zen study

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|"How can I find out what zen is?"

THE question, yes.  various options come to mind:

* study books which contain the keyword 'zen'

there are many tomes, and probably best to approach from breadth of overview
or through interest of writing taste than anything else.  the first can be
found in encyclopedaea and various supplementary keywords may be isolated
within the initial search (historical group and individual identities that
are associated with the term, along with cultural contexts, etc.).  the
second can be a random sampling as designated by bookstore or library shelf
and based upon palatability/interest.  use a glossary and/or a dictionary of
terms (Shambhala has one on Zen and Buddhism which is quite excellent, for

absorb information and formulate rudimentary questions

* talk with various beings about things associated with 'zen'

perhaps start with humans: local or postal contacts who associate with the 
term (such as a 'Zen Buddhist Temple' in your area if there should be one);
local or postal learning establishments, such as universities, publishing
houses or community centers.  move on to nonhumans: start with those most
like yourself, such as mammals, birds and reptiles; move on to the more 
obviously different entities such as insects and other arthropods, limacine
and other gastropods, and perhaps alien intelligences; then move on to the
plants (trees especially - they know quite a bit about zen), clouds and
other 'nonliving' entities like streams, fires and stones; then if you are
really diligent, move into the city and begin conversations with the various
technological innovations constructed by humans (such as computers); finally
seek out and diligently question the nonordinary entities such as unicorns,
faeries, djinn, dakinis, devas, asuras, raksasas, hungry ghosts, gods,
demons, bodhisattvas and buddhas

contrast perspectives and challenge extreme statements about the term

* engage activities and locations which are associated with 'zen'

this will of course vary, from eating specific foods and engaging behavior-
forms, to sitting in very particular ways, staring at nothing or at certain
objects, perhaps chanting, ringing bells, bowls, doing yardwork, shooting
bows, repairing motorcycles, etc.  give each a fair chance and then if you
wish move on to something else.  that which attracts most spend the most
time with so as to obtain deeper experience when possible.  also visit the
various workfarms, temples, zendos, monasteries, gardens and mountain 

see how some aspect of the activity or location may be implied by the term

* make up your favorite definitions and go from there

how does the word sound?  of what does it remind you?  what would you *like*
it to mean?  what variations or unusual meanings can you imagine?  what would
be the *opposite* of that taken as true by the authors of books and monks in
their cells?  explore and expand beyond capacity the possible meanings of the
term, being as irreverent and heretical as possible

compare and contrast these with those you may have heard elsewhere

* abandon the search

have a cup of tea and enjoy the sunset