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Data Architecture: From Zen to Reality

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First, note that I have used Zen in the title of this book. I have been asked many times why I used such an esoteric term. After all, what is the meaning of Zen? To clarify the meaning of Zen, we must examine the philosophical environment that gave rise to Zen: Indian and Chinese philosophies. In India, Buddhism arose out of a Hindu environment, and later one form called Mahayana evolved. Taoism, a philosophy that also contributed much to Zen, was developed in China.

It was in China where imported Mahayana Buddhist ideas fused with existing Taoist ideas to form what was later called Zen. Concepts that are typically attributed to Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism are integral parts of Zen thought. These concepts helped me in my choice for the title.

Zen is a philosophy, a religion, a psychology, and a way of life, but these are interpretations of Zen. It is said that Zen is complex and contradictory but remarkably simple; that Zen is empty and void but remarkably full and delightful. Simply put, Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own perceptions.

Words and concepts can be useful, but mistaking them for reality can cause many problems. Concepts about reality are not reality. The menu is not the food. In order to experience Zen, one needs to dissolve all preconceptions, beliefs, concepts, and judgments about the self and the universe and see the now.

So what is Zen? Zen simply is. Often it seems that the search for Zen’s meaning reveals nothing but contradictions. Any realization of truth seems impossible. Yet, Zen has a unique way of pointing at the “thatness” of everything. Zen brings us face to face with the true original nature of things, undefiled by cultural conditioning and neurotic tendencies.

When this is applied to data, it simply means that data is. It exists in its own state, without our perspectives and views of it. It has a now and a whatness of existence. So it is this “presence or oneness” of data that we begin with and move toward discrete interpretations of how it can be shaped, molded, viewed, illustrated, structured, and understood. It is with this in mind that the book is titled Data Architecture: From Zen to Perceived Reality.

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