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Enlightenment and the Zen Ox Herding Images
Among the various formulations of the levels of realization in Zen, none is more widely known than the Oxherding Pictures, a sequence of ten illustrations annotated with comments in prose and verse. It is probably because of the sacred nature of the ox in ancient India that this animal came to be used to symbolize man's primal nature or Buddha-mind.
The original drawings and the commentary that accompanies them are both attributed to Kuo-an Shih-yuan (Kakuan Shien), a Chinese Zen master of the twelfth century, but he was not the first to illustrate the developing stages of Zen realization through pictures. Earlier versions of five and eight pictures exist in which the ox becomes progressively whiter, the last painting being a circle. This implied that the realization of Oneness (that is, the effacement of every conception of self and other) was the ultimate goal of Zen. But Kuo-an, feeling this to be incomplete, added two mo
re pictures beyond the circle to make it clear that the Zen man of the highest spiritual development lives in the mundane world of form and diversity and mingles with the utmost freedom among ordinary men, whom he inspires with his compassion and radiance to walk in the Way of the Buddha. It is this version that has gained the widest acceptance in Japan, has proved itself over the years to be a source of instruction and unfailing inspiration to Zen students, and is presented here, as explained on page xvi, with modern ink-and-brush paintings by Gyokusei Jikihara.
I’m sitting here at 6:50 AM on Wednesday morning with a bright red sun raising up into the sky. This could be the fifth morning of the Enlightenment Intensive as I sit waiting for the meditation room to fill with your Presence, Love and Strength. The sun light is beginning to stream bright through the windows waiting to greet our morning contemplations on the truth of our Self. It’s a very still and very quiet contemplative morning.
I hear the echoes of previous days….”Choose a partner to work with. At your first opportunity communicate what you became conscious of during sleeping contemplation……Tell me who you are.”
Our Enlightenment Intensive formally completed several days ago and by now we are all settling back into our daily routines. A few years ago I wrote how to could bring enlightened living into daily life. If you want to read that click the image below.
The next Enlightenment Intensive will be:
29 June - 5 July 2018
Want more info? Click here.
The Enlightenment Intensive was born when Charles Berner brought together three personal development traditions, Zen sessions (which were Buddhist meditation retreats), Ramana Maharshi’s self enquiry ‘who am I’ meditation and the Relating Dyad Communication Technique. If you want to read more of the history of the Enlightenment Intensive, click here.
A couple of years later Berner published a colourful little informational and promotional booklet to explain enlightenment and the Enlightenment Intensive. Here’s what was written on the first page of that booklet:
Enlightenment literally means to put light onto so one can be conscious of what one has set out to experience.
Enlightenment is the direct experience of the truth.
In the case of self enlightenment, it is the direct experience of the truth of you.
By direct experience is meant, by no way or via. Not by seeing, thinking, believing, deciding, reasoning, feeling, or any way 'by way of'.
Direct experience of the truth is Enlightenment.
Many years later Charles Berner wrote in Consciousness of Truth that:
“Enlightenment is consciousness of a state of direct knowledge of yourself as you truly are.
When we think of how we know something, we usually think of consciously receiving information through our senses and processing it with our brains. Direct knowledge (Direct Experience), however, does not involve consciousness, the senses, or the brain. Direct knowledge is very much like this dictionary deﬁnition of intuition: ‘the power of the mind by which it immediately perceives the truth of things without reasoning or analysis; immediate knowledge in contrast with mediate (indirect, dependent) knowledge.’
The difference between direct knowledge as it is used here and intuition is that intuition is a power of the mind to know things in or of the world, and direct knowledge is a power of the actual individual by which one knows actual individuals.
The experience of direct knowledge is one of just knowing, like the way that you know anything that requires no thought process – your own name, for instance, or where the kitchen is in your house, or how to ride a bicycle. However, direct knowledge differs from these examples in that each of them has had a prior history of learning before entering the realm of intuitive knowledge, whereas the intrinsic, fundamental ability of each of us to directly know is timeless. It is exercised in the eternal realm of the true individual.”
Want to read more from Consciousness of Truth, Click Here.
Here’s some very insightful and inspirational feedback and comments from Gitesha, Lany, Mattice, Prem and Jim. If you haven’t yet sent me any comments and observations from the Enlightenment Intensive you can still do so and I will add it to the follow up letter and re-post it.
I wanted to say a big thank you to you all for being so nice and quiet during my resting periods, so that not even the incy winciest rustling disturbed my deep contemplation-meditation-sleepy-rest…and my awakening!
Such a JOY to be amongst soul brothers and sisters gnawing away on the ropes that hold shut the trapdoors to the Infinite!
Such a BLISS to serve God in serving each other!
Such a PLEASURE to witness life unfolding moment after moment in the midst of US.
What I AM??
I am one with the task that is asking to be attended to.
I am one with the hand that stirs the pot, and with the other hand that holds the lid.
With the fire under the pot keeping it warm and transforming the myriad of ingredients into a melting meal mass.
I am the ear that listens for the bell in the other room.
I am the fragrantly flavoured scent that lingers so temptingly in the air.
I am the ladle that completes the set up on the serving table,
that ladle that lies there patiently awaiting the hand of another, many others,
so it too can be of service by filling the plate that provides loving sustenance for the one entering into eating contemplation,
which whom I am One as well….I am One with him and with her and with them and with ME…
And as I communicate this in writing,
I notice that I am also these two forefingers so eagerly feeling their way to the right letters on this keyboard,
so that what’s written can be read
and received by the eyes of the many
who are ME in endless variety of individual uniqueness
and who may use what is said here
as another stepping stone into the Infinite, to that marvellous infinite Allness, that IS, always has been and always will be!
With Love and Gratitude
Another amazing enlightenment intensive. The deeper I go, the intimacy of looking into another's eyes and connecting without mind in the way is the most divine way to relate.
What you keep inside will destroy you. Liberation is communicating and by communicating to someone who will recieve you in a non judgmental way it will get dissolved out of the body mind. enlightenment intensives wow
What an amazing experience. The English language just isn’t rich enough for me to describe to you what happened, or how good I feel. To cut a long story short I didn’t want to leave. You are right, that moment in a dyad - it is my home. And I can't wait to go back!
Greetings brother !! I want to share my experience of my enlightenment inrensive. In this cold morning air my fingers are cold and trembling my body shaking with prana. This prana is the sense i have of myself ,my connection with life and living. I am a hollow reed .To be with self , to open , is a blessing .Thanks to everyone for the wonderful gifts of love , those transcendant moments when fear dissolves . Much love Prem
The Transition from will to surrender at an Enlightenment Intensive
I would like to write about what happens for me at the transition point between doing a wilful technique and then having surrender take over in a substantial way on an Enlightenment Intensive. Before I get into this, I would like to tell you a few insights that I've had about will versus surrender. These insights usually happen and also get clearer at this transition point between the two. The first insight is that using the personal will is simply the presence of a 'me' being in control and being the doer. There is nothing more to it than this. Both being in control and being the doer are deep impurities in the body, mind and feelings. Its unlikely that such deep impurities will be vanquished forever by attending an EI, but quite likely that there will be a temporary de-identification from them during a dyad leading to substantial surrender taking over. What I mean by substantial surrender taking over is that one is no longer experiencing that there is a 'me' who is the doer or controller of the body, mind and feelings. There are, of course, shallow forms of surrender where doer-ship and the controller are still somewhat in place, but are in the process of being de-identified from and/or purified. That's not what I mean by substantial surrender in this case.
In substantial surrender, actions still happen, but they occur spontaneously without the perception or experience that an 'I' is doing it. Right at the point when this substantial surrender has 'grabbed hold' of the body, mind and feelings, the second insight that comes is that there was no will used to begin with. In other words, there is no such thing as a personal will. That is, being the doer and being the controller are not only impurities, but they are also an illusion. One is in effect under the 'cosmic spell' that one is using one's will when all along everything was happening spontaneously out of It's own power to act. This brings up the question, “Why call the enlightenment technique a wilful technique to begin with?”. My answer to this is so that a distinction can be made between when the illusion of the doer and the controller are in place and when they are not in place as in the case of actual surrender. Since this particular impurity is a very deep one for most of us on the planet and is most often happening for us, it can be useful to make a distinction between will and surrender.
Now that I've described these insights, I'll go onto talking about the experiences I've had at the transition point between will and surrender. When using my will, I perceive that I am the one doing the enlightenment dyad technique. I am the one contemplating. I am the one sitting opposite my partner. I am the one being the listening partner and I am the one being the communicating partner. Yet, at the transition point between will and surrender, all this changes. Who or what is contemplating and doing the technique? If not me, then how is it happening? The revelation that has dawned upon me is that the collective non-physical 'field' that appears as the Enlightenment Intensive is doing the technique through each and every one of the EI participants. It was always so to begin with.
When a glass of ice is taken from the North Pole and then transported to a warm and tropical environment, the ice turns to water to match its environment. The atoms and molecules in the glass of ice begin to behave or act differently in the tropics. They start vibrating to match the vibration in the warmer environment, and sooner or later, the ice appears to change into water. Yet in essence, its still the same ice. It is only the appearance that has changed. In the same way, sooner or later the will turns into surrender at an EI, or so it seems. It is the same molecules and atoms, but now they are aligned with the new non-physical field they are associated with at an EI. So then, why is it that some participants thaw out into a state of surrender quicker than others? Well, you can think of the impurities of doer-ship and control in the body, mind and feelings as insulated layers of foam surrounding the glasses of ice. Each glass has a varying thickness of foam around it than other glasses. Therefore each glass of ice will thaw out at a different rate much like layers of impurites temporarily peel off at different rates by EI participants de-identifiying from them.
I'd now like to finish off by telling you the personal ramifications of these experiences and insights. One ramification of realising that it is the non-physical field manifesting as the EI that is doing the technique and not me is that it allows me to relax sooner that part of the mind that exerts force to do the technique. Ultimately, I'm not doing the technique anyway, so its a very good start to at least soften and ease all tension about doing it from the very beginning. In the place of using force and firm brainpower to do the technique, I increased my surrender to and faith in the collective non-physcial presence that is the EI. Could that non-physical field 'take care' of me as a participant to such a degree that it did the technique for me? The revelation so far is a definite 'yes'. And boy, does the EI field do a good job at doing the technique. Hello surrender.