Zen State of Mind in Vigorous Activity

Question 8

Is the Zen state manifested differently when a practitioner is doing a vigorous activity such as kung fu or sports, versus the state of Zen you might have when performing a Japanese tea ceremony or Chinese calligraphy? What are the similarities and differences, if any?



As in many things in life, the answer can be yes or no.

Yes, when the kind of activities is different, the Zen state of mind involved in the different activities is also different. Hence, the Zen state of mind in vigorous activities like kungfu and sports is different from more sedate activities like Japanese tea ceremony or Chinese calligraphy.

The Zen state of mind in vigorous activities is active, whereas that in sedate activities is passive. In kungfu sparring, for example, the Zen state of mind, while being calm and focussed, will be intuitively thinking of what movements will be executed next. In Chinese calligraphy, the Zen state of mind, also while being calm and focussed, will be enjoying the flow of the artist’s brush.

On the other hand, we can also say that irrespective of the different activities involved, regardless of whether the activities are vigorous or sedate, the Zen state of mind is the same. At the basic level, it is calm and focused. At higher levels, it initiates or responds to the activities at hand.

In other words, irrespective of whether you are performing a kungfu set, preparing tea in a ceremonial way, viewing a sunset, chewing your food, walking with your girlfriend hand in hand, or giving a public speech, if you are in a Zen state of mind you will be calm and relax, and spontaneously and usually correctly initiate or respond to requirements of the activity involved.

For example, if you miss a pattern in the set, you would just smoothly go on to the subsequent pattern without a break and without any indication for spectators that you have missed a pattern. Others who lack the benefit of a Zen state of mind may just stop and stretch their head, or do any tell-tale action that shows they have made a mistake at this point.

If you are holding a pot of hot tea and someone is about to crash onto you, you would without any intellectualizing, spontaneously move aside to avoid the crash, and carry on your tea ceremony as if nothing amiss has happened. Others without a Zen state of mind would accidentally splash the hot tea on to himself or the crashing-in person, or execute any other action clumsily not in harmony with the tea ceremony.

Hence, irrespective of the activities involved which may be vastly different in nature, the Zen state of mind is the same, i.e. being calm and relaxed and being able to react spontaneously and correctly.

Zen State of Mind

Zen State of Mind in Quiescent Activity

The above is reproduced from the thread 10 Questions to the Grandmaster about Zen in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum