Question: What is the difference between Hinduism and Zen?

Sri Chinmoy: The root is Hinduism. From Hinduism came Buddhism and from Buddhism came Zen. Let us take Hinduism as the grandfather, Buddhism as the father and Zen as the son. Let us think of Hinduism as an eternal religion, or as a form of self-discipline that will one day allow us to feel boundless joy, peace and love. When we think of Buddhism, immediately the compassion-aspect of reality comes forward into our mind. The world needs compassion badly; with our mutual compassion we exist together on earth. In Zen, the main thing is awareness. We have to be fully, consciously and constantly aware of what we are doing, what we are seeing and what we are growing into. If we are meditating, we are aware of it; if we are eating, we are aware of it; if we are talking to a friend, we are aware of it.

At the highest point in Zen there is something called satori or illumination. Before illumination there is darkness on one side and light on the other side, and we are in between. But if we go and take shelter in illumination, then our own inner effulgence envelops and encompasses the whole world. For millennia we have lived in ignorance, but once illumination takes place, there is no ignorance in us at all. Everywhere is light and we become one with the Vision of the Absolute. So the greatest gift of Zen is illumination — the highest, all-illumining, all-fulfilling illumination.

Hinduism is based on yoga. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means oneness. When we follow the teachings of Hinduism, we sing the song of oneness. If somebody is suffering, then we become totally, inseparably one with his suffering. If somebody is in the seventh Heaven of delight, then we become one with him in the seventh Heaven of delight.

The goal of yoga, or Hinduism, is to become one with God. When we become one with God, we not only achieve illumination but actually become illumination itself. We become one with God's infinite Light. In our constant oneness with what God Himself is, as well as with what God has offered us and what God is going to offer us, we become perfect. We become His perfect instruments to reveal and manifest the Highest on earth. So yoga is oneness and perfection, whereas Zen is illumination and liberation.