“If you have time to meditate, you should meditate for half an hour. If you don’t have time to meditate, you should meditate for an hour.” – Zen Proverb
A sense of humour
This funny proverb first of all shows the great comical streak there is in Zen.
The old Zen masters held great sway by humour as an agent that can bring about Satori, sudden Enlightenment. Indeed, one could see humour as a mini-enlightenment. After all, what is the “getting” of a joke, if not a sudden, immediate intuitive grasp of a situation?
Sounds a lot like Enlightenment to me!
What do we think this proverb is trying to say?
One view could be that the proverb is reinforcing the importance of finding time for meditation, no matter how busy your life is. Many Zen teachers see a regular, daily practice of Zazen (sitting meditation) as an essential component of the good life.
What I think that this proverb is trying to say is that if you are struggling to find time to fit Zazen in your daily schedule, that proved just how much you do actually need it.
A Proverb for our times?
I think this proverb here is a proverb for our times; it is gently mocking the attitude of modern busy westerners who complain that they simply “can’t find the time” for meditation.
It is teaching us moderns from this ancient wisdom tradition that if you can’t find time to sit still for 10 minutes a day, then your priorities are skewed.
And if your priorities are skewed in this way, then what you need is not a little meditation, but a lot!