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 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. One with the Tao. This is first nen.

Second nen is when you tell someone 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 under the guidance of a first nen teacher.

Third nen is when the second nen person shares your experience with some else. Third nen people appreciate the experience, want to have it, believe in it and may go off and tell others about it. They may embellish it or leave important details out. They are often students and disciples of various religions and sects.

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

Credit cards are fourth nen. Far away from reality.

The purpose of meditation/zazen/shikan taza is to have a first nen relationship with our true nature. Initial direct experiences of our true nature are called kensho. Deeper experiences are called satori. Natural meditation is the gateless gate to the world of first nen being.

Being a Buddhist or anything else is at least a second nen and beyond position. You can’t be in 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 idea what meditation is. They are always arguing from a third nen or beyond position. They understand something conceptually and theoretically. They may say,”Yes, but WHO is it that meditates???” Only a third nen person would ask such a question.

I suggest they move into first nen by sitting quietly, being nothing and enter the dragon’s cave of first nen. Then they won’t ask anymore silly questions or make anymore silly statements.

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


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