort. This describes a state of flow that we can learn to sense in every action we’re taking and in everything inside and outside of us. When in this flow, without even trying, we achieve perfect harmony and perfect understanding of the current situation; totally be in the moment with a full acceptance and a great ease of the zone.

The Tao is like water, flows everywhere, to the left and to the right. It loves and nurtures everything without seeking for praise or approval.

The Tao is the way of being, the way in which all things are and connected, mutually.

“Being and Non-being create each other,

Difficult and Easy support each other,

Long and Short define each other,

High and Low depend on each other,

Sound and Silence harmonize with each other,

Before and After follow each other.” – Tao Te Ching

To know the Tao means to sense the Flow of Nature and Universe, the Flow inside of you and others, to build one’s personal growth within that Flow and to complete one’s goals in a downstream effort, not trying to push upstream.

To be the Tao means to be one’s true being, to be the whole without separating one’s self from other selves, to be with the Oneness without any duality.

IV. Philosophy of Zen and Flow in a nutshell

In a nutshell, both Zen Buddhism and Taoism or the Philosophy of Flow guide people to Be in the Zone of Spiritual Awakening and Harmony – where we are fully present, fully aware of our body, our feelings and others’, to become at one with whatever we are doing, to visualize ourselves in a Flow of the Universal Nature and the Flow of our own Inner Nature.

And the very first principle of Zen Buddhism and Taoism or the Philosophy of Flow is that we should be totally open-minded to everyone and everything, to embrace different values without discrimination. There are terms for this called Non-Conceptual, Non Duality and Non Ego, which all mean no separating us from others, no separating things from things.

That is when, my friend, your True-Being is manifested to deeply connected with the Universal Being, and directly guided by the Higher Being which can refer to all the Divine Beings across the realms of religions.

V. List of Books and References

Finally, I’ll leave here a List of books and references for Viet and Asian buddies who’d love to strengthen your Eastern base, to stay local and then to go global and be open with Western religious values.

They are also for foreign friends from the West and Middle who enjoy diving into the Eastern spiritual values and philosophy.

1. The Diamond Sutra – English Translation and Interpretation by Osho

2. The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion by Thich Nhat Hanh – Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master

3. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – English Translation by Stephen Mitchell

4. Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender – David Hawkins

5. Meditation – The First and Last Freedom – Osho

6. Finding the Missing Peace – A Primer of Buddhist Meditation by Ajahn Amaro

*More for my Viet fellas:

Kinh Kim Cang – Bản dịch và luận giải của Thiền sư Thích Thanh Từ

Kinh Kim Cang (Gươm Báu Cắt Đứt Phiền Não) – Bản dịch và luận giải của Thiền sư Thích Nhất Hạnh

Các bài giảng và dẫn của Thiền sư Thích Minh Niệm

Đạo Đức Kinh – bản Dịch và Bình của học giả Thu Giang Nguyễn Duy Cần


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