Is It Wrong for Zennists To Feel Bliss?

Q: I've heard that experiencing "bliss" or "joy" or even "delight" in Zen meditation is wrong, since it can lead to attachments. Is that right?

A. No, it isn't. The "yellow-faced barbarian" himself (Gotama Buddha) says in a number of Pali suttas that Dharma practice is "delightful." "Delightful in the beginning, delightful in the middle, delightful at the end."

Gotama also describes, as one of the signs of successful meditation practice, pervasive feelings of lightness in the body, relaxation, happiness, kindness, contentment, joy.

Likewise, the various Mahasiddhas of northern India and the great Rinpoches of Tibet speak of meditation practice resulting in "Maha Sukha" (great ease, pervasive happiness, contentment and joy). Tilopa describes this in his "Ganges Mahamudra" talk:
"What joy!
With the ways of the intellect you won’t see beyond intellect.
With the ways of action you won’t know non-action.
If you want to know what is beyond intellect and action,
Cut your mind at its root and rest in naked awareness."
Besides repeating the words, "What joy!" at the start of many verses in his yoga instructions, Tilopa also says quite directly:
"When you are free from longing and desire, empty bliss awareness arises."
In Zen there are many similar statements. I will just cite a few and leave you to discover others. Master Joshu said, "He who dances and skips on the Great Way/is face to face with the Nirvana gate./Just sitting at ease with a boundless mind!/Next year, spring is still spring." Huang-Po said that the attainment of the goal of Zen results in contentment, ease, and bliss in which "all forms are Buddha forms, all sounds are Buddha sounds." And Zen Master Mumon Ekai spoke of attaining satori then "living out your life in a merry and playful samadhi."

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