You may not hear this from the lips of a Zen Master: a practitioner of Zen is someone attempting to reach enlightenment.
The Zen Master would say: enlightenment is something which cannot be grasped.
This would seem to make the practice of Zen an exercise in futility
Why reach for something that you can never take hold of?
Why set a goal that can never be realized?
Zen doesn't claim that a person cannot possess enlightenment.
Zen merely suggests that while reaching for it, it cannot be grasped.
Enlightenment in Zen, is something which defies the ability of reason (the mind) to comprehend.
The state of being referred to as enlightened, cannot be expressed.
Being in a state of enlightenment is the possession of the "true dharma eye," it is to exist, at one with the experience of the ineffable, it is to have an intrinsic and utterly congruous link with what is true.
Zen maintains the idea that the attainment of enlightenment can be sudden, and is always characterized by a radical transfiguration of consciousness.
Zen suggests that its method is an appropriate vehicle for a person to take, if he or she desires to become enlightened.
Zen suggests that its method za-zen (the sitting meditation), is particularly useful for the development of human consciousness in a manner that will make it more susceptible to the experience of sudden enlightenment.
“Zen tells us to grasp the truth of Sunyata, ‘Absolute Emptiness,’ and this without the mediacy of intellect or logic, it is to be done by intuition or immediate perception.”[i]
The methods that Zen employs in its discipline are: sitting and breathing meditation, meditation upon the sutras, and the use of the Koan.