Sunday, November 3, 2013

D.T. Suzuki - Satori

Art  Aum ega

The following six points on Satori are from D.T. Suzuki's An Introduction to Zen Buddhism


        1. People often imagine that the discipline of Zen is to produce
        a state of self-suggestion through meditation. This entirely
        misses the mark, as can be seen from the various instances cites
        above. Satori does not consist in producing a certain
        premeditated condition by intensely thinking of it. It is
        acquiring a new point of view for looking at things. Ever since
        the unfoldment of consciousness we have been led to respond to
        the inner and outer conditions in a certain conceptual and
        analytical manner. The discipline of Zen consists in upsetting
        this groundwork once for all and reconstructing the old frame on
        an entirely new basis. It is evident, therefore, that meditating
        on metaphysical and symbolic statements, which are products of the
        relative consciousness, play no part in Zen.

        2. Without the attainment of Satori no one can enter into the
        truth of Zen. Satori is the sudden flashing into consciousness of
        a new truth hitherto undreamed of. It is a sort of mental
        catastrophe taking place all at once, after much piling up of
        matters intellectual and demonstrative. The piling has reached a
        limit of stability and the whole edifice has come tumbling to the
        ground, when, behold, a new heaven is open to full survey. When
        the freezing point is reached, water suddenly turns into ice;
        the liquid has suddenly turned into a solid body and no
        more flows freely. Satori comes upon a man unawares, when he
        feels that he has exhausted his whole being. Religiously, it is a
        new birth; intellectually, it is the acquiring of a new viewpoint.
        The world now appears as if dressed in a new garment, which seems
        to cover up all the unsightliness of dualism, which is called
        delusion in Buddhist phraseology.

        3. Satori is the raison d'etre of Zen without which Zen is no
        Zen. Therefore every contrivance, disciplinary and doctrinal,
        is directed towards Satori. Zen masters could not remain patient
        for Satori to come by itself; that is, to come sporadically or at
        its own pleasure. In their earnestness to aid their disciples in
        the search after the truth of Zen their manifestly enigmatical
        presentations were designed to create in their disciples a state
        of mind which would more systematically open the way to
        enlightenment. All the intellectual demonstrations and
        exhortatory persuasions so far carried out by most religious and
        philosophical leaders had failed to produce the desired effect,
        and their disciples thereby had been father and father led
        astray. Especially was this the case when Buddhism was first
        introduced into China, with all its Indian heritage of highly
        metaphysical abstractions and most complicated systems of Yoga
        discipline, which left the more practical Chinese at the loss as
        to how to grasp the central point of the doctrine of Sakyamuni.
        Bodhidharma, the Sixth Patriarch Hui-neng, Baso, and other Chinese
        masters noticed the fact, and the proclamation and development of
        Zen was the natural outcome. By them Satori was placed above
        sutra-learning and scholarly discussions of the shastras and was
        identified with Zen itself. Zen, therefore, without Satori is
        like pepper without its pungency. But there is also such a
        thing as too much attachment to the experience of Satori, which
        is to be detested.

        4. This emphasizing of Satori in Zen makes the fact quite
        significant that Zen in not a system of Dhyana as practiced in
        India and by other Buddhist schools in China. By Dhyana is
        generally understood a kind of meditation or contemplation
        directed toward some fixed thought; in Hinayana Buddhism it was a
        thought of transiency, while in the Mahayana it was more often
        the doctrine of emptiness. When the mind has been so trained as
        to be able to realize a state of perfect void in which there is
        not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense of being
        unconscious having departed; in other words, when all forms of
        mental activity are swept away clean from the field of
        consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of every
        speck of cloud, a mere broad expense of blue, Dhyana is said to
        have reached its perfection. This may be called ecstasy or
        trance, or the First Jhana, but it is not Zen. In Zen there must be not just
        Kensho, but Satori. There must be a general mental upheaval which destroys
        the old accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for new
        life; there must be the awakening of a new sense which will
        review the old things from a hitherto undreamed-of angle of
        observation. In Dhyana there are none of these things, for it is
        merely a quieting exercise of mind. As such Dhyana doubtless has
        its own merit, but Zen must be not identified with it.

        5. Satori is not seeing God as he is, as might be contended by
        some Christian mystics. Zen has from the beginning made clear and
        insisted upon the main thesis, which is to see into the work of
        creation; the creator may be found busy moulding his universe, or
        he may be absent from his workshop, but Zen goes on with its own
        work. It is not dependent upon the support of a creator; when it
        grasps the reason for living a life, it is satisfied. Hoyen
        (died 1104) of Go-so-san used to produce his own hand and ask his
        disciples why it was called a hand. When we know the reason,
        there is Satori and we have Zen. Whereas with the God of mysticism
        there is the grasping of a definite object; when you have God,
        what is no-God is excluded. This is self-limiting. Zen wants
        absolute freedom, even from God. "No abiding place" means that
        very thing; "Cleanse your mouth when you utter the word Buddha"
        amounts to the same thing. It is not that Zen wants to be
        morbidly unholy and godless, but that it recognizes the
        incompleteness of mere name. Therefore, when Yakusan
        (aka Yaoshan Weiyan, Yueh-shan Wei-jen, 751-834)
        was asked to give a lecture, he did not say a word, but instead
        come down from the pulpit and went off to his own room. Hyakujo
        merely walked forward a few steps, stood still, and then opened
        his arms, which was his exposition of the great principle.
        See #5 below as well as Turiyatita.

        6. Satori is not a morbid state of mind, a fit subject for the
        study of abnormal psychology. If anything, it is a perfectly
        normal state of mind. When I speak of mental upheaval, one may be
        led to consider Zen as something to be shunned by ordinary
        people. This is a most mistaken view of Zen, but one
        unfortunately often held by prejudiced critics. As Joshu
        declared, "Zen is your everyday thought"; it all depends on the
        adjustment of the hinge whether the door opens in or opens out.
        Even in the twinkling of an eye the whole affair is changed and
        you have Zen, and you are as perfect and as normal as ever. More
        than that, you have acquired in the meantime something altogether
        new. All your mental activities will now be working to a
        different key, which will be more satisfying, more peaceful, and
        fuller of joy than anything you ever experienced before. The tone
        of life will be altered. There is something rejuvenating in the
        possession of Zen. The spring flowers look prettier, and the
        mountain stream runs cooler and more transparent. The subjective
        revolution that brings about this state of things cannot be
        called abnormal. When life becomes more enjoyable and its expense
        broadens to include the universe itself, there must be something
        in Satori that is quite precious and well worth one's striving


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Imagine that there is a valve in your head. When the valve is turned on there is satori. But the handle of the valve is very slippery - almost impossible to turn. However, if the pressure is built up sufficiently in the pipe leading to the valve, the valve is breached in an explosion of satori. In order for this to happen there must be faith/doubt and firm resolve. It must be a matter of life and death. Anything less than that will not be enough.