This is what Neem Karoli Baba told Ram Dass about psychedelics:
“These medicines will allow you to come and visit Christ, but you can only stay two hours. Then you have to leave again. This is not the true Samadhi. It’s better to become Christ than to visit him – but even the visit of a saint for a moment is useful. But love is the most powerful medicine.”
From Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki
The purpose of my talk is not to give you some intellectual understanding, but just to express my appreciation of our Zen practice. To be able to sit with you in zazen is very, very unusual. Of course, whatever we do is unusual, because our life itself is so unusual. Buddha said, “To appreciate your human life is as rare as soil on your fingernail.” You know, dirt hardly ever sticks on your nail. Our human life is rare and wonderful; when I sit I want to remain sitting forever, but I encourage myself to have another practice, for instance to recite the sutra, or to bow. And when I bow, I think, “This is wonderful.” But I have to change my practice again to recite the sutra. So the purpose of my talk is to express my appreciation, that is all. Our way is not to sit to acquire something; it is to express our true nature. That is our practice.
If you want to express yourself, your true nature, there should be some natural and appropriate way of expression. Even swaying right and left as you sit down or get up from zazen is an expression of yourself. It is not preparation for practice, or relaxation after practice; it is part of the practice. So we should not do it as if it were preparing for something else. This should be true in your everyday life. To cook, or to fix some food, is not preparation, according to Dogen; it is practice. To cook is not just to prepare food for someone or for yourself; it is to express your sincerity. So when you cook you should express yourself in your activity in the kitchen. You should allow yourself plenty of time; you should work on it with nothing in your mind, and without expecting anything. You should just cook! That is also an expression of our sincerity, a part of our practice. It is necessary to sit in zazen, in this way, but sitting is not our only way. Whatever you do, it should be an expression of the same deep activity. We should appreciate what we are doing. There is no preparation for something else.
The Bodhisattva’s way is called “the single-minded way,” or “one railway track thousands of miles long.” The railway track is always the same. If it were to become wider or narrower, it would be disastrous. Wherever you go, the railway track is always the same. That is the Bodhisattva’s way. So even if the sun were to rise from the west, the Bodhisattva has only one way. His way is in each moment to express his nature and his sincerity.
We say railway track, but actually there is no such thing. Sincerity itself is the railway track. The sights we see from the train will change, but we are always running on the same track. And there is no beginning or end to the track: beginningless and endless track. There is no starting point nor goal, nothing to attain. Just to run on the track is our way. This is the nature of our Zen practice.
But when you become curious about the railway track, danger is there. You should not see the railway track. If you look at the track you will become dizzy. Just appreciate the sights you see from the train. That is our way. There is no need for the passengers to be curious about the track. Someone will take care of it; Buddha will take care of it. But sometimes we try to explain the railway track because we become curious if something is always the same. We wonder, “How is it possible for the Bodhisattva always to be the same? What is his secret?” But there is no secret.
Everyone has the same nature as the railway track.
There were two good friends, Chokei and Hofuku. They were talking about the Bodhisattva’s way, and Chokei said, “Even if the arhat (an enlightened one) were to have evil desires, still the Tathagata (Buddha) does not have two kinds of words. I say that the Tathagata has words, but no dualistic words.” Hofuku said, “Even though you say so, your com- ment is not perfect.” Chokei asked, “What is your understanding of the Tathagata’s words?” Hofuku said, “We have had enough discussion, so let’s have a cup of tea!” Hofuku did not give his friend an answer, because it is impossible to give a verbal interpretation of our way. Nevertheless, as a part of their practice these two good friends discussed the Bodhisattva’s way, even though they did not expect to find a new interpretation. So Hofuku answered, “Our discussion is over. Let’s have a cup of tea!”
That is a very good answer, isn’t it? It is the same for my talk — when my talk is over, your listening is over. There is no need to remember what I say; there is no need to understand what I say. You understand; you have full understanding within yourself. There is no problem.
This is Kodo Sawaki, as quoted in Brad Warner’s blog.
People only grow angry because they think of their body as a possession. Yet the Sutras talk about it, all they say is that it is a big bag of stinking skin. When somebody in a rage shouts, “What do you take me for?” or “Who do you think you’re talking to?” I think to myself, “To a big bag of stinking skin.”
Human beings tear each other apart because of their opinions, politicians tear each other apart, husband and wife tear each other apart. The whole world is full of tearing. Why? Just because of the vanity of our egos.
Even monks and nuns and priests tear each other apart. Is there life after death? Is the soul eternal or not? All of that is nothing but trivial jokes, ego stories. If we stop paying attention to the ego, such nonsense as eternity or not eternity ceases to exist, for the soul.
This degenerate world is the reason why professional liars succeed today. But if we observe impermanence, there were no more lies, and where there are no more lies religion appears.
You can see your image in the mirror, but how do you see the mind that not even a mirror can reflect? It’s possible in zazen. Nothing reveals the ego like zazen. The purer the zazen, the more transparent, the better you can see the illusions of your ego.
Our corruption is that we are cut off from the universe, and our illusion is that we confuse the cut-off ego with the one that, originally, is not separate from the cosmic system. The roots of that true ego are the same as those of sky and earth, the same body and same mind as all sentient beings.
This is true religion, which has no right side or wrong side, no inside or outside, is transparent from sky to earth, is the secret of Zen. Everything must become completely transparent, me and you, past and present and future. In terms of reality this means that our life today, our attitude now, gives life to the past.
If our attitude is false and then all those who have fed us and taught us, all those we have met and known, have acted solely in order to produce that falseness. If our attitude is right, whatever they have done they did solely in order to produce that rightness. The limits of the Self are truly beyond any imagining, and fill the sky, earth, and the whole universe.
In terms of religious faith, space and time and have nothing to do with it. It is only right now that we can use this ordinary human body to practice zazen with Shakyamuni, with the Buddhas of the whole universe in ten directions, practice zazen with the mountains, rivers, and trees. That’s why I practice zazen.
Sitting like this is what makes up the self become transparent, makes us able to see without any limits, in harmony with sky and earth, and it is what gives the self a total vision of the whole universe. That is the way of silent sitting and the principle of shikantaza.
A few years ago, I was sitting at my desk in work. It was during the summer, which is a relatively quiet time for us. It was probably round about 11.30 or so, and I was almost certainly just idly browsing the internet. I can’t remember really what I was doing, or what I was specifically looking at online.
I then noticed an odd sensation: a low, but gradually rising feeling of energy or electricity inside me. If it were a sound, it would have been in the distance, but getting closer. As it grew stronger, it felt like it was gathering in my chest/stomach, and gathering energy from the extremities of my body: my limbs and head. It got stronger and stronger. At a certain point it began to feel overwhelming, I could not longer ignore it. I sat back in my chair, gripped the arms of my chair and began to breath heavily. It felt like a big ball of energy was amassing in my torso. I actually began to feel afraid: like a balloon inside me was about to burst.
At a certain point it reach “critical mass”, and felt like it burst out of me.I felt like a massive wave of energy had exploded out of my body and into the world. As soon as this happened, the feeling was released. My breathing gradually returned to normal, and I calmed down.
This is another attempt at creating an image of something i’ve had a vision of. Not ready to tell the story of this one, but still coming to terms with it.
“the breathing became slower and slower, and there was absolutely not the slightest indication of contraction, of struggle. it was just that the breathing became slower – and slower – and slower, and at five-twenty the breathing stopped.
I had been warned in the morning that there might be some up-setting convulsions towards the end, or some sort of contraction of the lungs, and noises. People had been trying to prepare me for some horrible physical reaction that would probably occur. None of this happened, actually the ceasing of the breathing was not a drama at all, because it was done so slowly, so gently, like a piece of music just finishing in a sempre piu piano dolcemente. I had the feeling actually that the last hour of breathing was only the conditioned reflex of the body that had been used to doing this for 69 years, millions and millions of times. There was not the feeling that with the last breath, the spirit left. It had just been gently leaving for the last four hours.”
In this interview, Philip K. Dick describes a breakthrough he had when “probing the phenomenal” world.
I have one search and one search only. Let me preface it by saying that I use to search for personal happiness, fulfillment and joy. Since all those things have been denied me, and it’s obvious that they will never happen, I also hope to make a lot of money, but that’s also been denied me. And yet by default one search which I will never give up on and which I feel is within my power to succeed at and is to determine once and for all, to my own satisfaction – not necessarily to the satisfaction of anyone else, but to my own satisfaction – what is the actual nature of reality around us as compared, as contrasted to the apparent, evident, phenomenological reality that we perceive. I have, as you know, written about this for 27 years, in the form of questions. I’ve probed the phenomenal world looking for something behind it, which is why I took LSD. I only took LSD three times and didn’t find any answers through it, so I gave up on that.
But within the last three and a half years, for reasons which I do not know, I made a fantastic breakthrough to a perception of what appears to me to be, I mean what I construe to be, the actual world, in a sense that Plato distinguished the real world from the merely evident world, or empirical world. But I made a fantastic breakthrough. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know what caused it. But since then I have done nothing but attempt to develop a coherent explanation of what I saw. That is, it is nothing that I thought, it is not an idea. It is actually a perception. The model would be as follows. Let’s say that we are all sitting in a theater watching a live play. And for some reason, it doesn’t matter what reason, we are all so naïve that we think that the play is factually true, that it’s real, it’s not a play. And we’re sitting there, and we’ve watched maybe two acts, and we believe that the actors are the characters that they’re performing. We believe the characters are real. Let’s say it’s a play about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and there’s an actor with a beard, and he’s playing Lincoln. And we really believe he’s Lincoln, you know, and this other guy is John Wilkes Boothe. And we’re sitting there and we’re watching this, and we believe that it’s all real. And all of a sudden, the whole back scenery falls over flat. And now that we see stagehands, with robes and dice and people half in costume and somebody studying their script. Well, this is a –
Right, right. Exactly. Lights and sandbags to counterweight the curtain. Then immediately about sixteen hundred people rush up and push all the scenery back up on the stage and hope that the audience happened to all be asleep at that moment.
Well, this is what happened to me in regards to the phenomenal world, that for a period of about three and a half days it was as if the scenery had, for some reason, fallen over flat, revealing to me the nature of the reality behind it. But the reality behind it was so different from the phenomenal world, that I couldn’t use language to describe it. That is, I could not find words. I can’t say I saw X, Y, Z – here inserting some semantic associative. And I’ve taken about 300,000 words of notes on it, and done tremendous research. Because I feel if it happened to me it must have happened to somebody else. I can’t be the only person in the entire history of human consciousness to have ever seen the world as it really is. I’ve discovered, for instance, that Plotinus, the neo-Platonist, had this experience. That some of the Sufi have had this experience. And some of the Christian Mystics, like Origen, have had this experience. And Driesch, the German vitalist philosopher, and Bergson. I find indications in India, especially in the Hindu religion, in Brahmanism. Emerson appears to have had this experience. Wordsworth appears to have had this experience. And it doesn’t resemble anything, very closely, that I’ve ever read by even such people as the father of Alexandria. You know, it’s a little like Plato. That is why I gave the image of watching a play. You can say it’s similar to Plato’s image of the pictures shown on the walls of the cave.
In three and a half years of reflecting on my experience and doing research, all I have learned is that it has something to do with time, that apparently time is not what we think it is. It’s something else. There’s a new Soviet theory about time, by Kozyrev, Dr. Nikolai Kozyrev, the great Soviet astrophysicist. His theory is that time has an energy, that it’s the primary energy of the universe. He says time is an energy poured into a material system and the material system is the universe. Well, apparently what happened is I got rephased in terms of linear time in such a way that, instead of linear time flashing by me like the frames in a movie projector flash by, I got past the progressiveness of linear time and saw things outside of their temporal progressions.
I saw this image one day in a vision whilst meditating – a giant Amitabha Buddha in a city, with a huge cosmos behind, so I thought i’d mock it up. Turned out well.