Q: How do we begin to practice Dark Zen Meditation [DZM]?
A: First, the proper mental attitude is necessary. You cannot just sit down on a cushion, cross your legs, and hold your back erect. That is not enough. It just becomes performative, you might say. One becomes a Zen actor, in other words.
Q: Well, could you give me a few more details as to how to frame the proper mental attitude?
A: Start this way. First, realize that all day long we cling to a material body which we believe is our true identity. Next, understand that what is clinging to the material body is not really in the body. We should conceive that our true fundamental nature is like the moon overhead, in contrast to the moon in the water below.
Q: Let me ask you this question. When I am aware of my body, is that like the moon in the water?
A: Yes. Everything we sense or are aware of is like the moon in the water. Even our awareness is limited to being like the moon in the water.
Q: What is not the moon in the water?
A: You might say our true-nature. All arises from our true-nature, or the same, Buddha Mind. This means that everything—absolutely everything—exists on account of this nature. Nothing is outside of it. But now I have only given you empty words. You need to merge with this nature which is within.
Q: Okay, I am beginning to get the picture. You are saying that in DZM I am really above my body and its breathing like the moon overhead. Is that right?
A: Yes. But now the problem is how do we identify with our true nature which transcends our breathing—even this very body?
Q: Then, do we first follow our breath?
A: No. That doesn’t make any sense if you think about it. We need to backup and envisage being prior to the breath. Following the breath leads to attachment. We must sense our breathing as it is generated. At that point we enter true meditation sensing an “energy-stream” growing inside of us.
Q: That is hard to do. How do you “backup” as you say?
A: Believe it or not, you are already there. But by depending on the body and its breathing, you have forgotten the moon overhead! Face it, all of us can get so focused on a subject that we forget our true nature. It is like movie goers being absorbed in a movie, so much so that they imagine they are the character. They fall into sympathy with their character. They feel fear when their character feels fear, or laughs when he laughs. One lives as if they were that very character. Then, when the movie is over—wham—the audience comes back to reality. Our situation is much the same. Presently, we are in the movie of this body. At some point, we must come away from the movie screen.
Q: Getting back to energy—do you feel an energy-stream inside of you?
A: Yes. And I can increase it by being more of that which is antecedent to my body and its various biological processes. One is aware of a growing power, you might say, which is more powerful than the body.
Q: I must tell you I am having a difficult time understanding DZM.
A: Don’t try so hard. Just sense your breathing, but be the one who is working the lung bellows! Don’t get involved in the breathing effect. Get involved in the breath making. That will put you prior to breathing. It is the same with your body, too. Be before it. Think that what you really are flows into the body and makes it work. Be the source of that inflow.
Q: I like your description. I get the sense that I am surrounded by a life energy field and that my body is just a node in that field. My problem is to orient myself to the field instead of the node. Is that about right?
A: If it helps to make the energy appear in your body, I say that is pretty good.
Q: So, what is the deal with this energy, or as you have mentioned, energy-stream?
A: Not wanting to sound too mysterious, let’s say that we only know Mr. Buddha by this energy which we shall call “Bodhisattva”. In that respect, the Bodhisattva, as an energy, lies between our Mr. Buddha and this corporeal hunk of impending disaster! It is also like a stream flowing back to Mr. Buddha—but a stream of energy.
Q: Is it like the sun warming us, although we are not the sun?
A: Yes, that is a very good analogy. We could say that the Buddha is 93 million miles away from us, like the sun, yet we still feel his warmth. In the same way when we line up right, being prior to our breathing, in a sense we have joined with his power so that we sense this power within us.
Q: Are there other ways to sense this energy?
A: Yes. Visualize a tiny point in front of your mind’s eye. Then project into it. Imagine that you are a beam of pure light going towards it. You may feel some energy in your head—wherever the point is. After you do, then put the point in certain parts of your body and do the same. Again, as you do so, again imagine that you are a beam going towards the point. Let me add that the finer the point you can visualize, the more powerful the effect becomes.
Q: Hey, I just felt something! I feel an energy in my head, as you said. I feel almost light headed. I can’t believe it. You’re right! This is unbelievable! Is that the way you sense it?
Q: I have sat in zazen for many years now. This is the first time something like this has happened to me. What is more exciting, I think I can do this at will. Just now I visualized the point and felt the energy again. Is this an actual technique?
A: Yes it is. But why it works is that it is natural. This is the way things really are. If you get lined up with the universe, you will sense something extraordinary. Just let me say, that there is no need to sit on your buns on a zafu. Just be prior to your breathing, or visualize a mental point beaming into it.
Q: What you have discovered is incredible. Could you say that this is DZM?
A: I guess you could. As you can see, a sitting posture is not required. Nor do you have to polish your body in the sense of trying to turn this hunk of flesh into a mirror. DZM is about getting in touch with the true source of things which is luminous Mind. By the way, another name for this Mind is “Buddha” who is prior to all, transcending the world, being spontaneous.
Q: This is interesting. I didn’t learn about this at the Zen center I attended. Is this a part of Zen?
A: Well, Zen master Ejo taught this. He wrote about this in detail in his book, Absorption in the Treasury of Light. Remember that true meditation is not about sitting on your rump for hours on end. When you get in touch with the light—energy, that is—which Ejo is talking about, it doesn’t matter how you sit. You are always immersed in it—that is true sitting, you might say. Let me also say that one must believe that Lord Buddha’s light flows into our world. This is important. Why? Because we can tap into this light if we figure out how to do it. But not everyone will believe this is possible. But today you have seen that it is possible. There is much more energy available to you than you can imagine. But that is a difficult subject to speak about to profane ears. Let me say that you are fortunate to have this tiny glimpse.
Q: Let me ask you this. After you feel this energy—what then?
A: You must learn to make more of yourself accessible to it. If you only wish to have a brief encounter with it, what is the point? It is much more. When this energy is strong, your old problems don’t have the same power over you as they did before. The various kinds of suffering begin to dissolve. Soon your are transported to a higher dimension of being.
Q: Is this mystical Zen?
A: Yes. You might say there are two kinds: Conventional Zen and Mystical Zen. Conventional Zen is learning to sit on your rump, enduring hours of pain. It is a form of low-level self-torture. It is for those who cling to the conventional world; who are comfortable following a corpse. In Mystical Zen we call this “ghost sitting”. However, in Mystical Zen we are seeking communion with our luminous Mind—not our body. This is Zen master Ejo’s Zen which few are lucky to discover. This is the Zen in which the adept is animated by Vairocana Buddha, symbolizing radiant power. He learns how to tap into Vairocana, allowing his being to become immersed in this special light. Can you feel that?
Q: Yes! How did you do that? I feel an intense energy in my heart.
A: [laughing] That is Mr. Vairocana Buddha giving you some juice. Let me put it this way. Great Zen masters like the Sixth Patriarch and great Lamas, especially Dzogchen masters, have tapped into this power and know how to become available to it. All the rest are following shadows. Most are Dharma errand boys delivering dead, lifeless messages from a Buddha of their imagination. Worse, their meditation is like an old dog chewing on a dry bone. What do they hope to gain from it? Zen is not about gnawing on a dry bone. Nor is Buddhism the religion of errand boys. But that is conventional wisdom. It is also the world of endless suffering.
Q: Without your guidance I would still be sitting, getting nowhere. For some strange reason I know you have saved my life. I bow to you. Thank you, my friend for your help.
A: I am glad to help. I am alway delighted when someone becomes as crazy as I am.
Text by Zenmar, the Dark Zen mystic
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