Speaking for an average person, what are some practical things that Buddhism or Zen Buddhism can do? We can imagine that it can help us deal with the day to day stress in our lives teaching us how to cope, mainly through the practice of meditation. Maybe it can also teach us how to be aware of our actions and thoughts in our daily life. It can also help us to accept the fact that we are eventually going to die; that death isn’t the “big blank” but a journey into a new life as a consequence of our previous intentions. But is this really Buddhism or what Zen aims at? I mean have we really set foot into its real territory? The answer has to be, no. We are still standing on the vestibule.
Okay (it doesn’t sound good). Let’s go this way. Let me ask this. Does the average person wish to get down to the task of learning what Buddhism is actually about? They may not. Maybe there is something else the average person can do that is close to Buddhism. How about engaged Buddhism? How about trying to protect our natural environment or do something to stop all the violence and poverty in the world? But let’s be frank, this is not what Buddhism is aiming at. This image doesn’t explain the monks and nuns in the monastery trying to awaken, that is, achieve nirvana or in Zen, achieve kensho (seeing our true nature). Their task is much different than that of the average person who has a job and a family. In a way, they are trying to face everything the average person tries not to face and then some, the end goal being enlightenment.
The average person prefers to be left on the vestibule with a good home, nice kids and a good retirement. They are not quite ready to make the leap. But I would say to the average young person, make the leap when youth is still on your side—as the Chinese say, don’t dig a well when you are thirsty. It is too late. Lots of karma as accumulated when you are older. It is hard to change. I was lucky. I dug a deep well starting at twenty. I am sure many of the blog readers know what I am talking about.