Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Kensho

June 28, 2016

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We have been caught in a false prison. A spell was cast and entrapped us. Then we dissolve the spell through zazen and wake up from the prison, and leave it.

While it may be unhelpful to suggest that we sit in order to have kensho, it’s undeniable that these experiences have been valued and memorialized through Zen’s history. Indeed, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that for Zen masters, these experiences, when deep and thorough, have been defining milestones of their practice and training. So when Dogen says that “practice is enlightenment,” no more, no less, we need to remember that he is speaking from the perspective of someone who has had a deep existential breakthrough experience. What he’s saying is true after awakening, but not before. As Bodhidharma put it…

before awakening there is another shore to get to; after awakening, there never was another shore.

But you can’t jump to there being no other shore, without first passing to the other shore: in other words, without passing through the existential eye-of-the-needle known as awakening.

*****

We have been caught in a false prison. A spell was cast and entrapped us. Then we dissolve the spell through zazen and wake up from the prison, and leave it.

Then….. But then we have to wake from a new dream, this one called “liberation”. Why? Because when we know we are liberated there is once again a self that knows it. And that self builds a new prison – that self is the new prison.

So hard. Another dream to be dissolved. A new spell to break.

What’s the way out?

*****

It’s a paradox. If there is any consciousness of having had awakening then there is a self. If it’s a deep awakening, it lasts, and it’s even harder to get free of a self that is conscious of it, even while enjoying the fruits of the awakening. But there is no other way than forward. Either we stay stuck in awakening or work to free ourselves from it.

How? There seems to be only one way: zazen. The practice which allowed the space for awakening to occur now must be the space in which it can dissolve. The medicine healed us then became a disease; now the disease itself must be the cure.

So we settle down to the long work, with a teacher. Without one, it’s too easy to get stuck in self-approving, self-assessing.

Message from Henry is taken from our June 28, 2016 Newsletter.
Image:  Door, by apnear40, CC0 Public Domain, from Pixabay.com

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