Marga Hoek: How I find My Zen…

Nederland, Bloemendaal, 3 september 2013 Marga Hoek, de Groene zaak Foto: Merlijn Doomernik

Marga Hoek, sustainable economy trailblazer and author of Business as a Force for Good: The New Norm.

“My ‘Zen moments’ are those times when I have freed myself from limiting convictions”

The question came to me recently: “What is your Zen moment?” But who am I to talk about Zen? It would presume that I know Zen, understand it and can reflect upon it from my own experience and perspective. While simplifying is useful, not understanding and valuing the essence of things is not.

I can say that I am driven by the desire to do justice: to people, to the world. But the question inspired me to ask myself: what is the essence of Zen? And what does it mean to me? I decided to read more about it and came across an exciting publication by Sangharakshita from 1973, called ‘The Essence of Zen’.

Sangharakshita explained why we tend to misunderstand and, more importantly, to underestimate Zen. First, we tend to intellectualise Zen by analytically studying it. I realised that was precisely what I was doing. The author says we try to conceptualise it and turn it into an intellectual concept. This way, however, we cannot really experience Zen and therefore cannot comprehend the essence.

Secondly, we try to understand Zen separately from Buddhism. “This is like trying to understand the acorn apart from the oak, and it is absolutely futile. Zen is an integral part of the total Buddhist tradition,” the author claims.

The last of the three main causes for our misunderstanding of Zen is that ‘we mistake the finger for the moon’. According to the Buddhist saying, when one asks, ‘where is the moon?’ and somebody points it out with his finger, one does not stand with eyes riveted on the finger. One looks from the finger to the moon. In the same way, all the teachings and methods of Zen are in fact many pointers to the experience of enlightenment. The disciple does not take them for ends in themselves. He utilises them to help in the attainment of liberation, the author explains.

So Zen is a way of living, a way of being. Set free from conventions we put upon ourselves. Broadened by the possibility to experience open-mindedness without any prejudice. It is about being holistic and peacefully authentic.

I would therefore say that my ‘Zen moments’ are those times when I have freed myself from limiting convictions, when I am entirely authentic and approach everyone involved in the transition towards a sustainable world with love and compassion. It is when I look at the moon.


About Marga Hoek

Marga Hoek is an internationally known trailblazing figure in the movement towards a new, sustainable economy and the transition to a new way of doing business. Over the last 20 years, Hoek has held CEO and board positions in business and numerous positions on advisory boards in business, science, education and government sectors.

In 2010 she founded and is the current CEO of The Dutch Sustainable Business Association, the Dutch representative for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. She is also the founder and Chairman of the Dutch Sustainable Science Association, a network designed to unite scientists in the drive towards a sustainable future.

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