What is Zen?

On the phone tonight, my mom asked, “What does the word ‘Zen’ mean, anyway?” And I realized I didn’t know. It’s a school of Buddhism, but as for translating the literal word, I was at a loss.

So I took the question to my teachers at the Zen Center. Our head teacher said that the word originated in China, “Zen” was the Japanese, and there was no English equivalent. He offered the analogy of Zen being the connection between Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire when they dance. It’s the point when you can’t tell where one stops and the next begins. It’s the fluid, ever-changing energy in each moment of the dance.

I think my mom will like that.


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