A Deeper Embrace

A Deeper Embrace



Listen child of God…attend to the message you hear and make sure it pierces your heart.

Benedict’s Rule


Here, Benedict asserts the imperative that one go beyond an intellectual understanding of spiritual truths to a deeper embrace, one which emerges from a piercing, personal experience of the teachings.

Recently, I experienced a crisis in my spiritual practice that has moved me to a heartfelt re-dedication to the messages I hear.

The 4 Noble Truths are the core message of Buddhism.  The First Noble Truth: There is suffering.  I know that I have a tendency to put myself above other people.  I know this is one of the ways I suffer.  This tendency was apparent this past week, however, I was blind to it as it unfolded.

My pride is an example of the Second Noble Truth: Suffering is caused by our ego’s craving for life to be more, less, better, happier than it is.  I had become hooked into striving for superiority, and in my disappointment with myself, I plunged into despair and frustration.

Desperate to feel better, I determined to fix myself, once and for all!  Soon I recognized that this too is a pattern.  When I want to be the best and brightest, I suffer.  And, when I want to fix that habit, I suffer.  Eventually, I saw that I was piling craving upon craving.  It led me to this: “Nothing I do works. I DON’T KNOW.”

Although I hold dear the wisdom of the Third Noble Truth, that there is an end to suffering, still I DID NOT KNOW.  Here, my pain met the truth of the teachings and my heart was pierced.  There was a way through my suffering.  I began to see it.

The Fourth Noble Truth tells us to follow the 8-Fold Noble Path to put an end to suffering. The Noble Path teaching which pierced my heart during this recent experience describes Noble Effort.

The efforts of spiritual seekers must be directed toward seeing what we are doing in every moment; as we cross the street, as we talk to a friend, as we make dinner. Unless we are serving the Buddha with consistent attention fixed on what is, the ego slips in, our thinking gears up, and our habits take over.  When we do find ourselves caught in craving, our efforts must orient toward dis-identification with what we want, what we think we know, how we think we can fix.  Though I fully understood these teachings, I was not applying my efforts effectively to my practice.

Egoic thoughts and feelings plant their first seeds of discontent, of the craving described in the Second Noble Truth, in a mind that is unaware.  I had been unaware when pride first crept into my thinking.  A spiritual student, utilizing Noble Effort, resides continually in the gap between her presence and her ego’s desires.  In that gap, she can recognize when suffering’s cause is upon her.  In this full and concentrated presence, being Buddha, she sees that her ego’s drive is a delusion born of false truths.  Her efforts have led her down the path of freedom from the attachments of the ego.  I, in my unaware state, allowed my pride to grab hold and run the show.  I had squandered a precious opportunity to put an end to a bit of suffering.

Such is Noble Effort; the full application of all one’s energy towards the study of the delusions of the mind so that one can let them go.  Noble Effort requires moment-to-moment dedication of a heart that is penetrated by a fervent wish to end suffering.

Humming Bird

Author: Getsu San Ku Shin


ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact the editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

On Shi Ke Two Minds in Harmony

We begin alone in contemplation and practice.

We awaken in harmony that cannot be grasped.

by Ming Zhen Shakya

We don’t know precisely when Shi Ke drew it. The day, unfixed by coordinates, ambles somewhere across the Tenth Century’s calendric grid. But it must have been a sunny day for such history as we have informs us that the Master, preparing to execute his composition’s major strokes, picked up a handful of dried grass, squeezed the clump into a brush, and lapped the bristles round the ink tray until they were soft enough to yield to rice-paper demands.

If we look carefully we can hear the monk snoozing in soft cadence to the tiger’s steady purr. “Two Minds In Harmony”, Shi Ke called the work. What was he trying to tell us when he furiously scribed into existence this mellowed, dozing pair?

What else do we see? On gross examination the two figures are conformed to suggest the “on guard” position of the martial artist’s hands: the right hand is contracted into a fist and the left hand is laid securely upon it. Together they are furled and held before the chest.

The configuration is an ancient diagram of polarity: Yin/Yang. Shakti/Shiva. Power and the Law Power Obeys. The fist is power, emotion – movement away from. The overlaying hand is law, intelligence – the internal governance of reason, a hand position which reminds the martial artist that his mind must always control his use of force.

What happens to this Yin/Yang hand-configuration when the man who is poised for combat becomes the man who reposes in meditation? As the function is reversed, so is the hand position: the clasped hands are simply inverted, rotated l80 degrees, and gently relaxed, the left hand going from suppression to support and the right hand from fist to cup – a spiritual begging bowl. Indeed, the meditator assumes a passive posture and in a conscious act of supplication surrenders to the Buddha within himself.

But the Yin/Yang configuration suggested here is neither that of combat nor of meditation since both activities require an alert awareness; and the monk and tiger, in this Yin and Yang embrace, drowse as a unit in blissful oblivion. Again, what is Shi Ke trying to tell us?

We know that in our everyday lives of chopping wood and carrying water we must balance emotion and reason, the interests of eros and logos. We know that we cannot have a harmonious performance if we entertain one member of a duet to the exclusion or disadvantage of the other.

The harmony of tiger and monk has not been achieved, let us quickly add, by the victory of some vaunted superior human nature over an equally mis-termed inferior animal nature. Dogs can be more loyal than men; cats more affectionate than women. We should all improve from the company of wolves.

Neither can we suppose that the drawing conveys the idea of sexual hegemony: male sovereignty over some vassal female state, Creative over Receptive. Science has taken us beyond supposing that “seminal”; conveys the fact of “seed”, that the male supplies a pret-a-porter zygote needful only of a convenient female’s nutritional depository. The Yin and Yang concept admits to no such facile interpretation. Were this an intended meaning, Hexagram 12 (Heaven over Earth) would be a desirable one; it is not. It indicates No Progress… Disjunction… Obstruction. And the left or “sinister” hand would be represented as the female force. It is not. The right hand is the fist.

It is a matter of artistic license to term certain qualities feminine. But feminine is not female. In order for any human being to be complete the qualities so described must be equally present and harmoniously blended with those qualities designated as masculine.

But this message, however valid, is mere commonplace, too jejune and trivial in its limits… hardly enough to engage a master and surely insufficient to inspire him. What, then, is Shi Ke so determined that we see?

Where are the dynamics of intellect and passion? Isn’t the slumber an expression of peace, and the peace an implication of harmony?

Isn’t he illustrating the Seventh Day… The Day of Rest… The culmination of effort… the stasis of sleep?

Shi Ke has depicted the transcendence of opposites: the passing beyond prejudicial judgments of good and evil, of male and female, of eros and logos, of need and satiation, of conflict and repose; and, most especially, of ego and other. There is no more Yin and Yang. The distinctions are obliterated. Sleep has emptied the Circle. Shi Ke has taken us into the Nirvanic Void.

This is the effortless state of simply Being… a freezing of the pulse, a stoppage of the Turning Wheel, an end to the alternations of struggle and repose. Sunyata. Perfect entropy. The heat death of Samsara.


Images, Credit: http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-shi-ke-second-patriarch.php

Shi Ke (石恪, 10th century), Five Dynasties period (907-960)

Two hanging scrolls, ink on paper, 35.3 x 64.4 cm, Tokyo National Museum

       This work is attributed to Shi Ke of the Hou (later) Shu kingdom in the period of Five Dynasties. He studied under Zhang Nanben (張南本), who was a master at painting fire, and was good at figure painting. Although he did not care what other people think and pursued his own free style with ease, Shi Ke’s painting style, where faces are painted in details while clothes are drawn with simple strokes became the standard for subsequent figure painting in China.

Humming Bird
ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact the editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

Create the Conditions


At first glance we might mistake this instruction Create the Conditions to represent a makeover of our house, a clean out of things in the closets and dresser drawers or a pledge to fix things up. No. It’s not like that at all. Although it is true, cleanliness is next to godliness, it is not the material conditions we need to focus on to make the spiritual climb. We can give a nod to order, and simplicity and even owning and having less but I assure you those conditions are not what we need to create.

We are encouraged to remember the path of Shakyamuni as the exemplar of what we need to do. Our struggles come to awaken us. Buddha struggled and it was in that struggle he began his search for God, the Dharma. He was a Hindu. A Prince. A father. A man saturated in a spiritual history. But he, himself, struggled. When we are able to see our struggle as a clarion, a loud and clear trumpet sound of something is amiss, we seek something to remedy it. We look within. Even if we don’t know what to do, the desire alleviate our struggle arises. We catch that wave and turn it. This turning is turning the Wheel of life and death. And it is, in fact, a matter of life and death.

Something changed Shakyamuni when he saw the suffering from his palace windows. What was it? He realized he, too, was subject to suffering. It was there he turned. He became a seeker. It is what we, each one of us, need to be. A seeker: a big, open heart seeker.

Once he saw that something was amiss he was willing to give up everything to change to it. He left his wife. His newborn son. His palace. He followed through. Found teachers. Practiced. Awakened.

It was a big makeover. A big emptying out. Each seeker, in his circumstances does a similar thing. It may start small….it may begin with some painful struggle that prompts you to seek, to hear and read the teachings. But even a small beginning of seeking requires an emptying out, a makeover of time, commitments and activities. We have to make room for contemplation much like we make room to learn anything.  Something has to give, in order for the help to come.

We choose to create the conditions in our mind. Even before we learn anything, we must decide we want to learn. We must choose to want to hear and listen in order to turn and face the light. This step is a beginner’s step, but woe to those who skip it.

We take to heart the teachings. Test them out in our own way. We seek help. We study ourselves.

Here is an exercise you might try. Study what you find yourself getting involved in during the day. And pay close attention to the responses that show up inside of you as you meet the many things that come your way.

Are your responses an array of attachment; hate and fear? If yes, you know the non-self (ego) is attempting to get hold of things. Stop and ask yourself if it was the non-self (ego) that got involved in the first place.

In other words, were there strings of attachment, hate and fear tied to your involvement from the get-go? If yes, then the effects will be coming accordingly. You may feel edgy, anxious, off kilter from even the tiniest grasp of the non-self.

This cause and effect cycle will continue on and on until enlightenment….in the meantime, turn towards the Light when the effects arrive which is a sure fire way to dissipate the shadowy effects that have come. In a visual sense place your mind above, on the high bird until there is only ONE bird in the tree….which is after all is your True nature. STOP the mind reaching for or pushing away some thing you want or don’t want. All happiness is in the High bird. And the High bird does not get involved with things with strings.

Remember: What did Buddha STOP when he encountered the finger necklace thief? Buddha stopped the pleasures and pains of the non-self leaving only the flow of Light which shines on everything without discrimination.

CAUTION: If you pretend to be the High bird, trouble of all sorts will follow.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact the editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com



Killing by visiting writer Sophia Meyer-Greene

Imaginative. Evocative. Lingering.

Has Sophia Meyer-Greene tapped into our universal trait in her new flash fiction….




“It has to be done,” she writes. “It has to.” She asserts.



By Sophia Meyer-Greene


I guarantee you.  You won’t see another of those little devils for at least five years.”


When you call, Arthur Joseph Candicanosi, you call the top guy in town.

I use the strongest chemicals. I get the job done fast. One, Two, Three.

Bing, Bing, Bang.

Beautiful home.  Don’t give it another thought about right or wrong. C’mon what are we talking about here? It has to be done.  It has to.

My old man worked for a slaughterhouse. He slit throats . . . proficiently.  Zip. Zip. It had to be done.

After a few years, his employers told him: when a machine does it . . . it’s almost painless and faster. My dad said the owners decided which choice –- man or machine – based on which was cost-effective.

Cost-effectiveness became top priority . . . an absolute necessity, if a business was to survive. Automation. Robotics.  Everything evolves.

No, he didn’t lose his job. He became Director of Operations. When it didn’t go right, he had to Zip. Zip. Again. Machine errors occurred often. Specific procedures had to be followed. He was under the gun.

Yeah, my old man told me he was only allowed to work a limited number of hours a week.  (I think he said 17.)  Yes, 17 hours. The owners said: killing can have deleterious effects when you kill in excess of 17 hours.

            His bosses said: Killing too much can make the slaughterer mean. Even watching killing for extended periods can be extremely harmful.

Harmful? Wait until you hear this: The establishment’s view:  Killing can be a sensual experience. They pointed out, studies show, people can enjoy it.

Enjoy killing? Studies show? What a crock!

I kill eight to ten hours a day, five days a week.  I’m married, have two sons. On the weekends I coach football. Looking in the mirror, I see an ok guy looking back. Killing has to be done. It has to.”

  • ••

The woman paid Arthur Joseph Candicanosi with a check and an obligatory smile, hurrying him out the door so he could get started with the work.

She wondered, did his words have a perlocutionary effect? He smelled.  It was a dank, soggy, rotting odor, something she could not identify. She speculated perhaps it was from the substances he used or maybe the odor arose as a result of his work.  The woman reminded herself of what he said.

‘It has to be done.’



When the job was completed, he came from around the back of the house. He looked tired. The woman watched as he lumbered down the front footpath.

She thought of him touching his wife…having breakfast with his sons. Did a shower eradicate that smell? The stench lingered in the kitchen. When the woman opened the window, winter’s cold morning came rushing in.

Taking a deep breath, she sighed as she watched black smoke pour out of the tailpipe of his green truck as he pulled away.


  • •••
  • Humming Bird

    ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact the editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com



Mystical Zen by Ming Zhen Shakya

On Zenmar’s Presentation of
The Sutta on Antecedentness by Breath

by Ming Zhen Shakya, OHY
(Majjhima Nikaya 3.82 Translated by Ven. Shakya Aryanatta. From
The Authorized Dark Zen Meditation Manual of Buddhism.)

The question has long taunted Zen Buddhist scholars, Zenmar among them: when the Buddha meditated, which form of meditation did he use?

Zen’s various schools disagree about the correct method to follow. Some schools essentially limit their practices to thought suppression and passive breath observation, while others insist on a more comprehensive program of controlled breathing and meditations on objects, qualities and scriptures. Since these differing methods are often the cause of conflict, knowledge of the Buddha’s meditation practice would be of more than academic interest. It might serve to bridge the growing rift between our schools.

In the absence of documentation there has been no definitive way to settle the issue. Such scripture as exists – at least in its old accepted translation, fails to inspire any reasonable confidence that the lines refer to the Buddha’s own practice. There are, to be sure, directions given here and there for performing a specific kind of meditation; and there are discussions about different methods of meditation. But no single program has gained liturgical notice.

Whether in discovery of new or revision of old, in the matter of scripture there remains always the not insignificant problem of translation. In order to access the original meaning of the lines it is necessary to excavate them from beneath a few millennia of distorting linguistic strata.

A sutra written a few thousand years ago would surely contain fossilized words, skeletal remains of their former lives, unfamiliar to us now except in their mutant varieties. Experts could flesh them out with all the rigor of scholarly exegesis, yet we would be unsure about the true nature of the genus until the work passed that final, critical, individual meditator’s test: did the information conform to what we know experientially to be true of spiritual deliverance?

Zen is a mystical path and as such is realized only in the actual experience of exalted states of consciousness, states that are apprehended with little external evidence of their attainment. Zen practitioners do not wear their achievements like chevrons on a sleeve. We may squabble about dogma, tenet, and style; but in our hearts we find consensus when the subject is the Buddha, himself. Intuitively we know that the Buddha’s practice must be inclusive and, as such, supreme. It cannot omit or dismiss the practice of anyone who has attained enlightenment in service to his holy name.

Zenmar calls attention to a new translation of a section of an ancient text in the Majjhima Nikaya – presumably the Anapanasati Sutta – which was prepared by the Venerable Shakya Aryanatta, a Pali scholar and associate of his.

In his publication of The Sutta On Antecedentness By Breath,. Z contends that ‘something has been missing in Buddhist meditation… the Buddha’s original idea of meditation whereby the adept accesses the immortal spirit…” By specifying “adept” he has set the bar rather high; and if, in fact, the new translation meets this standard, we will have criteria by which to judge our own ‘personal bests.’

There is, in popular access, but one other translation with which Zenmar’s offering can be compared; and a look at it indicates why a new translation is welcome.

The old translation is one line after another of that insipid, repetitious, and cryptic instruction that at first glance appears to be profound but upon closer inspection proves to be less than shallow. In an extremely brief lesson, the devotee is told to train himself in fourteen pairs of breathings, inhalation and exhalation constituting a pair. These fourteen disciplines require that he breathe in and out (1) “sensitive to the entire body”; (2) “calming the bodily processes”; (3) “sensitive to rapture”; (4) “sensitive to pleasure”; (5) “sensitive to mental processes”; (6) “calming mental processes”; (7) “sensitive to the mind”; (8) “satisfying the mind”; (9) “steadying the mind”; (10) “releasing the mind”; (11) “focusing on inconstancy”; (12) “focusing on dispassion”; (13) “focusing on cessation”; (14) “focusing on relinquishment.” No further explanation is given.

What does this scripture mean? What it suggests is that someone said, “The Buddha advocated fourteen meditation stages that have something to do with breathing. Find a dozen topics.. something similar to, ‘Breathe in sensitive to the mind and breathe out sensitive to the mind’ or ‘Breathe in sensitive to the entire body and breathe out sensitive to the entire body’ and then fill in the blanks.”

This is gibberish, drivel intended to appear insightful and instructive. It was not written by an adept, and anyone who knows anything at all about meditation must shake his head in wonderment. Meditation is, by definition, a transcendent state. The scripture purports to offer training in “The Mindfulness of In-&-Out Breathing” but the mind is on everything but the in-and-out breathing. That passive, “short breath is short and long breath is long” exercise is dealt with immediately in the opening lines of the sutra. It is acknowledged and then the fourteen breath training instructions are given.

Now we can look at Zenmar’s offering of Aryanatta’s translation. Scholars will no doubt inspect the work; and those of us who are not scholars will do what we have always done: we will subject it to our own testing methods.

Using the analogy of putting together a jig saw puzzle that has been given to us in a box that has no guiding cover picture, we begin by emptying the jumbled contents of the box onto a table.

We do the physical chores of turning all the pieces face-up and moving all the end pieces to the sides.

Gross inspection allows us to make a few suppositions. If some of the pieces are brown and others blue and the fractured images we see suggest a landscape, we expect that the brown pieces are at the bottom and the blue pieces are at the top. If we detect people, they are likely to be at the bottom along with the flowers… just as birds and clouds, excepting as they might appear reflected in water, are likely to be at the top.

Then we begin the work of putting the pieces together.

Zenmar has insisted that this scripture is the Buddha’s own meditation practice. If so, it must conform to a recognizable image. We are followers of the Buddha. His practice cannot be alien to us. Let us emphasize this: if the subject is meditation – and it surely is – it is concerned with the eternal, unchanging, unconditional world of the Spirit. Culture and fashion and fad have nothing to do with it. If it is true now, it was true then. If it was true there, it is true here. Samsara – the material, historical world, has no part in the discussion.

Although the pressures of time and use may have warped the original meaning of the sutra’s words, any translation must be recognizable as variations on the original theme. Again, style may vary and the interpretations may be somewhat skewed, but the original intent must be contained, even as potential, as acorn is to oak, within the translation. This is not an historical text in which the accuracy of names, dates, and events is vital. This is a meditation guide. And the accuracy of translation, as we have noted, is entirely dependent upon what we know experientially to be true.

The Sutta On Antecedentness by Breath as presented by Zenmar contains a few sentences of introduction and some perfunctory instructions to remove ourselves from worldly distractions, to assume an erect posture, and to be vigilant in our aspirations.

Next, with that delicate sense of humor we find in the Diamond Sutra and in the parables and anecdotes, the Buddha lightly acknowledges the practice of passively watching the breath go up and down. Amazingly, a short breath is short, and a long breath is long. Those of us who practice the strict Healing Breath technique smile accordingly – even though we know how difficult “mere” breath watching can be.

The sutra’s fourteen pairs of breath cycles instruct us to fix our mind upon that which comes before “breath.” Immediately we notice that the mind is not to be kept vacant. In fact, the fourteen pairs of cycles make extraordinary demands upon our powers of concentration: we have to go forward to the past, i.e., to enter the contemplative arena before thoughts arise or, to use a Zen expression, “to see our face before we were born.”

In five of the fourteen pairs the term “recollective antecedentness” appears. And in the introductory paragraph, we find the peculiar expression, “to attend to thorough antecedentness in recollective conjoinment.”

Here, an ambiguity occurs: antecedent means occurring at a previous time, or preceding in rank or place or time. It also, however, means one’s ancestors, ancestry, or past life. A human being has antecedents and, usually, descendants. To recollect is to recall or remember and has a latin root of “gather together.” To conjoin is to connect or unite two or more things.

As we begin searching the word-images looking for something recognizable, we find little that is not similarly cryptic or, as in the all too familiar language of Buddhist scripture, awkwardly worded. The Buddha did not speak the sentences that are often put in his mouth. When we read, “I shall breathe in supremely beholding the mind in recollective antecedentness to it,” we know that these are not his words. These can be only clues to his words.

And then, as we lope along, resigning ourselves to a long, tedious and possibly fruitless investigation, we come to the ninth pair and find the stupendous assertion: “I shall breathe in collecting the mind unto the focus upon the hypostasis.” Whoa!

“Hypostasis” is the strange way we refer to the Holy Trinity of Buddha; Future Buddha; and Bodhisattva, which later Christianity would call Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Here, “Buddha” refers not to Siddhartha, but usually to the Buddha Amitabha (Infinite Light) or Amitayus (Infinite Time) which physicists tell us are one in the same.

Now the picture begins to take form. We suddenly have a very strong suspicion that we know what we’re looking at. We read on to the conclusion and it quickly comes together.

Buddhism is such a confusion of definitions and standards that it is seemingly impossible to list the sequence of meditation experiences that are followed at the higher elevations of the path.

We can, however, appreciate the better documented Shaivist and Daoist gradations. In Shaivism, briefly, there is the “Ground Zero” of All Being followed by thirty-six principles or Tattvas, #1 through #36. The first five of these Tattvas are Nirvanic, indicating five descending spiritual states. Tattvas #1 and #2, Shiva and Shakti (which may not be separated) refer to the Rebis Experience; Divine Marriage; or The Union of Opposites – the entrance into the Trinity which the “Ground” and the marital offspring, the Future Buddha, complete.

This is followed by Tattva #3, the experience of Satori and those states in which the ego is not only eclipsed but in which the interior Buddha presence is experienced.

Tattva #4 accounts for Samadhi and its orgasmic, mind-enveloping bliss.

Tattva #5 represents true meditation (as opposed to Quietism or auto-hypnotic states) and all of true meditation’s exuberant instances – achieved by realizing the Platonic Ideal Forms and through music, dancing, chanting, gazing upon yantras, koan study, reciting mantras, and so on. At this point, the Spiritual Life “proper” terminates.

Tattva #6 is Maya, the converting principle by which spirit devolves into the various stages of material world development, culminating in the familiar Space; Air; Fire; Water; and Earth of, respectively, the Vishuddha, Anahatta, Manipura, Svadhisthana, and Muladhara (Tattva #36) chakras.

The principles of creation, or Tattvas, have qualities or “vrittis” associated with them. At the lower levels of chakras, the qualities are negative and defiling (such as being jealous, lazy and cruel); towards the middle they are mixed (such as being hardworking and hypocritical; and at the top (in or near the head) the qualities are positive and pure (such as being humble and patient). It is the task of the devotee to reform his character, to purge himself of the poisons of greed, lust and ignorance, and to attain such egoless merit as would admit him to the sacred precincts of the first five Tattvas. The chakras which represent the states of spiritual deliverance are in the Ajna and Sahasrara systems (Ajna, Nada, Soma, Kalachakra, Guru and Sahasrara); and, above all, the Parama “Ground” of All Being.

As we study the picture emerging from The Sutta On The Antecedentness of Breath, we can assign the first twelve pairs of breath cycles to the first five Spiritual Tattvas of the Shaivist Path. The thirteenth and fourteenth pairs would seem to be the braces of Tattva #0 (the Infinite Ground of All Being) and Tattva #6, the point at which Spirit converts to matter – or matter converts back into Spirit.

Let us look at the famous wall rubbing and a drawing of it from Daoism’s Bei Yun Monastery in Beijing to see if these comparisons extend to Daoist interpretations of the Path and to the clues given in The Sutta On The Antecedentness of Breath:

Rubbing (left) and sketch (right) of the famous wall rubbing
from Daoism’s Bei Yun Monastery in Beijing

The Sutta’s first training breath-pair requires that the meditator consider “the entire body in recollective antecedentness” and, next, that he “behold that which lies before the arising of the body’s formation.” The body, in its spiritual presence, is represented clearly in the wall-rubbing. We see the lower chakras – Muladhara’s earth, the boy and girl at Svadhisthana’s “water wheel,” Manipura’s fire and caldron, and so on up the spine.

Since it is subtle spirit which devolves into gross matter, the antecedent of the physical is the spiritual, illustrated by the spiritual energy centers or chakras.

Meditation on the Platonic Ideal Forms of material objects provides for the spiritual apprehension of the gross material forms.

The ecstasy of Samadhi is suggested in the Sutta’s instructions to train in “beholding exquisite joyousness” and in “beholding exquisite bliss in recollective antecedentness” while Platonic Ideal Form meditations fulfill the instructions to “behold mental formations in recollective antecedentness” and to “behold that which lies before the arising of the mental formations.”

Satori’s ‘face-before-you-were-born’ experience is accomplished in the next requirement to “behold the mind in recollective antecedentness to it” and in “delighting in the supreme mastery of the mind.”

The Bodhisattva Trinitarian experience is specified in “the focus upon the hypostasis” which, indeed, “supremely emancipates the mind.” It is the liberation attendant upon the Union of Opposites.

In the illustration, the male (figure in Heart center) and female (spinning maiden) have lines that travel up to the back of the head where they are joined in a dwelling (more clearly shown in the drawing of the wall rubbing) called, usually, the Bridal Chamber. For several weeks of the meditator’s life, time stands rapturously still. This is the initial “hypostasis” of the Trinitarian state, represented iconographically as the androgynous Bodhisattva or Shiva and Shakti in conjugal union.

Accordingly, we see that most of the activity in the figure is contained in the throat and head. The negative “vrittis” are purged as the meditator accesses the spiritual centers of the head where only positive qualities reside, “emancipated from defileness” – the Sutta’s twelfth pair.

The illustrations in the head of the Daoist wall rubbing – Lao Tzu, Bodhidharma, the Sun and Moon discs, etc., represent the various chakras associated with the purified spiritual states.

The Sutta ends with the instruction to “return unto the Unific which bestows all, which is all that is.” This hardly requires any further comment.

Zenmar puts his own “Dark Zen” spin on these lines; and perhaps the beauty of the lines is precisely that – that in true oracular fashion they lend themselves to such variations on the theme and accommodate the teaching methods employed.

There are many routes we can take to the summit. We are certain only that as each of us reaches a specific level, the altimeter reading will be everywhere identical. 

Humming Bird
ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact the editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com