Zen and the Art of Shakespeare
Like all Buddhism, Zen is a means by which one can achieve Buddha-consciousness, or in effect "total-consciousness." "Total-consciousness" means being aware of the true self and its role in regard to the infinite cosmos of all existence. This awareness allows one insight into or perhaps understanding of the Tao, the essential singularity to which all things belong. Understanding the Tao, for Taoists and Zen Buddhists alike, is the equivalent of Nirvana, loosely described as the utmost fulfillment of one’s existence.
With all of it’s lofty, mystical terms and ideas, Zen Buddhism can seem very hard to talk about much less understand and follow. The beauty of Zen, though, is its practicality, its simplicity, its ingenious grasp of the obvious. There are few of the traditional Buddhist rituals or ceremonies in Zen. It is known as the "Way of Sudden Enlightenment." It is a way of life that brings one closer to the satori experience. Satori is the enlightenment itself and, thusly, the complete understanding of Zen’s truths.
A very important part of Zen is its avoidance of making distinctions. In a world filled with apparent opposites. Zen recognizes that opposites are indeed merely apparent. Good cannot exist in the absence of Bad. Light cannot exist apart from the darkness. This goes back to the nature of the Tao as the essential oneness, or the tie that binds all objects, thoughts, and beings. Therefore, the Zen thinker does not consider action to be moral or immoral because to make such a distinctions to delude reality with extraneous, unnecessary ideas. The Zen life is devoid of purpose; but therein is the beauty. What is more blissful than living just for the sake of living: being free and unhurried? The Zen life is like the biblical paradise without the encumbrance of God or Satan. In reality, paradise exists under man’s nose, and in it man plays the role of God and Satan. Zen suggests that we have no good reason to escape this reality, and furthermore it is absurd to think that we really can.
Ultimately, living in Zen is to live extemporaneously. When one truly lives in Zen there is no equivocation or deliberation. There is only action. Zen is the ever-present guiding force in the life of an individual who adheres only to living. Zen is far away from the individual who abides whether in thought or deed, in his own disillusions.
In The Tempest, Prospero’s final scene is the most Zen-like expression in all of Shakespeare. By virtue of his spells and charms, Prospero has his enemies right where he wants them. "Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th’ quick," he says. "Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury do I take part. The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance. They being penitent, the sole drift of my purpose doth extend not a frown further." (Tempest, V.i.20-30) Prospero proceeds to carry out his act of reconciliation by forgiving his enemies and freeing his...