Posts in the “zen” category

A description of Enlightenment, from Shinzen Young

“There is nothing intrinsically problematic about this ordinary perspective. The problem comes when it is the only perspective available to a person, which unfortunately is the usual case.

Enlightenment, or freedom, comes when we also have a complementary perspective that we can access at any time. To have this complementary perspective, we must come into direct contact with the third level of consciousness, the Source.

When we are in direct contact with the Source, self is not perceived as a separate particle, objects are not perceived as solid, and space becomes elastic and can collapse to a dimensionless point, taking everything with it to the Unborn. And time is cyclic — self and scene arise from and return to that unborn Source over and over.

Zen koan: It would be better if you died

Zen koans often turn into humorous Abbott & Costello skits. For those new to Zen, the “It would be better if you died” reference just means that you should meditate like you’re in your coffin, which is further embodied in the Zen phrase, “Dead men have no desire.” (As long as you have desire, Zen will keep its distance from you.)

~ From the book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Yogi, Samadhi, and One’s True Nature

“A Yogi is one who has union with the supreme consciousness.”
~ Yogi Bhajan

“Samadhi is the culmination of yoga; it is a state of bliss and union with the universal spirit.”
~ B.K.S. Iyengar

“Seeing into one’s own nature is the goal of Zen.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I will continue to be (Thich Nhat Hanh)

I will continue to be.
But you have to be very attentive to see me.
I will be a flower or a leaf.
I will be in those forms and I will say hello to you.
If you are attentive enough, you will recognize me, and you may greet me.
I will be very happy about it.

Types of silence you’ll find in meditation

When I’m not writing about Scala and functional programming, I’m often meditating and/or practicing yoga. The following content is something I wrote about silence in meditation back in 2018.

Fake Absolute Silence

These days in meditation I spend a lot of time in a place I call “Fake Absolute Silence.” In this state you might be fooled into thinking that you’re in the real state of Absolute Silence, but that’s part of the problem — you’re still thinking. Things are definitely quiet in this state; there aren’t many thoughts, and your concentration is focused on your breathing without distraction. However, I find that I’m still very aware of my body and outside noises. But despite that, it’s generally a mentally quiet place.

Two tips on understanding Zen koans

A couple of stray Zen thoughts this morning:

If you’re interested in Zen koans, sometimes you need to know the back story of a koan to even have a chance at understanding it. For instance, there’s a koan about a cat that died, and when a monk hears about it, without saying anything, he puts his sandals on his head and walks away. I never understood that (intellectually) until I read that it was a custom at that time to walk with your sandals on your head during a funeral procession.

Another thing to know about koans is that when they say someone was enlightened, there are different forms of enlightenment. For example, one form of enlightenment is an initial enlightenment, and another is the big kahuna.

Notes on several Shinzen Young videos

I’m a big fan of Shinzen Young and his teaching. At this point in this video, he talks about how we might think we’re going closer to The Source, but you may really be on a detour.

And then in this video he talks about three key moments related to his becoming enlightened. I love that he is willing to speak the truth of his experience, like this: “Suddenly, for no reason, I dropped in Equanimity, big time.” He mentions that his pain level was exactly the same, but the suffering dramatically reduces.

He then said, “A few years later he was asking, ‘Who am I’, and I looked at my boundaries, and they vanished. And they never came back, and I was never the same. (later) It never went away, ever. ”

Finally, I wrote about Shinzen Young’s description of enlightenment.

The great way is not difficult ...

“The great way is not difficult if you just don’t pick and choose.”
~ Zen Saying

“Everything is suffering for those who discriminate.”
~ Patanjali (in the Yoga Sutras)

“Many paths lead to the same garden.”
~ Me

A meditation/mantra to bring you back to the present moment

A favorite mindfulness meditation that helps bring me back to the present moment:

In just this moment, what do you feel?
What do you smell?

(Or, more generally, “What do you sense?”)

That isn’t a mantra per se, but more of what I call a “mindfulness reminder” to help bring you back to the present moment.

The realized yogi is utterly disinterested but full of compassion

The realized yogi continues to function and act in the world, but in a way that is free. She is free from the desires of motivation and free from the desires of the rewards of action.

The yogi is utterly disinterested but paradoxically full of the engagement of compassion. She is in the world but not of it. The yogi is beyond cause and effect, action and reaction.

Later we shall see the role that Time plays in this — how there is freedom because the Illusion of Time no longer exists to bind us to the past and future.

~ from Light on Life, by B.K.S. Iyengar

I love you. I love everyone. That’s what’s killing me.

Possibly my favorite part of the movie Spanglish is when Cloris Leachman’s character says, “I love you. I love everyone. That’s what’s killing me.”

From a Zen/Buddhist perspective, that’s the emotion of a Bodhisattva (an enlightened being who chooses to stay here out of compassion, to save all beings). You love everyone, and there are consequences of that.

Well, at least I was right

I think I managed to alienate all of my “Facebook friends” by writing about things like Zen, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and all the experiences that come from studying and practicing these things. And I also understand that alienation, because there are many “spiritual” things I’m not interested in from certain other spiritual/religious perspectives. (I’m more open than that sounds, but I have a hard time when people don’t practice what they preach, or cherry-pick a few things Jesus taught while ignoring the teachings they don‘t like.)

That being said, the things that Shinzen Young — a modern day meditation master in the U.S. — speaks about here and in this two-minute video echo everything I’ve discovered on my own and wrote about. So while, yes, I feel bad about oversharing about this sort of thing with people who don’t have similar interests on my now-defunct Facebook account, well, at least I was right. :)

Some of Shinzen Young’s sayings in the first core lessons of the Brightmind app

As a “note to self,” I like some of Shinzen Young’s sayings/analogies/metaphors in the first core lessons of the Brightmind app. The ones that come to mind are:

  • Try to listen to your mental talk in your head just like it’s a sound in nature, like listening to a bird. In this way, “you” can observe the thoughts in your head as the fly by, without getting attached to them.
  • In regards to your awareness, you can think of it in two different ways: (a) aiming your attention at a spot/area, or (b) hugging a friend.

For more details, check out the Brightmind app.

The Zen way of calligraphy ...

“The Zen way of calligraphy is to write in the most straightforward, simple way, as if you were a beginner. Not trying to make something skillful or beautiful, but simply writing with full attention, as if you were discovering what you were writing for the first time; then your full nature will be in your writing. This is the way of practice, moment after moment.”

~ from the book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind