Zazen, Experience and Life

Zazen, Experience and Life June 16, 2008

Question: Someone said, sitting in stillness is transcendent practice…to rise above suffering…not transformative. So it’s limited to glimpsing emptiness, not transforming your stuff/karma. The suggestion here is that when you return to your life, your meditation has had no real impact on the particulars. You still act-out conditioned and painful patterns. Anyway, that idea exists, more than one teacher has said so—outside of Zen. What do you think? J.

Dosho’s Response: Transformative or transcendental experience (gradual and/or sudden) when sitting, standing, walking, or lying down that doesn’t impact daily life is a spiritual trip. In my view, zazen and daily life work best when in a dynamic tension with neither foci isolating nor swallowing the other.

Not all zazen is transcendent experience and not all transcendent experience is worth a pile of warm puppy shit. Transcendent experience isn’t all that transcendent, after all, because of the stinky one witnessing it and inflating it into a spiritual ego the size of Jupiter, more or less.

Transformative experience (again, either of the gradual or sudden variety) is also not the end of Zen training nor can “it” be isolated from daily life. Transformative experience also transforms itself, usually into smoke and mirrors. Real breakthroughs (that often happen outside of the zazen pose) haunt us by revealing the Huge Rub with the messed up mind and circumstances of daily life.

The Rub is really important. Dealing with the myriad implications of zazen (bliss and/or anger and/or realization and/or sleeping confusion and/or nothing happening and/or [fill in the blank]) in the midst of the ongoing disaster of daily life creates a dynamic tension which is the source of endless exploration.

J, thanks for your question. Other questions are welcome.

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