Meditation in the Zen Tradition

The word `Zen’ comes from the Sanskrit `Dhyana’, meaning meditation, and one of the main characteristics of the Zen schools of China and Japan is the importance they give to the practice of contemplation. The following is translated from an article on Meditation by a Japanese Zen Master, Amakuki Sessan, a monk who lived in the present century. Those who perform meditation for even one session Destroy innumerable accumulated sins ; How should there be wrong Paths for them ? The Paradise of Amida Buddha is not far. These four lines speak of the effects of sitting in meditation (Za-zen) especially in regard to repentance and destruction of sins. The Sixth Patriarch, defining the word Zazen, says : Outwardly to be in the world of good and evil yet with no thought arising in the heart, this is Sitting (Za) : Inwardly to see one’s own nature and not move …

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Become like a Buddha for a time

A Japanese poet – Shizukasa ya Iwa ni shimiiru Semi nokoe The translation could be – ‘Oh the quietness. The shrill voice of the cicada is soaked up by the stones.’ This is a temple scene and suddenly in the quiet of this temple there is this bursting forth of the shrill note of the cicada. It’s ear-piercing while it lasts. Then it stops and there is a moment when, so as to speak, that shrillness and that disturbance is soaked up, soaks away into the stillness of the rocks, the stones, of the temple. We can find some hints for Yoga practice in the practice of certain arts which require a clear discipline – especially, for instance, music. In music the execution has to be not merely perfect, but it also has to be done in a very short space of time sometimes – and musicians have to practise …

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The Spur is addressed to a samurai who has faith

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/tlayt.bucket1/Short+Talks/TheSpurisaddressedtoasamuraiwhohasfaith.mp3   “The Spur” is the title of an essay by Torei who was a disciple of Hakuin in Japan in the eighteenth century. He wrote the essay “The Spur” in about 1755 and it is addressed to a samurai who has faith. Torei got it approved by Hakuin and then it was published. The samurai by this time had become the administrators of the country. They weren’t just warriors although they still carried the two swords. The word, the Chinese character for ‘samurai’ which is used by him, also means a scholar and the character, for instance, is used today as the last character of an academic distinction, like a doctorate, a hakusei, and ‘sei’ is this word for what originally meant a samurai, a warrior and came to mean a man of culture and learning. It’s called “The Spur for the good horse”, and this is the fundamental …

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The doctrine that everything is transient

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/tlayt.bucket1/Short+Talks/Thedoctrinethateverythingistransient.mp3   One of the Buddhist doctrines to enable this to be done is the doctrine that everything is transient, everything is passing, and he says we suffer from things because they simply pass away. If you hang on to the things you find while the karma is favourable they look solid enough and then when it turns they’ve gone and there’s nothing there. You can learn something from the people of the world of this. For instance, one man that I knew was an athlete and clever and took great trouble over his personal appearance. He was very  attractive to women. He was always falling in love but he used to say, “And, it’ll only last three months and then I’ll get bored and fed up with her but,” he said, “even in those three months, I always have another one or another two.” I said “What?” “Well, you …

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The facing inward of the Buddhas

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/tlayt.bucket1/Short+Talks/ThefacinginwardoftheBuddhas.mp3   (Torei:) “However clingingly attached we are to this temporary abode, we cannot expect it to last forever. To realise the four noble truths, that all is passing, painful, empty and without a self and to seek the way of Bodhi intelligence is what is called the Dharma. Then the third point is purely its effort. That you have to make strong efforts. How to search? You have to search. You must make clear and then enlighten the root in you. How is it to be made clear? You must search after your true nature. How to search? In seeing, in hearing sounds, in the distinctions of heat and cold, in the consciousness of right and wrong. This seeing, hearing and knowing are the root of the practice. The ordinary man sees colours and is deluded by colours, hears voices and is deluded by voices, feels heat and cold …

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Keep up the right line of the meditation

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/tlayt.bucket1/Short+Talks/Keepuptherightlineofthemeditation.mp3   It’s been said, Western music tends to be a prelude to the presto at the end and everything else is leading up to the last variation of the set of variations where there’s going to be an athletic performance by the pianist and I’m afraid it’s true that in a lot of our compositions, there is an athletic performance at the very end, but this is a wrong view. The piece is a whole. At the end of the Beethoven’s 7th are these waves of bliss. It’s a wonderful experience to hear them, but if we sit throughout the symphony waiting, thinking ‘well, soon now we will be coming to these great waves of bliss’, then we miss the second movement which is one of Beethoven’s greatest works of genius. This is the one where at the first rehearsal, the players stood up and cheered when they first …

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You practise with courage and sincerity

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/tlayt.bucket1/Short+Talks/Youpractisewithcourageandsincerity.mp3   He (Torei) says that you must practise, not avoiding confrontations and not deliberately creating them either, but taking them on when they come. “You practise with courage and sincerity. It is when things are disturbed, you must realise that now is the time to go to the field of battle and then you will be able to decide things”, and he says if you defeat your greed and your fear and your power love and your pride at these times, then you have actually conquered them. You have actually won, but while you remain in a state of safety from them, you don’t know whether you have conquered them or not. Now, this text was for Samurai scholars. He doesn’t talk so much about the training for Zen monks, but he says little enlightenment, in fact, obstructs great enlightenment. If you give up the little enlightenments and don’t …

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Picture of Bodhidharma

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/tlayt.bucket1/Short+Talks/Picture+of+Bodhidharma.mp3   It’s very unusual. It’s got long black hair and there are some Taoist terms in this. I’ve told you about the dark and the bright circle and on the extreme right it says, “Nine years he cultivated, he turned, he revolved the Tan, elixir energy. Well, this refers to the mysterious Taoist practice in the text that I’ve got. It’s got many of the same phrases in it and this is Bodhidharma as a monk in much more traditional guise but you can still see a bulb at the navel and the power comes up and you can see the dark circle of ‘I don’t know’ and within that the bright circle of realisation. You’ll notice that the figure is very bent forward and this, as a matter of fact, is characteristic of Hakuin’s paintings and also Torei’s drawings. If you look at his pictures of Daito or …

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The new thought is identical with the previous thought

The yoga sutras of Patanjali contain in the third book the second, the third book and the fourth book some examples of changes in the external world brought about by this what we might call this samadhi meditation this so to speak the laser beam. Now you can only get this complete identity of the thought where the new thought is identical with the previous thought where the object blazes out the object of meditation blazes out you can only get that when these irrelevant thoughts have gone. In other words when the memory has been purified when memories no longer invade. Now he makes a great deal of this the purification of the memory and he says ‘While there are passionate attachments or fears to the external world for the things in the external world the memories will inevitably come up and they will break up the samadhi sooner …

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Think in short waves

Shankara lived 700 A.D. and he was not a great lover of the cities. At that time well for a few centuries before that India was the richest country in the world. In the Roman Empire it was estimated that every year a million gold pieces went out of the Roman Empire to India for the finest lace and the wooden artefacts and the ivory and even today on the West coast of India they sometimes find hordes of golden coins which were buried. India was enormously rich enormously sophisticated. Some of the dramas of the time tell us just how well partially refined but also partly degraded the cities were so Shankara tended to believe in the life of scholars living in the country outside the cities. And the examples he gives are often from the country. He’ll give examples from farming examples from milk churning things like that. …

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In meditation repetition is not the same as practice

One might feel that if one just goes on sitting in meditation and reading books about yoga and doing a bit of good in the world one will gradually progress, naturally. But repetition is not the same as practice. Now experts will tell you that most drivers don’t get better over the years. Ten years, twenty years, thirty years – their skill doesn’t improve but instead faults are reinforced. Many of them have never learned the width of their own car, even after twenty years so they drive as close as possible to the oncoming traffic because they’re not sure how much clearance they’ve got. This shows how mere repetition does not improve performance. Practice, on the other hand, is to repeat actions striving to reach some definite higher standard but not just by repetition. Take a meditation: In me there is a light, which lights the whole world, it …

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Meditation on OM, is not just the repetition of it, but also meditation on its meaning

This is one of the things out teacher brought very much to the fore …… the meditation on OM, he says ‘the Sutra of Patanjali says not just the repetition of it, but also meditation on its meaning.’ But why is all the rest of yoga needed?  Because not many people have the one-pointedness to keep at something, they need many accessories to keep the mind interested and active in it.  There are people who can, if you learn Chinese you have to learn, well you used to have to learn three thousand separate shapes, and there are people who can be told simply learn them and they will sit down to it and learn them, that’s all, but most people can’t do that they must have an interest in them.  How to learn for instance that the sun is represented by a square with a dot in the middle. …

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The process of Yoga is recovery of an obscured fact

The Lost Memory Shri Shankara says that the process of Yoga, of which meditation is one of the main limbs, is to realize a fact. It is not creation of something, but recovery of a fact which is somehow obscured. An example of such obscuring is loss of memory. At the end of the Gita, the disciple Arjuna says when his teacher Krishna, an incarnation of the Lord, has wakened enlightenment in him : ” I have recovered my memory.” Memory of what ? ” When the confusions of the mind are dissolved, that bliss which requires no other witness, that is Brahman ; and that is my highest Self, immortal, brilliant.”  That one is omniscient and omnipotent, ever compassionate to all living beings, and engaged in sending forth, preserving and withdrawing the universes as his sport. Arjuna realizes the Lord as his own Self, and realizing his true Self …

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In a life crisis meditate properly

In both Yoga and Zen a time of crisis is a good basis. A tragic bereavement, bankruptcy, public disgrace, ingratitude or even hostility from those who have been helped – these are the times when there is detachment from the world. These are practices that Dr Shastri recommended; they are well proven and reliable, and the book that they come out of is “Meditation: Its Theory and Practice”, which was written by Dr Shastri. One can be showered with different practices or presentations, but if one does one thing properly, then there is a chance for a response to come – an invitation to make the practices go further. But unless we start to do something there can’t be any response, there is no rapport. Lay down a particular time for meditation; he recommends first thing in the morning, when the mind is calm, though it might mean getting up …

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Meditation on a mind free from passion

Some commentators explain the practice as meditation, ultimately with a sense of identity, on some saint who is free from passion. One way is to live through incidents in his life vividly through meditation.Shankara gives a different practice, which is to consider the idea of ‘freedom from passion’, and he instances a well-known Indian example, how even the most passionate man feels his lust subside in the presence of one woman, namely his mother. There are other examples; one given by Dr Shastri was that there are certain fruits in the Himalayas which have a very attractive appearance, and the hungry pilgrim finds his mouth watering as he sees them. But when the guide explains how poisonous they are, the desire disappears. Their beauty is still appreciated, but the desire to eat them has gone.The examples show that passion is not something inevitable; in these cases it disappears, though not forcibly repressed. If it can disappear on these occasions, then in principle it can disappear on others also.

Meditation on the chosen form

19 The Chosen Form sutra 1.59 or (by meditation) on the chosen form The word for meditation is dhyana, which is the second step of the three stages of meditation. The first was dharana, ‘sup-porting’, ‘maintaining’, where the attention has to be repeatedly brought back to the location of the meditation. In the second step, which comes about after repeated practice of the first, there is a flow of related thoughts and feelings towards the same object, like a stream of oil being poured from one pot to another. The word for ‘chosen’ means literally something which specially appeals. It is not unheard of for a teacher to use unexpected things as subjects for meditation in order to teach a particular thing. A man who was an expert in the game called Mah-jong used to visit a Zen teacher once a week, and complained that he could not stay awake …

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Mastery in Samadhi is when the mind can be steadied

 20 samadhi Sutra 1.40 Mastery is when the mind can be steadied on anything from the ultimate in smallness to the ultimate in greatness The Upanishadic verses quoted in the Chapter of the Self describe Brahman: Subtle, finer than a lotus-fibre, he stands covering all; Greater than the earth, firm, he stands supporting all. These are the two extremes, and the Lord is ultimately found in each of them. All the other exercises in training the mind refer to objects between these limits. Shankara sums up by saying that he has mastered the practice who is not interrupted by any opposing thought in his experience of the very small or the very great, or what lies between them. He also adds an interesting comment that all the practices are really the same; it is a question of mastering one and then the others also are accessible easily. These are all …

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Samadhi of karma yoga

Samādhi The samādhi of karma-yoga is a method of tranquillizing the whole mental process, purifying the deep layers of the mind where the latent dynamic impressions lie, and focussing the stilled and purified mental energy on divine manifestations. Finally the higher mind is able to focus on the cosmic intelligence, the source of all manifestations. When such a mind comes to rest, time and space and body-consciousness forgotten, without even the thought I am meditating’, the subject of meditation blazes forth in its own true nature: that is called samādhi. The samādhi of the Gītā is not imagining as existent what does not exist. In the world, meditations can be used as auto-suggestions which can be helpful though not literally true. For instance, Japanese wrestlers, whose art consists mainly in pushing the opponent out of the ring, meditate: ‘I am a great wave.’ A champion attributed his success to practising …

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Goodwill towards virtue is a great spiritual quality

Goodwill towards virtue is a great spiritual quality, and it is placed very high because the human mind feels such relief at pulling down something felt to be greater than itself. In the list of doshas in the Chapter of the Self, spite, false speech, and backbiting all have reference to the vice of jealousy listed after them. Perhaps this vice is pointed out so frequently in the yogic classics because it is difficult to recognize in oneself. At the time of the French Revolution, parents were recommended to give their new-born children personal names representing the ideals of the Revolution, like Fraternity, instead of the names of Christian saints as hitherto. But the directive had to be changed, because some parents began giving names like ‘Death to the Aristocrats’ to their children, showing clearly what the so-called ideals of liberty and equality stood for in the minds of some …

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Compassion towards suffering

Compassion towards suffering is the second of the four bhavana exercises. Bhavana in Sanskrit has the sense of saturating, steeping, completely infusing, psychologically it means something which permeates the whole mental life. The yogi exercises compassion in his thinking, in his meditation, and in his action which springs from them. He is expected to find skilful means for relieving suffering at its root, not superficially. To keep giving alcohol to a drunkard or money to a gambler whose vice is ruining his life and that of his family, is not compassion. This is not to say that an enlightened man might not manage to use just that method. A Zen monk was asked to come and preach to a drunkard. ‘I cannot do that/ he replied, ‘but I will come and stay at the house for a week.’ He told the family to go to bed early each evening, and …

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Christian Meditation

Here is the setting for one definite experiment meditation. First, the principle. The supreme Spirit is all-pervading, and therefore also present in the depths of the heart and mind of man. While the heart is full of conflicting desires, hopes and fears and so on, the light of the Spirit within is obscured, as the bright sky is obscured by masses of storm clouds. Devotion and meditation directed to one of the divine forms will thin the veils, outer and inner. They become in places like the thin white clouds, and the supreme Spirit begins to be seen in the outer world, and finally within also. The yogin becomes more and more aware of the divine purpose, and the role he can play as part of it. ‘Now, the actual practice. It depends on the fact of resonance between the external forms of the Lord, and the Lord seated within …

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A Visit to a Zen Temple

Half an hour from Tokyo, in the suburb of Tsurumi, is a wooded hill on which stands the Zen monastery of Sojiji. It is the headquarters of the Soto branch of the Zen sect of Buddhism, and has numbered some famous Zen masters among its Abbots.  The Soto branch is some what larger than the other branch, the Rinzai.    The masters of Soto and Rinzai agree on fundamental principles, and both of them are lineal descendants of the Zen brought to China by Bodhidharma in the 7th century.    Both of them trace their spiritual pedigree back to Hui-neng, the famous Sixth Patriarch, and from him through Bodhidharma to Buddha himself.    The basis of the Zen instruction is the transmission “ from heart to heart “ of the spiritual realization of Reality. The basic tenet is: ” To know one’s real nature is to be Buddha.” The main difference between the …

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