Jack Li-Zen Meditation جک لي-ذن

 

For the background about Jack Li and this article, please see:

http://www.ghandchi.com/iranscope/Anthology/Jack_Li.htm

 

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ZEN MEDITATION

by Little Rock (Jack Li)

 

Not too long ago, I was at a gathering and there were quite a few people engaged in a conversation on the subject of meditation. There was a debate on the pros and cons of the subject. Although the discussions were very interesting, to my amazement, there were only one or two people actually practicing meditation in their daily life.

 

It is curious that there are many individuals without first-hand meditation experience who believe they "know" about meditation. I do believe some of us still consider meditation as some kind of Eastern fad.

 

We treat it as something to be able to discuss lightly over cocktails or desserts. Perhaps many of us never had the opportunity to explore meditation formally. Therefore we are unaware that we have been misinformed on the subject.

 

Here I would like to clarify possible misinformation and misconceptions. Meditation is a vast subject and there are many different forms of meditation. Let us examine where and when Zen meditation started.

 

The form of meditation known today as Zen Meditation actually started in India during the lifetime of Siddhartha Shikyamuni. He was the one who eventually became Buddha and the founder of Buddhist religion.

 

Before he founded the process of Buddhist meditation, he practiced almost every kind of yoga in his time. The reason that he finally abandoned all yoga practices was that he felt yoga was a practice using a deliberate, conscious mind effort to open up the deeper psyche of our minds. Oftentimes, such a practice could lead to psychic disorders, or "undesirable effects" if done without precautionary measure of the practitioner.

 

Due to this, he went on his own and developed a process known as Buddhist meditation today. It took him six years of constant meditation to perfect the process which later he taught to his followers. After his death, his followers brought the process to China during the second century. From that time until the twelfth century many refinements of the process took place both in China and Japan.

 

Essentially meditation is a religious practice, yet the process is not necessarily confined to the religious circles. The process is designed to raise our own inner consciousness rather than fulfilling a certain prescription of religious principles. There are different kinds of meditation practices within the Buddhist religion; for example Tantric school.

 

The most popular here in the U.S. is the Zen school of meditation. The Tantric school uses certain kinds of tools like mantra, mandalas, etc., and the Zen school uses Koans (this will be explained later). Both schools, from a Western perspective, seem very strict and highly disciplined, therefore, many shy away from the practice.

 

I must note that the forms of meditation I have mentioned here are not for relaxation purposes nor for contemplation purposes. They are intended for consciousness-raising. The word often used to describe this is "enlightenment," which means: to raise one's inner consciousness to the fullest.

 

What is this "enlightenment?" The Buddhists consider enlightenment as knowing the nature of existence of all. A well-known Tibetan Lama Chogyan Trungpa said, "The basic character of meditation takes on one of two forms. The first stems from the teachings which are concerned with the discovery of the nature of existence; the second concerns communication with the external or universal concept of God."

 

What does Trungpa mean by nature of existence? The idea of the nature of existence is exemplified by three basic philosophical questions; Who am I? Why am I here? and, Where am I going? The external or universal concept of God in this context means: "Is there an All encompassing power above all?" The word "God" in the Far East has a very different meaning as compared to the West.

 

Therefore, I choose the word All-that-is or All-encompassing- power. It is an effort to understand our personal existence and the universal existence as a whole. If we could answer or understand these two basic forms of questions, then certainly our consciousness would be raised. Gautama Buddha used the process of his particular kind of meditation to achieve this kind of awakening (or enlightenment).

 

I am a Zen school meditation practitioner. I have been practicing this form of meditation for the last fifteen years. I would not say that I am an "enlightened" being, but I would say that my consciousness has been raised to a level that I previously did not think possible.

 

There are many side-benefits from practicing meditation. For example, since I started meditating, I have never had back aches, head aches, or sleepless nights. I do not belong to any religious order. I practice meditation solely for the understanding of my own being.

 

I do feel that it does raise both my psychic and spiritual consciousness in addition to other benefits. The practice does not raise one's consciousness through a trance-like state, but through one's own psychological and spiritual realities. This is the reason why one's inner-self would change by practicing this form of meditation. It is my personal feeling that this is the process to induce one's spiritual evolution.

 

A spiritual evolutionary process is a personal process. Therefore, I believe that only through personal effort will the fruit of this process be realized. The well-known meditation teacher Noami Humphrey said, "Meditation is really a personal search and no one person may answer for another. Meditation may be thought of as a journey, and adventure into the depth of your own being."

 

Therefore even the teacher of meditation serves as a facilitator not as a Guru. The result or the practice is so personal that even the teacher could not share such experiences. The summary on meditation by Buddha himself is the most appropriate.

 

He said, "Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an innermost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness; and around, wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in. This perfect clear perfection which is truth."  Here the "truth" Buddha refers to is our own innermost being or our "soul."

 

To understand all these, one must understand how our own minds function. To do so there is a definite course to follow. In Zen meditation, the first step is to meditate on the word "Mu", meaning nothingness. Our minds do not tolerate vacuum and will become very active.

 

This may be the first time for us to know how our minds really function. The entire process would be too long to describe here, but if we follow the practice, eventually we will arrive at a point, suddenly realizing that everything is in our heads and the mind is our master.

From then on we will be forced to change our views of ourselves.  Zen meditation does not totally rely on meditation. There is a tool known as "Koan" to help us. Koan, pronounced as KoAn, means "a collection of cases to be solved." Each case was carefully prepared to disengage our illusions in our normal daily lives. It is a process to show us what the realities are behind the everyday lives of our own.

 

This is the process to train our minds into a new perspective. To view the everyday life, the Koans used by the Zen practitioners were compiled many centuries ago. They have proven the most effective for those who use them wholeheartedly. These are the trainings of the inner selves for meditation.

 

There are also outer trainings. The lotus sitting posture is one of them. In Zen meditation one must be alert all the time and laying down or sleeping during the meditation are strictly forbidden. To think that meditation can be practiced casually is a mistaken notion, consciousness raising is not an easy matter. The popular expectations on meditation are sometimes very different from the actual practice!

 

In recent years, the number of serious meditators is on the rise. It is the most encouraging sign, because if we decide to change some of our old, obsolete perceptions, meditation may be the most effective way to do this.

 

In view of our world at the present time, we all experience a great influx of changes, particularly in human relationships and the traditional values of our lives. Many of us become disillusioned and give up everything. Some of us go on to join groups which profess that they have the solution. Yet we experience disappointments; even with the already established institutions.

 

I believe the disappointment is due to looking in the wrong place. Changing the outer things is not the way to change our inner beings. We must look within; and for that matter meditation is crucial. Social change must start with individual changes. For example, if we still try to solve disputes by violence, then we will never be able to get rid of wars.

 

A total shift of the inner being must take place. I believe this is the challenge of the "times" and the challenge of the new thought" The challenge is to change our old inner natures into new thought. One possible way is through meditation. Today there is a "meditation" movement throughout the world.

 

As long as I can remember, there has never been such a phenomenon, especially here in the West. I hope this new interest will bring a change for the better. By raising our consciousness, we may eventually be able to gain a new understanding of life, then a new way of thinking will truly dawn upon us on this planet earth.

 

- Little Rock (Jack Li)

 

BOOKS ON MEDITATION

 

*Meditation for Compulsive People by: Father Leo Boeth

*Meditation: the Inner Way by: Naomi Humphrey

*How to Meditate: Lawrence LeShan

*The Three Pillars of Zen by: Roshi Philip Kapleau

*Zen Down in the West by: Roshi Philip Kapleau

*Seeking the Heart of Wisdom by: Joseph Goldstein/ Jack Kornfield

*The Miracle of Mindfulness by: Thich Nhat Hanh

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* The above article was first published in the Winter 1989 issue of Mundus Novus.

**The article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on April 14, 1994.



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