In sitting meditation we gradually come to recognize some basic questions about our lives: “What does it mean to be me?" "What does it mean to be alive?" "What's this life all about?" That’s the “huh?”

A tedious argument of insidious intent...
T.S. Eliot

So "huh?" is really a distillation of all of the questions that can arise. It’s really examining in a very penetrating sense, “What’s going on here?” And without asking that huge question we’re really in the dark, we’re really driving aimlessly without a map and with no sense of where we’re headed or where we're coming from.

The Buddha’s “Huh?”

This was Siddhartha Gotama Shakyamuni’s experience. After many years of meditation, rigorous asceticism and study, Siddhartha Gotama was unable to answer the fundamental question: "What is life-and-death all about?" Determined to break through whatever it was that separated him from realization (“huh?”), he sat down under a tree and vowed to not rise until he had either answered this burning question or died in the attempt. Sitting there, he focused his whole attention upon that question and became so absorbed that he lost track of everything else. He didn't even think of himself or about the nature of the question. He and the question were no longer two different things. He had totally become one with the question, had become the questioning itself.

Sitting in deep meditation at dawn, he caught a glimpse of the morning star—the planet Venus—alone in the empty sky. At that moment he suddenly realized the fundamental nature of all reality, that beyond physical characteristics, beyond any contracting of the mind, that he and all beings were fundamentally the same. He was that morning star, was the whole universe itself.

When Shakyamuni Buddha first experienced enlightenment, he exclaimed that it was amazing, miraculous, and wonderful that all beings had the same wisdom and compassion as the fully awakened one. He excaimed:

How strange! Everyone has it! Everyone has it within himself/herself… that capacity for understanding, that capacity for awakening, and the capacity for loving. And yet, they have let themselves sink in the ocean of suffering…

Please remember Shakyamuni was not a “Buddhist.” He was a man exploring “huh?”

Before continuing, reflect on your "huh"s. What is one question you bring to your intention to sit Zen meditation?