Posts Tagged ‘insight’

The subtle source is clear and bright,
The branching streams flow in the dark.
To be attached to things is primordial illusion;
To encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment.

For me the first verse is clear that no matter what or where our inner Buddha is it is clear and bright at all times regardless of whether we feel as though we are in the darkness or the light of the situation. How many times have we thought that we were in the pit of hell emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically and yet soon we pulled ourselves up and out and discovered that what we experienced gave us some power or insight that we would not otherwise have gained.

Life is a system of “branching streams” in which one branch may lead us to Zen, another to a good job or relationship, and yet another to a disastrous situation in our lives. Each has a lesson for us to absorb as we encounter the ups and downs of living on planet earth. Each is a teacher, a revealer, a mentor, a friend, or an enemy. All, in Zen, are there for our enlightenment. And yet “to be attached to any of them is “primordial illusion.” And when we have had that “kensho” or enlightenment experience we are still the same person.

Regardless of what we think or feel about the experience when it is over we still have to do the dishes!

Many years ago I had a “kensho” experience when doing a fire walk during a weekend retreat with Rev. Edwene Gaines and it was magnificent. For a second I was everything—the trees, the grass, the sky, the moon, the stars, the wind, everything. But when that nanosecond was over there I was—me and my physical body standing with all of my faults and foibles—in the forest beneath the trees. And I still had to walk back to the sleeping quarters and brush my teeth before I went to bed. Da gone it!

The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen describes this experience thus:

Kensho “seeing nature;” Zen expression for the experience of awakening (enlightenment). Since the meaning is “seeing one’s own true nature,” “kensho” is usually translated “self-realization.” Like all words that try to reduce the conceptually ungraspable experience of enlightenment to a concept, this one is also not entirely accurate and is even misleading since the experience contains no duality of “seer” and “seen” because there is no “nature of self” as an object that is seen by a subject separate from it (page 115).[1]

For that nanosecond there was no “seer” or “seen.” And yet my life went on with its ups and downs, its many branches and streams leading me to Buddhism and my subsequent ordination as a Zen Priest. So each day I sit quietly calming my mind, body, and spirit. Not to seek another “kensho” but to find a place within me where peace, love, and compassion exists without me thinking about it, looking for it, or waiting upon it. Just This! Knowing that whatever “This” is will be right and perfect for the moment. And if not right and perfect so what! Because to be attached to things is primordial illusion and to encounter “the absolute is not yet enlightenment” as my experience in the forest all those many years ago demonstrated. I’ve been a fool many times since and may be again soon, maybe even right now.

Take some time, when you can, to think about these verses and make a plan for some actions that will help you to be a little less foolish today.  My plan begins right now…I hope you’ll join me.

In gassho,



[1] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, (1991) Shambhala Dragon Editions: Boston, MA

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“The sacred dimension is not something that you can know through words and ideas any more than you can learn what an apple pie tastes like by eating the recipe. (pg. 25)” writes Adyashanti in his e-book The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.  Yet we continue to look for the answer to this question throughout our lives partaking in religious services in all faiths and traditions, in reading books, taking workshops and classes, and reading blogs like mine.  We ponder questions like:  Why am I here? What is life all about? Is there a God?  What is enlightenment?  Why are there wars?   .  .  .and more!

Adyashanti goes on to write, “The modern age has forgotten that facts and information, for all their usefulness, are not the same as wisdom—and certainly not the same as direct experience of reality.  We have lost touch with the intuitive wisdom born of silence and stillness, and we are left stranded in a sea of information that cannot deliver on its promise of ever-increasing happiness and fulfillment (pages 30-31).”

Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge and much of the “knowledge” we share and seek, and create  is found through books, websites, YouTube, lectures, workshops, famous speakers, preachers, rabbis, and imams, and not through personal experience, inquiry, meditation, contemplation, or inner discovery.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a college professor and so I love all of those things and suggest that my students use them during their studies and courses, but I do not consider the results acquired “wisdom.”

In the Bible we call the book of Proverbs the Wisdom book its purpose is stated in the first seven verses:

“Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.  Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.  These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge, and discernment to the young.  Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become wiser.  Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables the words of the wise and their riddles.”

Notice the words do not say anything about facts and information, but wisdom gives “insight to knowledge.”  Maybe that is the problem with our lives and our world.  We are relying upon knowledge instead of wisdom and insight and therefore screwing everything up—our environment, our government, our educational system, our healthcare system, our drone wars, our obesity dilemma, and our neglect of the poor, hungry, and homeless around the world.

Adyashanti goes on to write, “. . . you are not the thoughts in your mind.  By removing the false belief that any thought can tell you what you are, you make space for a deeper understanding to reveal itself (page 29).” That “deeper understanding” is wisdom.   So how do we get to that “deeper understanding” or wisdom?  He suggests and so do I: meditation or sitting as we call it in Zen Buddhism.  Some of you may be thinking I’ve tried it and it didn’t work.  I did it once some years back and nothing happened.  Others may be thinking, “I don’t have the time in my busy schedule to take a leak no less meditate!”  Others may be thinking, “I have ADHD—meditate—you must be nuts!”

Adyashanti says, “Meditation is more a form of silent prayer than a technique to master.  . . . it is the highest form of prayer, a naked act of love and effortless surrender into silent abyss beyond all knowing.  Meditation is the art of ‘allowing everything to simply be’ in the deepest possible way. (pages 20-21).”

When you do this for one minute or one hour or one day or one year without any expectation of knowledge or wisdom, or peace and love, you will find the taste of apple pie to be something like nothing you have ever tasted before.  The apples are crisper and tarter and sweeter, the cinnamon and sugar is just right, the crust is light and flakey, and all is right with the world.

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