The magic of zazen

From Pratiksha Apurv's desk

One of the greatest gifts from the Buddha, zazen, is not a meditation technique; it simply means sitting silently and doing nothing, writes Pratiksha Apurv. Published in ‘Speaking Tree’ on June 8, 2019.

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Zazen Painting

Eastern spiritualism provides hundreds of paths and techniques to attain enlightenment. All these processes have prescribed dos and don’ts. There are several meditation techniques that a seeker applies to taste the joy of godliness. These efforts require passion and steadfastness.

However, there is one simple, yet subtle, way of encountering one’s true Self. It is not a skill but a phenomenon that was born in India during the Buddha’s period; it subsequently disappeared before it was rediscovered in Japan. It is called zazen, but is globally known as zen meditation. Actually, it is not a meditation and not an import from Japan.

The word ‘zen’ has its source from the Sanskrit word ‘dhyana’, which changed to chan in China with the spread of Buddhism, and subsequently after the Buddha’s message reached Japan, chan became ‘zen’. Some years after the Buddha’s death, India was deprived of some wonderful gifts wrapped in his messages, while other countries like Japan, China, Sri Lanka and Korea openly embraced them.

Zazen is one of those flowers of the Buddha that blossomed all over Asia.

Although, it can be sourced back to dhyana, zazen is not a meditation method. It simply means sitting silently and doing nothing. Zazen is not a procedure and should not be included in the category of meditation because there are no efforts to chant a mantra or concentrate on breathing.

Zazen is simply sitting and diving deep within. Even the remembrance of breathing is gone. There is no thought, no ripples or vibration in the mind. One can just sit silently on a riverbank or a beach and let the grace of existence slowly start showering.

In Japan, monks live in the state of zazen at sunrise when the birds are up and about. Slowly the state of zazen takes over the entire 24 hours like uninterrupted rain. They not only encounter the true Self, but also attain the highest level of consciousness.

Dwelling upon the Self, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says: “Tadaitpreya putraat, preyo vittat, preyonyasmatsarvasmat antartaram yadaymatma – The Self is more dear than a son, more dear than wealth and this innermost is dearer than everything else. Only emptiness can be total, and Self can be realised only in complete absence of all doing, including thinking.”

I have tried to depict this beautiful state of being in utter silence through my painting Zazen. It is beyond concentration and chanting of mantras. It does not even require a meditation hall. That is why I have shown a child, sitting silently outside the meditation hall in absolute bliss and looking at the moon in total silence.

Zazen is simply looking into the mirror. The silence is penetrating and the journey back to the Source is manifested in the blissful peace. In the continuous journey of search for oneself, zazen gives more lucidity.

This is one of the great gifts of the Buddha. After searching for almost six years and using a variety of methods, he ultimately found it in utter emptiness under the Bodhi tree. And, we must remember, only emptiness can become a mirror, and our mind is full of all kinds of dust and thoughts, and cannot truly reflect our Self. Only when all thoughts disappear and mind is absolutely empty, the true reflection of innermost nothingness is possible. The falsely identified ‘I’ disappears, and a mirror-like emptiness remains, just like the moon reflects in the lake.

Kabir terms the mind as a mirror when he says, “Darshan karna chahiye, toh darpan malte rahiye/ Darpan mein lag gai kaai, toh daras kaha se paiye – If one wishes to see the true Self, one has to clean the mirror (mind) again and again. If the mirror is full of dust, it’s impossible to see the reflection of one’s true Self.”

Osho says zazen is a deep ‘unoccupiedness’, which literally means not doing anything outwardly, not doing anything inwardly, and making no effort to even meditate, because the very effort to meditate creates ripples and vibrations, and sitting becomes corrupted.

In Osho’s own words, “It’s a state of non-doing. It does not mean that you are fast asleep, because sleep is a doing. It does not mean that you are dead, because if you are dead you cannot just sit. It simply means that you are tremendously alive, intensely alive, a fire of being, but not moving anywhere – a reservoir of energy in a deep awaiting. You are just waiting for something to happen, not even expecting, because expectation will again create a ripple of thought and the mind will start functioning. Everything is suspended.”

In the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, “Apuryamaham achalapratishtham, samudram apah pravishanti yadvat, tadvat kama yam pravishanti sarve sa shantim apnoti na kama-kami – Just like the sea, which is not bothered or distressed by the constant stream of waters from many rivers merging into it, similarly, the seeker, who is not disturbed and remains unaffected, despite the flow of desires each passing moment, attains peace.”

This is the essence of emptiness. The merging of a river into the ocean in harmony, like a dewdrop disappearing with the first sunrays, in total innocence.

Doings of the mind have to dissipate and when they are gone, the mind disappears. In that very state of zazen one can have a glimpse of enlightenment. One can dive into one’s own being like waking up from a dream to Self-realisation.

Quote by Osho from
Come Follow to You, Vol 4, Q 5

Pratiksha Apurv

Pratiksha Apurv is a painter and writer. She lives and works in Pune.

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