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Is Awakening Itself Considered a Samadhi State?

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Is Awakening Itself Considered a Samadhi State?

Postby desert_woodworker on Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:13 pm

Dear teachers,

I wonder if Awakening (the state of Awakening, actually, while it persists) is itself considered a samadhi state, in the Ch'an-, Zen-, Son-, or Thien-Buddhist traditions. Or, something distinctly different? Experientially, it's different from samadhi states, but each of the samadhi states (jhanas, say) also differ, one from the other, experientially. Perhaps the state of awakening is a NINTH jhana? (or not). ;)

I experienced on retreat that it required samadhi to break-up suddenly before my open eyes for the awakened state to suddenly dawn. And, while still on retreat, and at home afterwards for a long while, 2 1/2 months, it was only necessary to sit for 10-15 seconds -- even outdoors in a busy city park -- for a samadhi state to come on again, everything would suddenly become golden, and one could sit a very long time. This practice seemed to be a nourishment to the awakened state, and allowed it to persist for months. This was in that 2 1/2 month interval when there continued to be no mind, no motion of mind, no thoughts, and no motion of objects in the environment.

It's a technical question. I don't know who may have an answer. I don't know if this is something that may ever have been studied with scientific methods and tools. But is perhaps the state of awakening a "ninth" jhana? It's our original face, our original nature, and contains all our original human inheritances... . But I'm just now curious as to whether it is ever considered a samadhi state, in which of course we live our daily life and carry out all our ordinary business, work, and life.

thank you,

--Joe
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Re: Is Awakening Itself Considered a Samadhi State?

Postby Guo Gu on Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:00 am

joe,

awakening is not samādhi--at least not in the sense of samādhi as altered states of consciousness. awakening in buddhism is the absence of altered state of consciousness, self-grasping, and hence vexations. what you have experienced is considered a post-awakening samādhi or oneness. it is not the traditional eight levels of jhana or samādhi in the buddhist literature (more on that below) but the aftermath residue of seeing the self-nature. the literature does, however, speak of a ninth samādhi as a cessation concentration or nirodha-samāpatti. but this is not what you have experienced; nirodha-samāpatti actually refers to all extinction of conscious activity and selfhood... it is a form of liberation (of nirvana) through samādhi.

usually those who gain only a glimpse of seeing self-nature do not experience what you have described because it is so shallow that, for all intended purposes, shouldn't even be counted as seeing self-nature. the self comes right back and the experience becomes a source of attachment (usually) or at best just a vague memory. the only thing one get out of such experience is confidence in the dharma. it has no effect on vexations. shifu used to call it, "a blind cat catching a dead mouse."

those who have experienced self-nature in a substantial way (relatively speaking) will also experience an accompanying residue of loosing the self-grasping from weeks, to a month, or two months, or sometimes longer. in this state, self-grasping is so minimal that it is imperceptible... where self and the world are not two. notions of motion and stillness don't apply; just peace, clarity, and joy--no vexations or self-referentiality at all. in the midst of activities, it is as if not a single thing has been done--but everything one is supposed to do is done. when interacting with others, all is peace and others feel your peace. however, the self is still subtlety there.

btw, the experience of self-nature must be verified by a qualified teacher. reading my words and descriptions of post-awakening samādhi, one's mind might play tricks and make one believe that one has indeed experienced awakening. a teacher can see through delusions and neurosis, and verify what has happened. there are ever deeper awakening experiences beyond what i've described as "substantial awakening." a qualified teacher is so important on the path. otherwise one can easily mistaken meager glimpses for genuine awakening... mistaken "fish eye for pearls."

in my mid twenties, mid-90s, when i experienced my first seeing the self-nature and experienced a couple of months of this oneness, i spoke to shifu about it, he said that this was the aftermath of seeing self-nature, but it must be nourished (even though practice seemed seamless and unnecessary). he also said that this was an approximate of what is meant in chan (platform scripture) and mahayana buddhism by the "union of samādhi and prajñā" (concentration and wisdom), that the two are inseparable in nature. he said "approximate" because the self is actually still there. but to answer your other question, it is possible to carry out one's day-to-day business in awakening, and be always in this state. the buddha is supposed to be always in samādhi, the kind that is in union with prajñā. many mahayana scriptures speak of this, which is at a whole other level. the post-awakening samādhi you experienced is just an aftermath, residue of seeing self-nature.

it is crucial that one continues to practice, lest one's self-grasping returns and thinks that practice is literally unnecessary. i didn't (couldn't) listen to him at the time and it ultimately brought me to my downfall, and it took me a long time to get back into the swing of things on the path.

during our conversation, he also spoke of the samādhi states discussed in the buddhist treatises, how they don't usually correlate to actual experience. after that initial experience, he would ask me to cultivate samādhi and observe how to get into it and come out of it. i've learned that samādhi states are really altered states of consciousness. pre- and post-awakening samādhi are also qualitatively different. post-awakening samādhi states are naturally infused with selflesness or rather diminished self-grasping, so the boundaries of self and noself is blurred, and hence the path one takes no longer follow the jhana/samādhi outlined in the buddhist treatises. later (in grad school) i would learn how those premodern buddhist treatises were actually just forms of literary scholarship for commentators. their descriptions took on a life of their own (i.e., buddhist treatises were themselves a literary genre that followed rules and tropes) and have limited bearing on actual experience, which varied widely and deeply according to practitioners and their conditions. in other words, the descriptions therein are not clear "road maps" or signposts of samādhi at all! and practitioners who says that "oh i was in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd jhana" are just kidding themselves. the states detailed in the treatises are at best abstract placeholders for infinitely varied states of mind.

mind's nature has no stages or paths. all stages are, in a way, altered states of consciousness. in other words, delusion. this is one reason why chan/zen speaks of awakening as where the course of the mind is cut off. one only roam and play in samādhi (delusion) so as to be able to guide sentient beings and use delusion to eradicate delusion. that's all.

going forward, it is crucial that one doesn't take any experience, awakening included, as anything special. i've learned that even multiple awakenings do not guarantee non-regression on the path. we have to just practice and don't look back. abide by precepts, lest one loses the way.

maybe these useless words have answered your queries.

be well,
guo gu

p.s. will call soon.
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
http://www.tallahasseechan.org/
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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Re: Is Awakening Itself Considered a Samadhi State?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:20 pm

Guo Gu,

Thank you for your very generous and considered reply. I appreciate your taking the time and energy to give such consideration.

I'm really gratified, too, to read the things you pass along about what our Shih Fu had said on various points. I feel as if I've just had a meeting with BOTH of you. :heya:

I'll write more in a while in response to a few points. But I'd like you to have this thank-you as soon as possible, (sometimes it takes a few days for posts to the Teacher area to clear the Admins).

Thank you profusely and very kindly!,
and I'll follow-up some more here, soon.

:Namaste:,

--Joe

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Re: Is Awakening Itself Considered a Samadhi State?

Postby Guo Gu on Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:16 am

joe,
it's all good (iag).
for those samadhi experiences, sometimes ppl have them leading up to seeing self-nature, sometimes it's an aftermath of awakening.
i'm off to st. louis for a retreat so won't be online but post your follow questions and i'm sure other teachers will chime in anyway.
be well,
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
http://www.tallahasseechan.org/
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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