Saturday Satori

The other morning, I was lounging in bed, savoring that sweet spot between sleep and wakefulness. And then I heard my neighbor’s wind-chimes.

Time stopped.

The universe expanded.

There were no wind-chimes to produce the sound and no “me” to hear it.

We had merged into the sound, itself. There was nothing else. In that moment, only the sound remained.

The best way I can analogize it is to compare it to the visual effect Sam Raimi made famous, the “push-pull.” (He uses a dolly to move the camera rapidly toward a person or thing, while adjusting the lens so that the subject doesn’t get larger in frame. The net effect is that it appears that the background is moving away from the subject.) Although the experience wasn’t visual. It wasn’t auditory, either, although it was triggered by an auditory stimulus.

Then I realized that “I” had attained something – a moment of full peace – and my “self” came rushing back, ending the moment.

This is what Buddhists call a “kensho” moment, a taste of satori, a foreshadowing of nirvana. This has happened to me more times than I can count over the course of my life, usually when I’m being still. While it’s nice when it’s happening, the trick is not to get attached to it.

When I start grasping and clinging to the moment, when I start wanting it to happen again, I only push it farther away. More than that, I set myself up for disappointment, as no two moments are alike. The Buddha taught that the origin of our unhappiness is wanting things to be other than as they are. Therefore, I try to accept each meditation experience, each breath, each moment, as it comes.

Once I got over congratulating myself on having had this experience, my mind settled, creating space for something new. I had three or four more kensho moments, when my thinking mind fell away and the universe opened. Each lasted for an unknown amount of time, but no more than a few minutes, then dissolved when my thoughts returned.

And that’s okay, as I need my thinking mind to navigate this human existence in the world of form. Eventually, the thought came that it was time to get up and start the day. I used my thinking mind to cook breakfast. Ah…!

 

Deer Park Retreat 2004, Day 2

2/21/04
7:22 AM

Carolyn moved to another room what had a lower bunch free. I helped her move her things, then we went to the bookstore together. I got a mug for tea, & my ticket for Sunday. We didn’t have to pay, which made me okay with paying.

Dinner in silence was interesting. So may people, so little noise.

Orientation was nice. Led by a charming monk who told us his mother was visiting. He had a French accent.

This morning I got up at 5:20, despite having been awake until something after 1 from [someone’s] snoring. 🙂

I met my totem animal on the way, right outside the meditation hall: a cute bun [Rabbit] hopped across my path.

During the guided mediation, it felt strange to wait for the translation, since Vietnamese always came before English. I am spoiled, as an American.

Off to breakfast now. I wonder if it will be as strange & exotic as last night’s Vietnamese dinner.

9:15 AM
Breakfast was good. I watched the Vietnamese & so put rice milk in my thick oatmeal, & just the right amount of honey. Yum. There was some thing I’d never tried; I think it was a variety of sweet potato. Breads, apples, oranges, bananas, peanut butter, jam, cheeses.

After breakfast, our room got breakfast clean up. I worked with an Australian lady drying dishes. She & others came & went; I kept working. The monk who gave me directions yesterday said I could go, but I stayed until everything was dry & put away. I feel deeply content.

There are 2+ hours before walking meditation. Time for some reading.

1:25 PM
Kensho experiences
First, during seated meditation, while the monastics were chanting in Vietnamese. I felt the separateness between us starting to dissolve.

Then on walking meditation. I was at the top, overlooking the small town below, listening to the bird calls, & everything started to merge. First my senses expanded to include an awareness of everything, & then I expanded to include everything. For some unknown reason (perhaps because I was tearing up), I resisted it. I almost made the sensation go away, when we started singing one of those cutesy songs I find so corny. And then my sangha got absorbed, too. We were all one: us, the hill, the rocks, the town blow, the wind, the birds, the trees…

It didn’t last. It never does. Someday, it will. Maybe even in this life. 🙂

The walk itself was great. Over 100 people out in the rain. I started to slip once, going uphill, and a monk took my hand to help me. We smiled at each other, though not a word was spoken. I wonder if the monks here are forbidden from touching women? If so, this was a good example of a man knowing when to keep the precepts & when to break them.

It was cold & miserable when we started out in a light rain. There were some birds singing, & I know they were heralding the sun just as surely as if I spoke language. Sure enough, the rain stopped, the sun came out, & I took off both my jacket & sweater for the return trip.

I’ve been thinking about the monastics. Until yesterday, I had seen perhaps a score throughout my entire life, of all faiths. There are several hundred here. The spiritual energy here is tremendous. Are they more spiritual than I am? I’m sure some of them are. I’m sure some of them are not.

Why would someone enter a monastery? To be a spiritual seeker, or family expectations (in the case of Asian Buddhists), to run away from something or simply because they didn’t fit in anywhere else. I hope most of these are spiritual seekers, & I choose to treat them as if they are.

I haven’t seen much of Thay. He was sitting with us this morning, but not on the walk. I’m here more to sit than to see him, though. He created this place, & his teachings permeate it. So I am getting to experience being with him.

I’ve noticed a certain cult of personality surrounding him, though. At least [name omitted] thinks he’s the second coming of Siddhartha. Kinda scary. I think he’s just a man. A good person, a good teacher. But “just this guy, you know?”

Random thought: I miss my computer. This journal would make a lot more sense if I could move things around & edit!

The temperature has dropped again & the rain is back. But the weather is no problem. It is only a problem if I make it a problem. So I won’t make anything.

7:00 PM
I finally found a food I didn’t like: one of the soups. Damn. Should have taken more of the pasta with olives. *grin*

I’m looking forward to the “road trip” tomorrow. There are many things I would prefer to be different: drier, warmer weather; a roommate who doesn’t snore; etc. But all in all, I’m having a great time. If I accomplish nothing else but to escape the cares of my present life for a week, I can’t help but end up more centered.

During the chanting this morning, there was an older Vietnamese woman chanting to a different tune. I was reminded of the abbot’s story of the Korean monk who refused to chant according to the local sangha’s practice. He insisted on doing it the way his Korean sangha did it. And then there’s Mike Warnke, who said, “For those of you thinking, ‘This isn’t how we do things in our church,’ I’d like to say, ‘This is not your church.'”

But “brother Mike” missed the point. It was her church. Ocean Eyes Zen Center was the Korean monk’s sangha. And this week, this is my sangha. Including the annoying chantess.

I saw her later coming up the stairs & waited for her. She smiled at me and bowed deeply.

So I got stuck in another dharma discussion. But since it was guided, it was okay. The subject was sangha building. Hearing all the things “wrong” with other sanghas made me appreciate the health of mine.

Before dinner, there were 20 to 25 of us sitting quietly in the tea room. A woman came in & softly announced, “Dear Sangha, I’m sorry to break this noble silence, so I’ll do so with only one word: cookies.” We grinner as she set the tin on the table. An older man carried it around at one point to make sure those of us not seated close by could get some. I just had one, since dinner was half an hour away at that point.

Now I’m back in the tearoom, though it’s noisier now. Seated meditation is coming up, and then bed.