In Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, the young novice monk Alyosha falls to the ground, on the night of the wake for his recently deceased beloved spiritual mentor, and has a profound epiphany. When he gets back up he knows his soul has changed permanently, and for the rest of his life he will look back on this moment as a time something entered him that could not be turned out.
Somehow, he got out of the way of himself and let it happen. That’s the key, the pivot, the change that is possible. Truly “letting in” reality as it is, all of it. The dharma, the fact of all. Boundless and inconceivable. Full surrender. Alyosha falls to the ground a “weak youth,” and rises up a “champion, steadfast for the rest of his life.”
Dogen at the age of 27 or so had “body and mind fall away.” His master Rujing confirmed that it had happened, and raised him back up and steadied him into the new life. He would never be the same again.
And yet… what had really changed?