Zen and Religion – Time
One difference in attitude that I have encountered between zen and religion (semetic/Abrahamic) is the approach to time. Zen appeals to the moment, as the only existence. Neither the past, nor the future exists. The focus is on the moment. The attitude that semetic religion seems to be concerned about is the passage of time and the outcome at the end of it. In zen, one has already arrived. In semetic religion, one is travelling to an end goal. Indeed that end goal is the focus – that day of judgement, that eternal paradise. In zen, the focus lands squarely on the moment. That shift in attitude can bring or remove stresses on a person in unimaginable ways.
While it may seem both are completely separate attitudes – and there is good reason to think they are – with the broader framework of semetic religion in mind, one could bring the zen mindset to bear onto it in a positive way. You can know the end goal, but live it moment by moment. There is a certain anxiety that the semetic attitude almost necessitates upon the believer. The anxiety of judgement and the fire of hell bears down as a firm reality in a way that the non-believer may not be able to comprehend. Indeed life itself is seen as a delusion leading ones focus away from the main truths of a perfect paradise or a perfect punishment.
Life as a delusion also exists as a precept in zen. However the approach here is that the delusion seeks to take us away from our true nature and causes anxiety. Living in the moment and focussing on reality as reality without thoughts superimposed onto it is the remedy. The semetic attitude however deems life a delusion that takes us away from being anxious about the reality of judgement.
If one could comparamentalise the knowledge of judgement, yet still hold it as a true reality, the zen attitude could help one focus on the moment without the delusion of life drawing one into mindless thoughts and endeavours, and still let one live every moment as a sacred reality.
It has to be said that the religious attitude mentioned here is to some degree one-dimensional, but one can only write about one dimension at a time.