Living Zen


In the Dharma of cultivating the path, the vital energy [Qi] of those who obtain their understanding through the medium of the written word is weak. If one obtains his understanding from events, his vital energy will be robust. Those who see Dharma from the medium of events never lose mindfulness anywhere. When those whose understanding is from the medium of the written word encounter events, their eyes are beclouded. To discuss events from the point of view of the sutras and treatises is to be estranged from Dharma. Though one may chat about events and listen concerning events, it is not as potent as personally experiencing events with the body and mind. -BODHIDHARMA (from The Bodhidharma Anthology)

Zen without the cultivating of vital energy (Ki) is a trivial and irritating intellectual past-time -- or what some of the Masters derisively called "head-and-mouth Zen." Unfortunately, this form of Zen is all too common on the Internet and misleads many people into believing that they are enlightened without ever having to do anything different because someone once said they must be, since "all beings are originally enlightened." Confusing the practical and the absolute levels of Zen, they fall into a confusion from which they will never emerge, at least not in this lifetime.

By contrast, I teach people a simple method that, performed with sincerity and resolve, leads to direct awakening. At its simplest, this method requires raising Ki until the heat rises to your head, then all at once dropping all "thinking" into the Tanden. Once you have experienced an initial awakening (kensho) you can deepen and stabilize it by practicing Seiza meditation, or Mokuso, for brief periods once or twice a day. There are also a number of subtler instructions that must be orally transmitted to you by your teacher.

In China, even before Zen arrived on the scene, the methods of internal energetic training were refined to a science. These methods involved letting go of knots in breathing, keeping the right posture whether sitting still or in movement, and the correct use of strength or tension (basically, letting it flow downward). All this went along with not clinging to thoughts or ideas and not pursuing intellectual disputes. Maybe that's why it was said that Master Joshu's lips "emanated light." It's not for nothing that Chinese Zen developed in remote mountain monasteries and retreats -- places where, as the Chinese believed, positive Qi is particularly strong.

Mind and body are inseparable aspects of the "One" that animates all of nature. Therefore, the Zen Masters spent much time and energy trying to cure students of anxious fixation on the problems of a small discriminating judgmental "I" that interferes with living your life in natural ease and bliss.

So -- go out every day under the open sky, raise your Ki with some hard walking, then decisively let go of all ideas and concepts by "sinking mind into the Tanden" and you will experience the liberating bliss of Muga Mushin.

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