Zen Practice: What Works And What Doesn't

Q.: If I cut off thinking, according to you, I will experience satori and become a Buddha. Is that right?

A.: It comes down to this: you must be able to resolutely cut off all thinking in full alertness & awareness for just long enough that the user-illusion of a "thinker" vanishes & you experience satori.
Maybe ten seconds will be enough. Maybe it won't! Keep on trying. "Put strength into it; abandon conceit."

There is additional Zen training after satori, but this additional training is relatively easy and delightful, while the first part is extremely hard. As Master Yuanwu said:

"If your mind exists, you are stuck in the mundane for eternity; if your mind does not exist, you experience wondrous enlightenment instantly."

Or, as Mumon Ekai said:

"To attain this subtle realization you must completely cut off the way of thinking. If you do not cut off the way of thinking you will become like a ghost clinging to the grasses and weeds."

Do you want to be like a ghost clinging to the grasses & weeds, or do you want to experience the Mysterious Realization of Zen & live out your life in a "merry & playful samadhi"? Your choice. It is entirely up to you.

Here is what does not work: sitting in an anxious or vacant state on a zafu like a skeletal Zen zombie. Even though it may seem that at moments your mind does not exist during this kind of non-directed sitting meditation, chances are that you are just in a trance, which does not help you attain the goal. To attain the goal of Zen, you need for your mind to not exist while you are operating in a fully alert, energetic state.

Here is another thing that does not work: endlessly reading books and listening to Zen talks and so forth. This also leads to a depression of your innate energy, which becomes stagnated in the head as thinking. Then you become irresolute and cannot actually put any impulse into action.

Keep strong. Do hard physical things. Keep your spirit up. Then, when you are feeling strong, try to cut off all thinking and enter clear mindlessness. I have no doubt you will succeed.

Q: How do I cut off thinking?

A: Start by getting a grip on how it feels to be thinking. What is the emotional signature?

Q: What do you mean by the emotional signature of thinking?

A: Simple. Vacillation, anxiety, depression, helplessness, the tension of hope, desire, fear.

Note how few positive emotions arise during the thinking process, as opposed to instants of no-thought.

All emotions have a physical effect.

Let's say I get on Twitter and I see pictures of cops beating up protesters. My blood rises. I get angry. But there is no outlet.

To get angry often with no physical outlet, such as while viewing pictures of cops beating up protesters, will actually shorten your life.

Q: What about the actual method?

A: Focus on a sound, or a sensation. Your mind will try to keep wrenching you away into a remembered past or the imaginary future. Keep your concentration strong instead. Make this sound or sensation your gateway to the wondrous realm of No-Thought!

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