Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zen 101

I've been reading "The Heart of Buddha's Teaching" by Thich Nhat Hanh. I had read/skimmed through a few previous books introducing Buddhism, but this one is the best so far. I realized this was the one for me based on one simple fact: I'm reading it very slowly. Ridiculously slowly.
Usually that's a bad thing, it means I can't get into the book, and will eventually set it down where it will remain untouched until who knows when.
But this is the first book I've intentionally read slowly. I find myself savoring each word. I'll read a chapter, think about it for a few days or weeks, then go back, review it, and read the next chapter, and repeat the process.
I've never enjoyed a book so much, not so much for the content itself, but the experience of the book.

School starts in three weeks for me, so I've been reading like crazy, trying to enjoy the precious last few moments of free time before diving back into my studies. I decided over the summer I want to learn some basic Japanese and go to Japan in a few years to experience it. I feel so uncomfortable going to countries where I don't know the language, where I get in line behind all the other tourists, and feel as if there is a wall between me and the local culture. I loved going to France because I knew enough French to explore the streets, ask for directions, order a meal, shop in the stores, etc. I hated Italy because I didn't even know how to say hello, so I just followed the tourist groups everywhere, saw all the sights that the tourists are obliged to see, that are set up and preserved for the tourists, and I feel like I missed out on a great deal of culture. So when I go to Japan, I want to go to Japan, I want to experience it. I want to get lost and eat at little local holes in the walls and crash at cheap motels and hostels, laugh with everyone around me, local and tourist alike.
So I looked at the Japanese offerings at the University. It's a popular language to learn here, so the program is pretty good. I can't take any Japanese classes this fall because of my work schedule, but this spring I should be able to figure something out. As I was looking at the course listings, I found out that the Japanese department is offering a Zen Buddhism class, and only had one spot left. How nifty is that? It is only one credit, and doesn't collide with my work schedule. I was giddy for the rest of the day.

1 comment:

Kuan Gung said...

That is an excellent book you're reading and I like the fact that your savoring it!