What a joy it is to be able to go deeper into our human nature, then return to the world that so needs all the love and help we can give…
Some reflections on our Rohatsu retreat that ended yesterday…
First – as ever – it was Mountain Cloud’s strongest retreat ever! In fact, though we’ve held many six-day retreats, this was the first seven-day we have had since I was invited in eight years ago, and over forty people attended, with reasonable comfort in the new-look zendo, since the tan or sitting platform has been removed.
Much strong practice went on within the atmosphere generated by the group’s powerful and deep sitting. We looked at the four “levels of wisdom” that intensive practice will work on:
- Personal psychology – seeing and releasing hidden patterns, habits, dynamics of mind and heart.
- Transpersonal experience – connecting or sensing things that seem outside of ourselves, such as “powers” or entities that may help and support us. Not something everyone buys into, or needs to, of course — and more traditionally this would be the realm of religions (also touched on by Jungian psychology) — but it’s not that uncommon within the context of a strong retreat for some people to sense unusual communion with ancestors, natural forces and so on, which can be very helpful in releasing the hold on the idea that we must do everything by our own efforts.
- Opening to the untouchable “witness consciousness” that see all things with total peace, and sometimes as one single entity.
- Awakening: that is, seeing through self and world. Discovering the “world of not a single thing,” as some Zen masters have put it. Even people who have already had a glimpse of this reality keep working toward releasing more of what obscures it, until one day perhaps “body and mind” will truly and finally “fall away”….
This frame of reference, taken in part from Shinzen Young’s book The Science of Enlightenment, can be a help in understanding what may go on during a sesshin. Without doubt, all participants passed signicant personal milestones in one or more of these areas.
By the way, these four emphases can be seen in Buddhism itself (and a please forgive the gross generalizations here). Some modern buddhism-based approaches to meditation tend to focus on the first area, for example – personal psychological healing and growth – while some traditional approaches may tend toward releasing the untouchable, equanimous witness-consciousness (the third emphasis). On the other hand, traditional Buddhism in Asia is arguably more commonly focused on the veneration and supplication of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as powers or entities, rather like in most western religious approaches, with their saints, divinities and deities (second emphasis). Meanwhile the traditional focus of Mahayana Buddhism has tended to be an experience of the total emptiness of all, as a touching of reality that opens unconditional compassion. However, on that note, it’s important to state that all four emphases may strongly stir the human heart toward loving concern. (Again, please forgive the gross generalizing here.)
Of course the important thing now is that all practitioners return with renewed clarity, energy and loving concern to modestly tend to whatever needs to be done in our immediate lives, and the wider community. What a joy it is to be able to go deeper into our human nature, then return to the world that so needs all the love and help we can give it.
May all beings be well. May all beings be well. May all beings be well.