Archive for the ‘meditation’ Category

Essential Teachings of the Stone Lion

Kusan Sunim (1909-1983)

Instructions for Meditation

In Zen meditation, the key factor is to maintain a constant sense of questioning. So, having taken hold of the hwadu (koan) “What is this?,” try to always sustain the questioning: “What is seeing?” “What is hearing” “What is moving these hands and feet?” and so on. Before the initial sense of questioning fades, it is important to give rise to the question again. In this way, the process of questioning can continue uninterrupted with each new question overlapping the previous one. In addition you should try to make this overlapping smooth and regular. But this does not mean that you should just mechanically repeat the question as though it were a mantra. It is useless to just say to yourself day and night, “What is this?” “What is this?”

The key is to sustain the sense of questioning, not the repetition of words. Once this inquiry gets underway, there will be no room for boredom. If the mind remains quiet, the hwadu will not be forgotten, and the sense of questioning will continue unbroken. In this way, awakening will be easy/

While meditating, both wisdom and concentration need to be cultivated in unison. If there is wisdom without concentration, then mistaken views will increase. And if there is concentration without wisdom, then ignorance will grow. When inquiring single-pointedly into the hwadu “What is this?” the vividness of the hwadu becomes wisdom, and the cessation of distracted thoughts becomes concentration.

Meditation can be compared to a battle between wandering thoughts and dullness of mind on the one side and the hwadu on the other. The stronger the hwadu becomes, the weaker will become wandering thoughts and dullness.

You are not the first and you will not be the last to tread this path. So do not become discouraged if you find the practice difficult at times. All the previous patriarchs of old as well as the contemporary masters have experienced hardships along the way. Moreover, it is not always the most virtuous or intelligent person who makes the swiftest progress. Sometimes the opposite is true. There are many cases of troublesome and ill-behaved people who, upon turning their attention inward to the practice of meditation, have quickly experienced a breakthrough. So do not feel defeated even before you have really begun.

An ancient master once said that with the passing of days you will see your thoughts becoming identical with the hwadu, and the hwadu becoming identical with your thoughts. This is quite true. In the final analysis, the practice of Zen can be said to be both the easiest as well as the most difficult thing to do. However, do not thereby deceive yourself into thinking that it will be either very simple or extremely hard. Every morning just resolve to be awakened before evening. Strengthen this commitment daily until it is as inexhaustible as the sands along the Ganges.

There is no one who can undertake this task for you. The student’s hunger can never be satisfied by his teacher’s eating a meal for him. It is like competing in a marathon. The winner will only be the person who is either the fittest or the most determined. It is solely up to the individual to win the race. Likewise, to achieve the aim of your practice, do not be distracted by things that are not related to this task. For the time being, just let everything else remain as it is and put it out of your mind. Only when you are awakened will you be able to truly benefit others.

Be careful never to disregard the moral precepts that act as the basis for your practice of meditation. Furthermore, do not try and look deliberately withdrawn or abstracted. It is quite possible to pursue your practice of Zen without others being aware of what you are doing. However, when your absorption in the hwadu becomes particularly intense, your attention to external matters may diminish. This might result in your looking rather out of touch with everyday concerns. At this time the hwadu is said to be ripening and the mind starts to become sharper and more single pointed, like a fine sword. It is vital at this point to pursue your practice with the intensity of an attacking soldier. You must become totally involved with the hwadu to the exclusion of everything else.

If you can make your body and mind become identical with the hwadu, then in the end ignorance will naturally shatter. You will fall into a state of complete unknowing, perplexity, and questioning. Those who have done much study will even come to forget what they had previously learned. But this is not a final or lasting state. When you have reached this point you must still proceed further to the state where although you have ears, you do not know how to hear; although you have eyes, you do not know how to see; and although you have a tongue, you do not know how to speak. To reach the place where mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers may entail several years of hard practice. Therefore, it is necessary to cast aside all other concerns and train yourself to focus the entirety of your attention on the tasteless hwadu alone.

By practicing diligently in this manner, you will finally awaken. Then you can seize the Buddhas and patriarchs themselves and defeat them. At that time, mountains will again be mountains, rivers will again be rivers, the earth will be the earth and the sky will be the sky.

Kusan Sunim (1909-1983)

Excerpted from The Way of Korean Zen by Kusan Sunim


In Zen there are many styles of meditation taught through the various schools; each person has to find the approach that strikes a chord within them, one they can spend enough time to realize the fruits of their efforts. In some schools students are given traditional Zen koans that have been studied for generations of students. In this school of Korean Zen “What is this?” is the koan given to students; it can be traced back to the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng who asked the young monk Huai-jung: “What is this thing and how did it get here?”

As with any practice whether moving or sitting meditation, the challenge is to keep the efforts fresh. The tendency to become mechanical is almost wired into us; the effort to stay awake and present in the moment requires a kind of authenticity that is the antidote for the sleeping sickness of daily life.

“There is no one who can undertake this task for you.”

With Care,


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Awareness cleaned my mind
to a polished mirroring.
The presence came near, and I knew
that That was everything,
and I nothing.



Vigilance was required of me as much as of you, and those who choose to teach the same thing must be in agreement about what they believe. A Course in Miracles T-6.V.C.9:9

Light cannot penetrate through the walls you make to block it, and it is forever unwilling to destroy what you have made. 4 No one can see through a wall, but I can step around it. 5 Watch your mind for the scraps of fear, or you will be unable to ask me to do so. T-4.III.7.

Watch your mind for the temptations of the ego, and do not be deceived by it. 2 It offers you nothing. 3 When you have given up this voluntary dis-spiriting, you will see how your mind can focus and rise above fatigue and heal. 4 Yet you are not sufficiently vigilant against the demands of the ego to disengage yourself. T-4.IV.6.

As you survey your inner world, merely let whatever thoughts cross your mind come into your awareness, each to be considered for a moment, and then replaced by the next. 2 Try not to establish any kind of hierarchy among them. 3 Watch them (thoughts) come and go as dispassionately as possible. 4 Do not dwell on any one in particular, but try to let the stream move on evenly and calmly, without any special investment on your part. W-pi.31.3.

For several minutes watch your mind and see, although your eyes are closed, the senseless world you think is real. 6 Review the thoughts as well which are compatible with such a world, and which you think are true. 7 Then let them go, and sink below them to the holy place where they can enter not. 8 There is a door beneath them in your mind, which you could not completely lock to hide what lies beyond. L131


Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years – be there as the witnessing presence. When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say do not judge …. for doing so would mean that the same voice has come in again through the back door. Youíll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realisation, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought. It arises from beyond the mind.

All cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of Being.

In that state, even my desire to become free or enlightened is just another craving for fulfillment or completion in the future.

So don’t seek to become free of desire or “achieve” enlightenment. Become present. Be there as the observer of the mind.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Awareness is from moment to moment, it is not the cumulative effect of self-protective memories. Awareness is not determination nor is it the action of will. Awareness is the complete and unconditional surrender to what is, without rationalization, without the division of the observer and the observed. As awareness is non-accumulative, non-residual, it does not build up the self, positively or negatively. Awareness is ever in the present and so, non-identifying and non-repetitive; nor does it create habit.

Just be aware; that is all what you have to do, without condemning, without forcing, without trying to change what you are aware of. Then you will see that it is like a tide that is coming in. You cannot prevent the tide from coming in, build a wall, or do what you will, it will come with tremendous energy. In the same if you are aware choicelessly the whole field of consciousness begins to unfold. And as it unfolds, you have to follow and the following becomes extraordinarily difficult – following in the sense to follow the movement of every thought, of every, feeling, of every secret desire. It becomes difficult the moment you resist, the moment you say, “that is ugly” “this is good”, “this is bad”, “this I will keep”, “that I will not keep”.

So you begin with the outer and move inwardly. Then you will find, when you move inwardly that the inward and the outward are not two different things, and the outward awareness is not different from the inward awareness, and that they are both the same.

Self awareness is arduous; to think-out, feel-out every thought-feeling is strenuous; but this awareness of every thought-feeling will bring to an end the wandering of the mind.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

All you need is to keep quietly alert,
enquiring into the real nature of yourself.
This is the only way to peace.

The real exists and is of the nature of witness-consciousness.
Of course it is beyond the witness, but to enter it one must first realise the state of pure witnessing….The witness is the reflection of the real in all its purity….The state of witnessing is full of power.

There are no conditions to fulfil. There is nothing to be done, nothing to be given up. Just look and remember, whatever you perceive is not you, nor yours. It is there in the field of consciousness, but you are not the field and its contents, nor even the knower of the field. It is your idea that you have to do things that entangle you in results of your efforts-the motive, the desire, the failure to achieve, the sense of frustration-all this holds you back. Simply look at whatever happens and know that you are beyond it.

You need not get at it (Enlightenment), for you are it. It will get at you, if you give it a chance. Let go your attachment to the unreal and the real will swiftly and smoothly slip into its own. Stop imagining yourself being or doing this or that and the realisation that you are the source and heart of all will dawn upon you. With this will come great love which is not choice or predilection, nor attachment, but a power which makes all things love – worthy and lovable.

Discover all you are not. Body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, time, space, being and not being, this or that – nothing concrete or abstract you can point out to is you. You must watch yourself continuously – particularly your mind – moment by moment, missing nothing. This witnessing is essential for the separation of the self from the not-self ……..be aware of that state which is only, simply being, without being this or that or the other.

Step back from your experience. Observe yourself, your reactions,
and everything that happens through the eyes of a
compassionate witness. This is what it means to pay attention.

No amount of effort is needed.
No amount of effort will be successful.
And yet, through mindful attention to the
Background of Awareness inherent
within the Present Moment,
Awakening will inevitably dawn upon you.
In that Instant you will delight in the Reality
of who and what you have been all along.
Metta Zetty

Watching is the key, nothing else matters, slowly slowly an understanding start growing, a witness arises and this witness is the bud of our being, the miracle that transforms, the miracle that heals, the miracle that gives birth to your authentic self.

Reading the lives of saints and mystics may have its place in our livesñthough it would be better if we had never read themñbut a million times more important is our awareness of every interior movement and change, even the most subtle, because this is where it is at, this is where the Spirit is continually moving us, transforming and informing us in its own particular way. This is where we will learn everything we ever need to know, and to do this, we must clear our minds of everything else.

Bernadette Roberts
– The Path to No-Self

“When will I be Enlightened?”
“When you see,” the Master said.
“See what?”
“Trees and flowers and moon and stars.”
“But I see these every day.”
“No. What you see is paper trees, paper flowers, paper moons and paper stars.
For you live not in reality but in your words and thoughts.”
And for good measure, he added gently,
“You live a paper life, alas, and will die a paper death.”

“Is salvation obtained through action or through meditation?”
“Through neither. Salvation comes from seeing.”
“Seeing what?”
“That the gold necklace you wish to acquire is hanging round your neck.
That the snake you are so frightened of is only a rope on the ground.”

Anthony de Mello – One Minute Wisdoms

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“There’s a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that’s a perfect zero you can go into. There’s a rest point between the heart’s muscle’s close and open – an instant of keenest living when you’re momentarily dead. You can rest there.”

Mary Karr

“The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock – more than a maple – a universe.”

Annie Dillard

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Concentration. Contemplation. Meditation.

The great rishis tell us God is in everyone, everything. Imagine a rishi, in the forest, full of Light, seeing God in all. A student comes along, then another, they all can see he is someone special and they ask him questions. He tells them to see God everywhere. They can’t. They just can’t. Finally, the rishi may have said, “Ok, sit here in front of this stone and at least learn to see God in one simple thing, this rock. Then we’ll progress from there.”

Maybe that was the first Sivalingam.

July 9, 2003

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By Ross Bolleter Roshi


” When Michal, my composer friend from Slovakia, was driving me out from Bratislava to show me the eastern regions of this country, especially his birthplace Lengow, in the foothills of the High Tatras, he asked me a lot of questions about Zen and how to live it. I found his questions challenging – such questions always are – but their radical simplicity was far more confronting because I spoke no Slovak and he spoke just enough English for us to deal with practical matters and in a vague way to feel out the contours of each other’s lives.

Once he asked me, ‘What is Zen?’ and I replied that ‘the countryside looked splendid now that the sun had come up.’ As always after my responses to his questions he would remain thoughtfully silent, however, as we neared his home village he said, ‘I like the jokes in your religion, but I don’t think I would do the meditation.’ Sensing my disappointment, he went on, ‘But I would do Great Aunt Meditation’. ‘Well, what would that be?’ I asked doubtfully. ‘Great Aunt Meditation is chicken meditation. My great Aunt spends all afternoon in front of her fire. For hour after hour there she is in her chair, looking like she is asleep. But she knows where very chicken is and which way the wind is blowing and what loaf of rye bread the pantry mouse is munching.’ When we meditate we let the world be as it is; we let our heart just be. Then what is there can be, as W.A. Mathieu describes sounds as nourishment, holy food, and best friend. The plane roars through opening up your heart; you hum that old love song as you move from paying bills, to shopping to writing a difficult letter and the humming confirms it.

There is an old Taoist saying, ‘The hen can hatch her eggs because her heart is always listening.’ When we listen to hear another’s pain in their critical words, when we listen to our own pain when we are criticized, the depth of and warmth of our attending opens up the way for life to appear.

Later, in Lengow, I met Michal’s Great Aunt. She was frail, almost totally blind. Michal talked family with her in Slovak. She responded in rivers of Ruthenian. I listened in English. She plied me with Polish vodka. If you can’t understand at least you can drink! Michal asked me to explain Zen to her. I said, ‘Ask her if the birds are singing in her heart!’ Maybe he did, but she just poured me another vodka. As she laboured to get another log on the fire, Michal told me that it took her an-hour-and- a- half to get to church. ‘How far is the church?’ I asked for the village was tiny. ‘Oh about a hundred metres’, he said. ‘Is that because she is blind, because she can barely walk?’ ‘Yes. But mostly because she keeps stopping to enjoy what she can make out of the shadow and light. She picks up rocks and pebbles so she can feel them, talks to the dogs and cats, and to anyone she meet. It’s a long journey.

Ross Bolleter

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Do you ever find yourself rambling on during an all-too-brief meeting with your teacher? Burmese master Sayadaw U Pandita provides straightforward instructions for the personal interview process typical during a Vipassana retreat.

During an intensive Vipassana retreat, personal interviews are held as often as possible, ideally every day. Interviews are formally structured. After the yogi presents his or her experiences, as described below, the teacher may ask questions relating to particular details before giving a pithy comment or instruction.

The interview process is quite simple. You should be able to communicate the essence of your practice in about ten minutes. Consider that you are reporting on your research into yourself, which is what Vipassana actually is. Try to adhere to the standards used in the scientific world: brevity, accuracy, and precision.

First, report on how many hours of sitting you did and how many of walking in the most recent twenty-four-hour period. If you are quite truthful and honest about this, it will show the sincerity of your practice. Next, describe your sitting practice. It is not necessary to describe each sitting in detail. If sittings are similar, you may combine their traits together in a general report. Try using details from the clearest sitting or sittings. Begin your description with the primary object of meditation, the rise and fall of the abdomen. After this you may add other objects that arose at any of the six sense doors.

After describing the sitting, go into your walking practice. Here you must only describe experiences directly connected with your walking movements – do not include a range of objects as you might in reporting a sitting. If you use the three-part method of lifting, moving, and placing in your walking meditation, try to include each segment and the experiences you had with it.

What occurred, how you noted it, what happened to it?

For all of these objects – indeed with any object of meditation – please report your experience in three phases. One, you identify what occurred. Two, you report how you noted it. And three, you describe what you saw, or felt, or understood; that is, what happened when you noted it.

Let us take as an example the primary object, the rising and falling movement of the abdomen. The first thing to do is to identify the occurrence of the rising process.

“Rising occurred.”

The second phase is to note it, give it a silent verbal label.

I noted it as ‘rising.’

The third phase is to describe what happened to the rising.

“As I noted ‘rising,’ this is what I experienced, the different sensations I felt. This was the behavior of the sensations at that time.”

Then you continue the interview by using the same three-phase description for the falling process and the other objects that arise during sitting. You mention the object’s occurrence, describe how you noted it, and relate your subsequent experiences until the object disappears or your attention moves elsewhere.

Perhaps an analogy will serve to clarify. Imagine that I am sitting in front of you, and suddenly I raise my hand into the air and open it so that you can see that I am holding an apple. You direct your attention toward this apple; you recognize it, and (because this is an analogy) you say the word “apple” to yourself. Now you go on to discern that the apple is red, round, and shiny. At last I slowly close my hand so that the apple disappears.

How would you report on your experience of the apple, if the apple were your primary object of meditation? You would say, “The apple appeared. I noted it as �apple,’ and I noticed that it was red, round, and shiny. Then the apple slowly disappeared.”

Thus, you would have reported in a precise way on the three phases of your involvement with the apple. First, there was the moment when the apple appeared and you became able to perceive it. Second, you directed your attention to the apple and recognized what it was; since you were “practicing meditation” with the apple, you made the particular effort to label it verbally in your mind. Third, you continued attending to the apple and discerned its qualities, as well as the manner of its passing out of your awareness. This three-step process is the same one you must follow in actual Vipassana meditation, except, of course, that you observe and report on your experiences of the rising and falling of your abdomen. One warning: Your duty to observe the fictitious apple does not extend to imagining the apple’s juiciness or visualizing yourself eating it! Similarly, in a meditation interview, you must restrict your descriptions to what you have experienced directly, rather than what you may imagine, visualize, opine about the object.

As you can see, this style of reporting is a guide for how awareness should be functioning in actual Vipassana meditation. For this reason, meditation interviews are helpful for an additional reason beyond the chance to receive a teacher’s guidance. Yogis often find that being required to produce a report of this kind has a galvanizing effect on their meditation practice, for it asks them to focus on their experiences as clearly as they possibly can.

Awareness, Accuracy, Perseverance

It is not enough to look at the object indifferently, haphazardly, or in an unmindful, automatic way. This is not a practice where you mindlessly recite some mental formula. You must look at the object with full commitment, with all of your heart. Directing your whole attention toward the object, as accurately as possible, you keep your attention there so that you can penetrate into the object’s true nature.

Despite our best efforts, the mind may not always be so well-behaved as to remain with our abdomen. It wanders off. At this point, a new object, the wandering mind, has arisen. How do we handle this? We become aware of the wandering. This is the first phase. Now the second phase: We label it as “wandering, wandering.” How soon after its arising were we aware of the wandering? One second, two minutes, half an hour? And what happens after we label it? Does the wandering mind disappear instantly? Does the mind just keep on wandering? Or do the thoughts reduce in intensity and eventually disappear? Does a new object arise before we have seen the disappearance of the old one? If you cannot note the wandering mind at all, you should tell the teacher about this, too.

If the wandering mind disappears, you come back to the rising and falling. You should make a point to describe whether you are able to come back to it. In your reports it is good also to say how long the mind usually remained with the rising and falling movements before a new object arose.

Pains and aches, unpleasant sensations, are sure to arise after some time of sitting. Say an itch suddenly appears – a new object. You label it as “itching.” Does the itch get worse or remain the same? Does it change or disappear? Do new objects arise, such as a wish to scratch? All this should be described as precisely as possible. It is the same with visions and sights, sounds and tastes, heat and cold, tightness, vibrations, tinglings, the unending procession of objects of consciousness. No matter what the object, you only have to apply the same three-step principle to it.

All of this process is done as a silent investigation, coming very close to our experience – not asking ourselves a lot of questions and getting lost in thought. What is important to the teacher is whether you could be aware of whatever object has arisen, whether you had the accuracy of mind to be mindful of it, and the perseverance to observe it fully. Be honest with your teacher. If you are unable to find the object, or note it, or experience anything at all after making a mental label, it may not always mean that you are practicing poorly! A clear and precise report enables the teacher to assess your practice, then point out mistakes or make corrections to put you back on the right path.

May you benefit from these interview instructions. May a teacher someday help you help yourself.

Sayadaw U Pandita is the abbot of Panditarama Monastery and Meditation Center in Rangoon, Burma. From In This Very Life: Liberation Teachings of the Buddha, by Sayadaw U Pandita, � 1991 by Saddhama Foundation. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications.

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