--- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, Jue Miao Jing Ming wrote:
> Hi Anthony,
> 1. Yes, you are right, Kensho is resulted from sitting, which is a
state before Samadhi ...

"Student: What is the relationship between samadhi and kensho?

Daido Roshi: Samadhi can eventually lead to kensho. Kensho, literally,
means seeing the nature of the self. Samadhi is a state of
consciousness. Kensho is realization. It is said that Shakyamuni was in
a state of samadhi when he realized perfect, unsurpassable enlightenment
upon seeing the morning star."

Mondo: Samadhi and Zazenwith John Daido Loori, Roshi
When you take up the practice of zazen, you first develop an awareness
of the body through your posture and the breath. That is always the
starting point, regardless of what you're eventually going to
practice. You use the breath to stay in touch with the body. You learn
to focus on the hara, putting your attention at a point two or three
finger-breadths below the navel, deep within the viscera. You count the
breath, and if the mind drifts off and you lose track of the breath,
when you notice that's what you're doing, you acknowledge the
thought, let it go, and come back to the immediate experience of the
breath. In the process of doing that — of letting go of distracting
thoughts and returning to the breath as the focus — you build the
power of concentration.

Usually, this simple encounter with yourself arrives as a big shock.
When I started to sit, it was a tremendous surprise to discover the
incessant movement of my thoughts. Just to watch what I was doing with
my mind was quite different from anything I had ever done before. When I
was in the Navy, I spent endless hours in the lookout towers on the ship
I served on. Sometimes I did four-hour watches, binoculars glued to my
eyes, searching for mines. The ship rocked back and forth, with nothing
but horizon, and very few distractions. I had to maintain a modicum of
concentration. However, I wasn't watching my mind. I wasn't
trying to do anything with my mind. Mostly, I was trying to stay awake.
If I fell asleep there'd be hell to pay in more ways than one,
especially if we hit a mine. Later in life I took up Zen practice, and
even though there was very little external stimulation during zazen, now
I was asked to actively engage my mind. When my mind drifted off from
the breath, I was to acknowledge that fact and come back. I was appalled
at the intense activity of my mind. I had no idea that I was incessantly
talking to myself. I remembered how as a teenager I used to tease my
grandmother who would walk around the house, talking out loud. Well, I
found out that I also talked to myself. It was just that I learned to do
it quietly.

In zazen, you first learn how active your mind is. Then, after the shock
wears off, by simply returning to the breath, you gradually strengthen
your ability to put your mind where you want it, when you want it there,
for as long as you want it there. This process of quieting and centering
yourself continues for a while. You eventually reach a point where you
slip into samadhi or single-pointedness of mind. The thoughts disappear
for a short period of time and you enter into a state of mind where
you're not processing anything. You're not letting go of
anything. The watcher disappears. And then, in an instant, you're
back again, aware of something. Some people, as they near that place of
complete letting go, respond to its arrival with fear. They don't
want to lose control. They may experience a physical reaction — an
"involuntary" muscular jerk or a flooding of thoughts.

When you develop some facility with this capacity for singular and
complete presence of mind you then shift to either of two routes in
zazen. One is shikantaza, the practice of "just sitting," and
the other is working with a koan. Sometimes, I direct people to stay
with the breath, but rather than counting or following it, they are
instructed to be wholly intimate with the breath.

In shikantaza, you are simply aware of the flow of thoughts, without
attempting to do anything about them. This is called "goalless
zazen." There's no effort to do anything. You just watch the
thoughts. In the process of watching thoughts, they begin to diminish.
This takes a long time. Shikantaza is not dramatic. It works slowly and

You become very familiar with the workings of your mind. It is a real
education about you, your mind, and what you do with your mind most of
your life. Finally, you reach a point where the thoughts disappear. When
the thought disappears, the thinker disappears, because thought and
thinker are interdependent. One doesn't exist without the other.

If you are working with koans, you continue your work with
concentration. When a thought comes up and carries you away from the
koan, when you become aware of that, you acknowledge the thought, let it
go, and return to the koan. As you do that repeatedly, little by little,
less thoughts come up and distract you. And little by little, the
thoughts disappear. And again, when the thought disappears, the thinker

These are two different approaches leading to the same result, which is
the disappearance of thoughts and thinker. Shikantaza seems to be more
gentle; koan study more aggressive. In general, people with very active,
discursive minds do better with engaging and developing concentration
through koan introspection, and people who are more trusting in their
intuition are drawn to shikantaza.

But, whether your practice is koan introspection or shikantaza, there is
one element that is present in both, and that is samadhi. Samadhi is a
state of consciousness that lies beyond waking, dreaming, or deep sleep.
It's a slowing down of our mental activity through single-pointed

In his writings, Master Dogen talked about different kinds of samadhis.
There is the absolute samadhi of "falling away of body and

Then there is the working samadhi where you have single-pointedness of
mind but you don't lose track of your surroundings. You are openly
aware of the circumstances around you and your mind is very centered and
focused. Dogen called zazen "the samadhi of samadhis."

He said: "A meditator passes beyond the entire universe at full
speed and is greatly honored in the abode of the buddhas and ancestors.
This is due to zazen in the full cross-legged position. Treading upon
the heads of the heretics and demons, one becomes an initiate in the
secret chambers of buddhas and ancestors. Because of zazen in full
cross-legged position, this one truth alone establishes the individual
to transcend the furthest bounds of the Buddhas and ancestors, and this
is why they are engrossed in it, and nothing else."

    NBA Archives
Dogen also spoke about self-fulfilling samadhi, other-fulfilling samadhi
and the samadhi of self-enlightenment. Self-fulfilling samadhi is
samadhi concerned with the self-enjoyment of the dharmakaya, the body of
reality, without relating itself to other sentient beings. Dogen might
be speaking here of the arhat.

Other-fulfilling samadhi refers to the samadhi concerned with the
enjoyment and fulfillment of others through the accommodation of the
dharmakaya to the needs and states of sentient beings in their myriad
forms. This is the samadhi of compassion.

Samadhi of self-enlightenment refers to the wisdom that has no teacher.
This wisdom is opened up within zazen, in chanting sutras, in copying
the sacred texts of the dharma. This is the process of discovery of the
whole of Zen training.

Because of the nature of Zen and the nature of realization, nothing
comes from the outside. You realize what has always been there. For
example, monastic training provides specific personal and social
conditions that can lead a monk or a nun to awakening. But this training
is simply the affirmation of their own innermost being, their buddha
nature. Dogen expressed it as follows: "Properly speaking the direct
and indirect conditions of the arising of the thought of enlightenment
— raising the bodhi mind — do not come from without. Rather one
is rigorously awakened by stirring the desire for enlightenment itself.
In this way conditions of 80,000 things and phenomena are necessarily
involved in one's awakening. Some were awakened in a dream and then
enlightened and others began to aspire for wisdom in a state of
drunkenness and attained the way. Still some others have the thought of
enlightenment and realize the way in the midst of flying flowers and
falling leaves, or in the midst of peach blossoms and emerald

When the bodhi mind is awakened, it's just a matter of time before
realization is going to take place. The appearance of the aspiration for
enlightenment triggers the process that brings to the surface
consciousness that which is inherently there. This is essentially
self-enlightenment samadhi without a teacher. But, of course, this is
the only kind of enlightenment there is. Dogen spelled that out
succinctly: "The conditions and factors do not constitute any
elements of new knowledge but are simply regarded as germane to the
embodiment of what has already always been."
Student: Is samadhi always connected with zazen? Can't we develop
single-pointedness of mind with any activity?

Daido Roshi: We usually associate samadhi with zazen because the seated
form is a very effective starting point, but single-pointedness of mind
can be generated in any number of ways. All aspects of training are
actually facilitating that.

Samadhi can happen with chanting, bowing, copying of sutras, simple work
practice, creating art, or doing yoga. It is not limited to any special
form. What is required is a sense of union with the object of your
attention — the chanting, the bow, sweeping the floor, the breath,
the koan or pure awareness.

Student: Is there any recollection of the experience of samadhi?

Daido Roshi: Not of absolute samadhi. In absolute samadhi, in complete
falling away of body and mind, there is no reflection and no
recollection. In a sense, there is no "experience" because there
is a complete merging of subject and object, or a perfect recognition of
already existing non-separation. There is no way of describing what is
or was going on.

In the "Heart Sutra," Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva tries to tell
Shariputra about absolute samadhi. She says this state is the realm of
"No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind. No color, sound, smell,
taste, touch, phenomena. No world of sight, no world of
consciousness." It contains no characteristics. It is timeless and

    photo by Joel Sansho Benton

Early on in my training, I used to experience a good amount of physical
pain during sitting. Once, I was participating in a week-long sesshin,
and I remember one morning during the later part of the week I was in so
much pain, I was ready to jump out of my skin or run out of the zendo.
Then I began to reflect on the instructions I had received from my
teacher the previous day. He told me "to be the pain" as a way
of working with it. And I thought to myself, "What the hell does
that mean? I have no idea what this is supposed to mean but I'll try
to be the pain with all my might." A little bit later, as he did his
checking rounds, he went by and his sleeve brushed against me. All of a
sudden, I realized the pain was gone. And that's the last thing I
remember. Next thing I know, I'm standing in the lunch line, my
bowls in my hands, tears streaming down my face. I missed breakfast,
work practice, sat all the way through the second period of zazen, then
finally got up. Somebody told me later that the teacher had told the
monitors to let me sit. People must have been moving all around me,
walking kinhin, cleaning the zendo. I wasn't aware of any of it, and
I still can't tell you what happened during that time. I don't
remember any "time."

Student: What is the relationship between samadhi and kensho?

Daido Roshi: Samadhi can eventually lead to kensho. Kensho, literally,
means seeing the nature of the self. Samadhi is a state of
consciousness. Kensho is realization. It is said that Shakyamuni was in
a state of samadhi when he realized perfect, unsurpassable enlightenment
upon seeing the morning star.

Student: On previous occasions, you said that people sitting shikantaza
work with chapters from Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Are they working
on these passages while they are sitting?

Daido Roshi: No. They are not working with it the way you would work on
a koan. But obviously, if they are deeply questioning these teachings,
they are filled with them, including their zazen.
Student: But when they are sitting it's just that sitting.

Daido Roshi: Just watching the thoughts, not even letting them go.
Watching them like you would watch a river flow.

Student: I've always worried that for me that kind of sitting would
get very spacy or mushy. I find it helpful to have something specific to
focus on. How do you cultivate keeping shikantaza sharp and vibrant?

Daido Roshi: When sitting gets unfocused and spacy, that is no longer
shikantaza. Shikantaza is alert and aware. The same kind of alertness as
a deer in the woods hearing a twig crack. Every cell of their body is
sensing. They're sensing the space, the elements. They haven't
identified the sound. They are pure exploration. And their whole body is
ready to respond appropriately. It's that kind of awareness.

Student: So, if you feel that you are getting sleepy and loosing that
edge, you….

Daido Roshi: You don't come back. You just become aware of it and in
shikantaza that awareness automatically realigns your zazen. But this
takes a long time to master.

Student: What do you mean by automatically?

Daido Roshi: You simply realize that what you are sleepy or sluggish.
Nothing else.

Student: But you are not coming back….
Daido Roshi: You are not purposely coming back but you will find
yourself back by being aware.

Student: There have been recent studies, some at this monastery, done
with people who are doing zazen, and the relationship of sitting on
brain function. Can you comment on these?
Daido Roshi: Some of these studies have a very practical flavor. There
is one that is attempting to show that shikantaza may be the only way to
create a state of mind that facilitates certain forms of learning,
especially spatial recognition.Scientists leading these studies are also
showing that meditation may effect neuroplasticity. As you sit, you may
actually be growing nerve cells and opening new pathways in your brain.
They're also doing studies on compassion. It seems that experienced
Buddhist meditators respond in a specific way to horrific situations.
When people are shown unpleasant images filled with pain, the usual
response is to pull back. This is almost reflexive. For practitioners,
the unconditional response is towards the suffering. The programming has
been reversed.

Student: You frequently cite the example of using the creative process
as a way of practicing and cultivating intimacy. Yet, you also draw a
sharp distinction between concentration, absorption and samadhi. Can you
elaborate on these differences?

Daido Roshi: Indeed, concentration is not samadhi. Absorption is not
samadhi. But concentration is helpful in developing samadhi. Samadhi is
a whole new and different aspect of consciousness that emerges out of
its dormancy.

A person working on something with concentrated effort or a person
simply watching a movie may get lost in that activity. For a while, the
self kind of disappears. But nothing emerges out of that absence. There
is no change. When you experience samadhi, there is a shift of
consciousness that occurs. If you forget the self in samadhi, it changes
you forever. It is noticeable and palpable.

Being absorbed in creative activities usually involves a certain degree
of skill, as well as automatic repetition that has been part of
perfecting that skill. A few years back, a student brought me a
clarinet. I played the clarinet and took lessons from age nine to
sixteen. I was also in a little band when I was in the Navy. When I got
married, I forgot about the music and sold the instrument. Then, one
summer, a student from New Zealand who is an accomplished jazz musician
showed up, and for my birthday gave me a beautiful, refurbished
clarinet. I automatically opened and started assembling it. I made a few
sounds, and then somebody said, "Play something!" So, without
thinking, I started playing. I played the entire piece, a tune from the
fifties. Nobody knew it, but it was a complete piece — no mistakes.
I breezed right through it. At the end of it, people applauded. I felt a
little self-conscious about that, and then somebody said, "Play
something else!" And I couldn't for the life of me play again. I
was trying to figure out where to put my fingers. I had a moment of
grace, then the door slammed shut. That's not samadhi.

Student: Is samadhi necessary for realization? Didn't Huineng, the
Sixth Ancestor of Zen, come to realization without ever doing zazen or
cultivating samadhi?

Daido Roshi: Not only did Huineng gain realization without zazen, but so
did Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and probably Walt Whitman.
Realization can occur in many ways. But the odds are in your favor if
you engage a formal practice. Thousands of people realized themselves
while practicing. Only few have done it without disciplined training. If
you are looking to realize yourself, there is a process and I suggest
you try it.

Student: In his final dharma words, Maezumi Roshi says that we should
"play in self-fulfilling samadhi" and not worry about
enlightenment. Can you comment on this?

Daido Roshi: The complete passage goes: "The dharma of thusness has
been intimately conveyed from buddhas and ancestors. It has been
transmitted generation after generation down to me. It has nothing to do
with being complete or incomplete, nor does it concern enlightenement
upon enlightenment or delusion within delusion. Just manifest genjokoan.
Play freely in self-fulfilling and other-fulfilling samadhi. Maintain
and nourish the one Buddha mind seal. Life after life, birth after
birth, please practice diligently. Never falter. Do not let die the
wisdom of the buddhas and ancestors. Truly I implore you."

He's speaking about not attaching to enlightenment and about the
true nature of transmission. Don't think that enlightenment is
something other than where you are. It's not something to be
acquired. And Roshi emphasizes that what is transmitted from generation
to generation is not emptiness, not samadhi, not enlightenment, not
satori. It's the dharma of thusness.

    NBA Archives

Student: What is the relationship of the great doubt to samadhi?

Daido Roshi: The great doubt is samadhi. When the great doubt is all
encompassing, it is the whole universe. Recall the words of Wumen who
describes the great doubt as the big red-hot flaming ball that's
stuck in your throat. You can't swallow it and you can't spit it
out. Or it is like the tile crumbling underfoot and the sky falling.
Everything is coming apart.

Student: It's clear that absolute samadhi involves no self, but is
there no self in samadhi when you are aware of things, like in working
Daido Roshi: You are not functioning out of that self, but there is a
sense of self. There is a consciousness of self. Otherwise working
samadhi would be very dangerous.
Student: There's a sense of self when you're in working samadhi
but you're not functioning out of your own ideas and agendas.
You're totally open and responding completely to everything
that's happening around you. Is that it?
Daido Roshi: Yes. It's like the other-fulfilling samadhi Dogen
writes about.
Student: Is it possible to tell if a person is in a state of samadhi?
Daido Roshi: In well developed samadhi, the awareness of all the senses
is wide open and concentrated without special effort. There is a great
deal of intuitive processing, and direct appreciation of the situation.
It's very evident when somebody has experienced it. This is very
noticeable. A person in samadhi feels natural in any circumstances. Life
is not a struggle. And the more people move into samadhi, the more it
becomes evident. You see it frequently in the arts of Zen, when you
watch an accomplished master. It is easy to tell someone who is pressing
hard to imitate some form from someone who is truly at ease within it.
True working samadhi is not strained, contrived or even practiced. In a
funny way, it is almost sloppy. Not so precious. Many teachers project
that preciousness, but a true master is nearly invisible in his or her

Student: Is the goal of zazen to get into a state of samadhi?

Daido Roshi: To really appreciate the true nature of practice, you need
to see the non-duality of process and goal. Process — practice —
and enlightenment — goal — are non-dual. Practice is
enlightenment. The minute you get focused on the goal you enter a
dualistic framework. If you are simply right where you are, that moment
contains where you are going.


Reply via email to