The Zen disciple sits for long hours silent and motionless. Presently he enters a state of impassivity, free from all ideas and all thoughts. He departs from the self and enters the realm of nothingness. This is not the nothingness or the emptiness of the West. It is rather the reverse, a universe of the spirit in which everything communicates freely with everything, transcending bounds, limitless. There are of course masters of Zen, and the disciple is brought toward enlightenment by exchanging questions and answers with his master, and he studies the scriptures. The disciple must, however, always be lord of his own thoughts, and must attain enlightenment through his own efforts. And the emphasis is less upon reason and argument than upon intuition, immediate feeling. Enlightenment comes not from teaching but through the eye awakened inwardly. Truth is in the discarding of words, it lies outside words.
But no one captures the profound and paradoxical nature of silence better than silent Buddhist retreat leader Gene Lushtak. Prochnik recounts a story Lushtak told him about Ajahn Chah, the most prominent leader of 20th-century Buddhism:
“A young monk came to live in the monastery where Ajahn Chah was practicing. The people who lived in the town outside the monastery were holding a series of festivals in which they sang and danced all night long. When the monks would rise at three thirty in the morning to begin their meditation, the parties from the night before would still be going strong. At last, one morning the young monk cried out to Ajahn Chah, ‘Venerable One, the noise is interrupting my practice — I can’t meditate with all this noise!; ‘The noise isn’t bothering you, ‘ Ajahn responded. ‘You are bothering the noise.’ As Lushtak put it to me, ‘Silence is not a function of what we think of as silence. It’s when my reaction is quiet. What’s silent is my protest against the way things are.’”
Courtesy of Brain Pickings.
For more on this story, please see the extraordinary tumblr: sharanam.
Meditation does not involve discontinuing one’s relationship with oneself and looking for a better person or searching for possibilities of reforming oneself and becoming a better person. The practice of meditation is a way of continuing one’s confusion, chaos, aggression, and passion—but working with it, seeing it from the enlightened point of view. That is the basic purpose of meditation practice as far as this approach is concerned.
“You run through your top ten erotic fantasies, ambition fantasies, revenge fantasies, global ratification fantasies. You run through them all until you bore yourself to death, basically, and the faculty that produces opinions and snap judgments and unrealistic scenarios for your own prominence, after you run through them for a number of years, they cease to have charge. They bore themselves into non-existence. You see them as diversions from another kind of intimacy that you become more interested in–and that is what Socrates said: Know Thyself.”
—from Sarah Hampson’s interview with Leonard Cohen in Shambhala Sun.
As you walk, cultivate a sense of ease. There’s no hurry to get anywhere, no destination to reach. You’re just walking. This is a good instruction: just walk. As you walk, as you let go of the desire to get somewhere, you begin to sense the joy in simply walking, in being in the present moment. You begin to comprehend the preciousness of each step. It’s an extraordinarily precious experience to walk on this earth.
When one first begins to work with conscious attention one discovers that the subsystems of body, feelings, and mind function inefficiently and disharmoniously. Yet the simple awareness of misalignment may introduce an element capable of binding the disparate parts into an integrated whole. With sustained awareness comes a heightened sensitivity, openness, a quiet mind. Man’s structure becomes receptive to the advent of fresh, vivifying energies descending from a mysterious source. This creates a field, where higher energies can transform the lower.
This book is handwritten because, in its way, it is a love letter, and love letters should not be type—set by compositors or computers. It may be a little slower to read, but there is no hurry, for what I want to share with you took a long time to experience.
I write in the first-person singular, but when I speak of “I,” I really mean “You.”
“Deeply thinking about it,
I and other people,
There is no difference
As there is no mind
Beyond the Mind.”
—Ikkyu (fifteenth century)
—From the Foreward to Frederick Franck’s “The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation.”