First Nen Zen – or Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience

My Buddhist teacher was Japanese-American and was not formally trained to teach so she often used terms that may not have been “kosher” Buddhism, so to speak. But they were very useful and I continue to use her expressions, like “Don’t worry. It will all come out in the wash.” (She was a housewife with a husband and three boys.)

One of the terms we used is “nen.”

First nen is you are very thirsty and you take a drink of cool, clear, clean refreshing spring water and it completely revitalizes you. This is a direct, unobstructed experience that requires no belief, thought or concepts. It simply is. Direct experience and no one having it. Being in the zone. Eating the meal, and not the menu.  One with the Tao.  Not two. This is first nen. Iku would say, “Stay first nen zen!”

Second nen is when you tell someone else about drinking the refreshing water. They listen carefully and fully grasp what happened to you, understand it and appreciate it. But they have no direct experience. Second nen is where many teachers teach, but hopefully under the guidance of a first nen teacher.

Third nen is when the second nen person shares your direct experience with others. Third nen people appreciate the experience, want to have it, believe in it and go off and tell others about it. They usually embellish it or leave important details out. They are often students and disciples of various religions and sects. And many become teachers as they believe they have grasped something conceptually that is not actually graspable by thought. They mistake the map for the territory.

The human world mostly functions at third nen and beyond. Religion, books, money, writings, TV, most education, the internet, politics, relationships, conversations and almost all spiritual teachings are third nen and beyond.

Bit Coin is fourth nen. Far away from reality. Pretending there is something that exists that actually doesn’t exist because it isn’t really real. Except within the encapsulated human thought field. It is therefore a perfect way to prop up the human economy. Maybe. Maybe not.

The no purpose purpose of meditation/zazen/shikan taza is to have a first nen relationship with our true nature and life. Initial direct experiences of our true nature are called kensho. Deeper and more permanent shifts are called satori. Natural meditation is the gateless gate to the world of first nen being. Resting as effortless, choice-less, silent awareness. Presence without a secondary process being present. Just This. 24/7.

Being a Buddhist, Christian, atheist or anything else is at least a second nen and beyond position. You can’t be first nen and be anything or anyone.

There are those who argue against meditation. The more they talk about it the more apparent it is that they have no direct realization of what natural meditation is. They seldom rest as first nen. They have too many ideas and opinions about everything. They are afraid of dissolving into the silence and stillness of first nen so they argue and pontificate instead. 

I suggest they be still and find out. Slip into first nen by sitting quietly, being nothing. Being instead of doing. Enter the dragon’s cave of first nen zen. Then there won’t be anymore silly questions or anymore silly statements. There is nothing to grasp. 

First nen. The dragons cave. Shoshin. Beginner’s mind. Only don’t know mind. Perfect freedom. There are no maps of reality here in the vast dazzling darkness beyond the gateles gate. 

Only dragons.

  TET 5/5/2011