Thursday, November 12, 2009


For this talk I’m going to enlarge, and combine, a couple of previous talks because they closely relate to one other. Well, that’s a redundancy, because everything in Zen relates to everything else. Anyway, the subjects are Walking Meditation, and Absorption.

Essentially, walking meditation, ki-hin in Japanese, is a physical break from zazen, sitting meditation. It’s also a check on your concentration.
Can your mind remain quiet when you go from sitting to standing to walking? Can you continue meditating without feeling self-conscious about moving around? Can you walk and meditate without worrying about whether you’re doing everything right?
Remember, in Zen there is no right or wrong.
Ki-hin is a step along the way of being able to fully engage in meditation while sitting, or standing, or walking, or carrying on your daily activities.
Ki-hin is zazen in motion.
It is a link between sitting meditation and maintaining constant, clear awareness in everyday life.
Walking meditation is not a challenging procedure. Fold your hands on your solar plexus. Stand straight, and look down and forward at about a forty-five degree angle. Place one foot ahead of the other by about half a length. Transfer your weight to the forward foot. Move the rear foot forward and transfer your weight.
Oh, yes, and keep your eyes open so you don’t collide with someone, or else with a wall. I’ve seen it happen.
Breathe easily, regularly, and in time to your steps. Continue to meditate. Be in physical and mental balance all the time. Be aware, without thinking about being aware.
Move like flowing water.

Samadhi is a Sanskrit term that means total absorption. It is used in Hinduism and in Yoga, under slightly different connotations. We won’t go into them because that might confuse the issue.
Just now, the issue is Zen.
Samadhi is a concept often encountered in Zen, but not always in other forms of Buddhism. In Zen it refers to clearing the mind of all thoughts during meditation.
There is a story of a surgeon performing a delicate procedure in Japan. A severe earthquake rocks the operating theater, but the lights remain on. Nurses and attendants are terrified and run out of the operating room, but the surgeon continues with his work.
Later, when the surgeon was told of the earthquake, it was the first he knew of it.
He had been so engrossed in what he was doing, he was oblivious of everything going on around him. He was in a state of samadhi.
When we are in this state we are forgetful of ourselves. Nothing in the world around us affects us.
Still, even though we are unflappable and totally dedicated to what we are doing, we are not shut down. Our mental switch is not in the “off” position. Our intellectual lights are not out. We are occupied completely, yet we are altogether aware of everything. Sounds, lights, temperatures. We are aware of all that but not affected by it.
Samadhi is essential to Zen meditation, yet I hesitate even mentioning it because someone might interpret it as something to strive for. And when we strive too much to gain something—as I have mentioned in other talks—we tend to get in our own way and hinder ourselves.
I mention samadhi only because the word pops up in Zen writings.
Now that I have mentioned it, forget it.
If you are doing meditation well, you will be totally absorbed without realizing it, and without trying. The knack is to be aware of your absorption without thinking about it or making an issue of it.


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