471 Meditation, Enlightenment and Zen


I love it when I get feedback, it makes my day (… come on folks, make my day!)

One reader asked:

“I’m sure you know all about Vipassana Meditation; it focuses on the interconnection between the mind and body, which can be experienced by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body … what are your thoughts on this style of mediation?”

My response:

I am familiar with Vipassana meditation ... though In have not done it myself. The author of the book I’m writing about 10% Happier seems to have done it … though he doesn’t refer to it by name. He talks about what happens to him in detail, day by day over ten days … my understanding is that when you do the course you’re asked not to talk about it in detail (is that your experience?) and probably for that reason he doesn’t name it.

I mention mindfulness meditation on my meditation page (there are links to my three meditation essays from my book on that page too; MEDITATION 3 talks about Goenka and Vipassana) … but my own method is different, one could say, radically different.

The way I learnt meditation is very simple ... though very hard. My meditation is about emptying the mind. Not thinking about anything, including your body parts. Where I come from mindfulness as a meditation practice is referred to as “meditation-light” ... for an example, check out this  TED  talk; now don't get me wrong, I don't mean to put Andy Puddicombe down ... indeed, this is a very good talkHowever, while mindfulness as a mental practice is immensely valuable, “true” meditation does not involve any mental activity.

This is the thing: Meditation is very simple. But true meditation is very hard. 

Not-thinking is the hardest thing we have to master, yet, that is what “true” meditation is … everything else is at best commentary, at worst diversion.

That is all that matters. Have a good look at the cartoon on the very top of my meditation page (click on it to enlarge it) … think about it (… and don’t miss the cartoon at the bottom of the page.)

When I talk about "my" meditation, I talk about a practice closely related to Zen meditation ... the reason is that the Zen concept of no-mind appeals to me, i.e. the idea that we strive for an empty mind or a still mind.

What is Zen all about? Zen is about being aware of the true nature of things. Furthermore, it is about being aware of the moment ... not the past, not the future, but this very moment (here is a good read about  The Basics of Zen Meditation).

So, is Zen a religion? I really think it is wrong to refer to Zen or indeed Buddhism as a religion ... it's a philosophy (my blog 461 goes into more detail).

I would like to use this space to make a point: While I prescribe many Buddhist principles, I am not a Buddhist; the one point where I do not subscribe to Buddhism is the notion of denial of the Self. As Buddhist you are taught that enlightenment is realising there is no self. I have not had that experience, thus I cannot refer to myself as being Buddhist. I write about this dichotomy - duality or non-duality - extensively, indeed in the foreword to my book, which is actually blog 411. To me denial of the Self, or Soul, or inner God doesn't make sense (I am so aware of that force). Anyway, I'll let you know when I (or indeed if I ever ...) experience that sort of enlightenment ... I'll write a BIG blog about it! (Fact is, I'll have to write a new book!) Indeed, the concept of "no Self" is obscure ... even E.T., who extols the idea of there being no self writes of a new dimension of consciousness: "As you listen ... you feel a conscious presence - your deeper self ..."Furthermore, somewhat confusing, the instructions to  zazen  (meditation) by Master Dogen say:

“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.” 

For me enlightenment is a much more earthly, straight forward matter (the discussion if there is a self or not I deem rather esoteric, if not futile); enlightenment is:

a condition equating acceptance and detachment

the state of having insight into the true nature of things

... read all about it in my book  en.light.en.ment