The Art of Zen Enlightenment
“The Tanden is the shrine of the Divine.” -Master Okada Torajiro
Zen combined with arousing Ki and then “sinking mind into the tanden” is the ultimate way of Enlightenment. It is the pathless path — pathless because it is instantaneous. Where is there a path on the sea? The foaming wake dissolves behind your boat. Once you“sink mind into the Tanden,” you will suddenly awaken to truth and there will be nothing else to do but get up and go about your everyday activities as a liberated being, blissful and unconcerned.
Zen Master Huang-Po said, “Cut off thinking.” Also, “Abandon forms.” Also, “Forget all views.” This is the Zen prescription for full integration of one’s ki with the ki of the universe. By not fixating on names and forms, one wakes up to the dazzling radiance of Being.
How does one achieve this wonderful state? How does one attain the crisp brilliance and ease of “no-mind”? Or, as Mumon Ekai asks rhetorically in the Mumonkan, “How will you carry this out?” His answer: “Arouse all your energy, the ki of all the pores and joints of your body, and pour all your efforts into concentrating on ‘Mu.’ Then the torch of Zen’s living truth will light up the whole universe. You will blink with Joshu’s eyes, and walk hand in hand with the Patriarchs. Isn’t this a wonderful prospect?”
What is Mu? It isn’t nothingness. As Koichi Tohei says, “It’s a state of nothing where there is yet something.”
So here are the rules of Zen training with Ki:
- Arouse your ki by doing something strenuous but not exhausting. You should feel the heat in your head and your body should be sweating lightly. Now sit comfortably in meditation, allowing your body to breathe without any interference, and watch your thinking. Try to see clearly how thoughts arise and disappear. Try to see right to where they arise from. This is only the initial state — the quieting, yet still suspenseful and attentive stage. Most Zen students never go beyond this stage. Some even mistake it for Enlightenment!
- Use concentration to stop your thinking so that you can clearly apprehend and experience “before any thoughts arise.” Cut thinking off completely. This only becomes possible once you have entered the stage of quiet yet resolute attentiveness with strong Ki. Which method should you use to suddenly cut off thinking? There are various techniques, but the most effective is to all at once “sink mind into the tanden.” Another is to resolutely put your attention in front of you and keep it there, unwavering — this is Bodhidharma’s “wall gazing” method. Then, if you succeed, all at once your breathing will be imperceptible and you will forget everything and attain “one-ness.” Since there is no “two,” there is not even “one.” But this will not be an absolute zero state; do not fall into the confusion of trying to conceptualize it as “nothingness.” It will merely be a living stillness, pregnant with Ki. You will be like “a dragon entering the water, a tiger roaming on its mountain.”
- If you can “shed body and mind” in this way then you can also instantly “shed the shedding,” and at this point “inside and outside will spontaneously unify” and “all your false ideas will be destroyed as if in a conflagration.” You will feel like “a dumb man who has had an amazing dream.” You will be like someone who has seized the Green Dragon sword of the great general Kan’u. If you meet the Buddha on the road, you kill the Buddha. If you meet the Patriarchs, likewise you kill them. And you live out the rest your life in a cheerful and relaxed samadhi.
You may have to try this Zen with Ki technique many times. It will only succeed if you can “sink mind into the tanden,” or focus it in front of you, or pour all your energy into ‘Mu” with directness and complete resolve. All of these methods are the same in that they cut off thinking like the sharp edge of a sword.
As Master Yuanwu said: “If your mind exists, you are stuck in the mundane for eternity; if your mind does not exist, you experience wondrous enlightenment instantly.”
Pick up this broom, sweep all the dust from empty space!
After the rooster’s frantic cackling, a beautiful clear blue sky.
Sometimes, for example in Kashmiri Shaivism and Advaita, this type of meditation is called Awareness Yoga. The Awareness Yoga is also quite effective. Try it! There are three clear stages:
- Whether sitting, walking, lying down or standing you focus on sensations rather than thoughts, until suddenly sheer or “naked” awareness takes over.
- Then you try to focus on this naked Awareness itself, and at limit of your intense concentration you will suddenly realize (not logically conclude, but realize in a hair raising way) it is No-thing.
- Then, leaving behind even that realization, you simply relax into the No-thing that Awareness “is” and my goodness what brilliance, what subtle shades, what incomparable tones, what smells and tastes and even thoughts —it’s just like being reborn.