Q. How different is practising Zen from praying to God or Buddha in facing suffering?
A. Let’s suppose you happen to get surrounded by very dangerous looking snakes, and there is no other alternative but to be bitten to death by them. You are seized with fear, not knowing when they will attack you. Prayer and practice are the ways to overcome or get rid of the fear.
The former is to depend upon God or Buddha; through prayer, you can feel relieved by the belief that you are protected by Buddha or God. Whenever you feel scared or worried, you can avoid or forget the fear for a while through prayer by comforting yourself with the thought that Buddha or God will protect you from their attacks.
The latter is to practise with the belief that all the poisonous snakes surrounding you are not real and realise the fact that all of them are not living snakes but just pieces of broken rope. All your fear will disappear for good on realising the truth. Once you realise the fact, you don’t have to be scared of them and don’t need to make any more useless effort to avoid your fear.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/xdjWn