Most Zen Buddhists who practice in Western Countries are brought up in Christian tradition. Having this in mind, it is not surprising that questions that consider their perception of the resurrection of Jesus surface every Easter.
Generally, the Zen Buddhists perceive each day, including Easter, as a good day, special and ordinary at the same time, a good day to wake up into the present moment.
Nonetheless, Easter is one of the days historically established to serve as a reminder of the true nature of human existence. Regardless of whether they are exact historical facts or simply fairytales, through contemplation they transcend into powerful tools for better understanding of Life itself. They turn into torches that lighten up our path.
If we forget for a moment the colorful eggs and chocolate bunnies, that have nothing to do with Christianity or spirituality in general, we can perceive resurrection of Jesus as a symbol of his final awakening (parinirvana) and reunion with the One (or whatever we like to call it: Buddha Mind, Tao, Brahman, God, Universal consciousness, etc.). But more importantly, we can perceive it as a reminder of the opportunity we all have – the opportunity to wake up at any given moment.
Every morning we open our eyes and try to leave dreams behind. When we succeed, we experience a moment when the ordinary and the special merge. Singing birds, scent of the cafe, church bells or traffic noise get a different dimension and quality. We find ourselves completely embedded in the present moment, peaceful, rested and happy.
But when dreams haunt us beyond nighttime sleep, the illusions created by our minds prevent us from experiencing the true beauty of life, and we suffer from nonexistent matter. Engaged in daydreaming we keep watching mind movies, that repeatedly show sequences from past events, the assumed future or an illusory life. Although this is just a play of our minds, it feels very real, generates real emotions and eventually becomes our reality.
Independent if triggered emotions are pleasant or unpleasant, they are strong enough to prevent the encounter with the real existence - we become dead for life. Our autopilot is turned on allowing our bodies to move automatically, powered by habits and conditioned neural responses, and activating speech without substance and listening without hearing. Although we move, talk and seemingly listen, nothing is done with awareness, nothing is conscious.
Returning to Life will happen to most people only in the face of death. Still, some may be fortunate enough to open their eyes before that final day, probably when strong turbulence crosses their path. When such events occur, people suddenly feel out of control and terrified. This fear can transcend into a final wake up call, that turns off autopilot, or can serve as a trigger, strong enough for an awakening episode, experienced as a strong light, but not strong enough to sustain an awakened state. When the latter happens, people will close their eyes again and fall back into samsara illusions with the hope for the next miracle, simultaneously transforming that episode of overwhelming light into a new story.
This human striving to go through life with closed eyes and without awareness makes the awakening and parinirvana of enlightened people of immense importance. But celebrating these days without deeper understanding is meaningless. Without grasping the true essence, we tend to worship super-humans, gods, their sons or saints, making the legacy of awakened people unfruitful. But, once we acknowledge their light and their sacred nature as our own, we can transcend the power of these days and ascend back to life.