People are attracted to the study and practice of Zen Buddhism for a variety of reasons. Initially it might be intellectual curiosity, a search for adventure, or the realization that there is some dissatisfaction in life that needs to be addressed.
Whatever the stated reason for beginning Zen practice, the individual realizes he or she must make a commitment to deal with the longing that has been aroused. Belonging to a community and working with a teacher enable the seeker to follow his or her own path with a much greater likelihood of finding satisfaction than meditating alone.
While Zen is known as the “pathless path” or the “gateless gate”, there are certain skillful means that Zen uses to help a student to be in a state of readiness. The Vista Zen Center works with individuals, and with the community, with the intention of serving as aspirants as skillfully as possible.
Zen teachers speak of the “Three Treasures” which serve as the foundation of our skillful practices. The first “Treasure” is the historical Buddha. A human being who asked questions about the suffering he saw in life. Through meditating on the suffering he saw and experienced, he came to a realization of the cause of the suffering, and a means to eradicate suffering. This is the essence of the teaching of the Buddha.
The teachings of the Buddha and the teachers who have followed in his footsteps is the second “Treasure”, also known as the Dharma.
The third “Treasure’ is the Sangha, or community of followers who join together to follow the Buddha’s teachings.
The “why” of practice while we ask for answers to the same questions raised by the Buddha 2500 years ago. With our questions in mind we can choose to find a sangha, or community of like-minded seekers willing to pursue the Buddha’s teaching. Once we have found a collegial community we can begin the real work of following the teachings and testing their validity in our own lives.
Jake Jiyu Gage, Sensei