Did Jesus really teach Zen?

In the mid-90s, I published a book called The Zen Teachings of Jesus. Those of you who were brought up as Christians in the U.S. may not be able to immediately relate Jesus with Zen. But I have always found this passage of the Sermon on the Mount full of exquisite beauty and Zen wisdom.

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I have called this passage “The Nature Sermon.” It bears no resemblance to how a Christian preacher would preach. Jesus just let nature show us the way. He taught by not teaching. The emphasis is not on any supernatural power or special divine intervention. Rather, it is on the trust in the wisdom of nature. This is Jesus’s Zen at its best. The message is also rational, not irrational or mystical. Verily, who can improve his lot by worrying? The sensible thing to do is to relax and not worry about the things out of one’s control. Just focus on the present and do the things you are capable of doing. That way you are not wasting your energy unproductively.

This is a good example of Jesus’s Zen and Taoist teaching. It radiates natural grace.

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Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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