A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practicing without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.
A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practising without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.
Kensho is a Zen Buddhist word, used primarily in the Rinzai Zen traditions. A pretty good definition by Barbara over at AboutReligion.com here
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
A highly speculative and philosophical answer (that's what I do professionally, I'm a philosopher): A German philosopher Immanuel Kant thought that our experiences and perceptions are always (and necessarily so) organized by what he called "transcendental categories". For example, we perceive things as unified objects separated from other objects and ourselves (i.e., beings who perceive those objects), these objects are located in space, change in time, are caused by something else, and so on and so forth. He thought all of this is a matter of necessity, and not just psychological tendencies common for humans, Thus, he thought we perceive everything "filtered" by these categories.
So far as I can understand, it is possible to have an "experience" or a "conscious state" that is not organized by these or other categories. When it happens, the content of consciousness is not an object separate from other objects, located in time and space, cause by something, and so on. Once these categories are strip away, we sort of "see" in a non-dualistic matters (because there is not separation of one object from the others, or from ourselves, and so on). That's kensho or, when it is deep, satori.
So, it would seem, we add a lot to our perceptions. E.g., seeing things as located in space-time (and so on), seems to be a sort of our "addition". For there is no necessity to perceive anything as mediated through those or other categories.
It is a very liberating and transformative experience. Lots of worries and angst are frequently resolved (or dissolved) through kensho. So, it is frequently accompanied by various feelings of bliss or elation, etc. But it's not the same as those feelings.
Several Zen books have chapters in which people report an describe how it was and what it felt like when they had kensho / satori. Both "The Tree Pillars of Zen" by Philip Kapleau and "Zen Training" by Katsuki Sekida have such chapters.
Last edited by A Philosopher on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Kensho is to see one's self-nature, and to have one's way of experiencing changed.
Coincidentally, I've been re-reading Albert Low's elegant book on Hakuin's "Four Ways of Knowing of an Awakened Person", entitled HAKUIN ON KENSHO -- THE FOUR WAYS OF KNOWING (2006), Shambhala. Low, a Zen Buddhist teacher in Kapleau Roshi's line and guiding-teacher at Montreal Zen Centre, notes in the Introduction to the book:
"Kensho is not an experience. With kensho, the way we experience is changed fundamentally. With kensho, the sleeping, creative intelligence is awakened, and at the same time the deeply engrained belief in the opposition between 'the world' and 'me' melts away." (Ibid., p. 12).
Low makes a point in the same Introduction to distinguish samadhi from kensho.
I think that other experienced practitioners also know this distinction clearly, and certainly recognize that, "With kensho, the way we experience is changed fundamentally." This changed way of experiencing continues throughout all the hours of the day, and does not have to do with the experience of sitting in zazen, although it was zazen and the Baker's Do-zen of other Zen Buddhist practices which prepared the way for kensho.
Low's slim book is a very fine one, and I can recommend it.
It’s more like “letting go”.
It is awareness free of obsessive, compulsive thinking – free of random and habitual conscious mental activity (CMA). This leaves the mind full of profound peace-of-mind, joy or happiness – the common human goal. And (ultimately) contact with the void – a cool, calm, bright, boundless experience of no intrinsic value. Its just mental gymnastics giving you abnormal and sometimes debilitating extreme states of mind.
The great treasure of Zen is the access it gives you to ordinary everyday happiness. For although CMA is absolutely essential in living our lives, it plays no part in our being happy.
Here is the reason why:.
1/ Solving problems and satisfying appetites demands efficient use of conscious mental activity. (CMA) We must think to survive.
2/ Once the problems are solved etc. CMA has completed its invaluable role and (ideally) we abstain from further using it, for the time being. Let it go.
3/ Simultaneously once our problems are solved etc. we feel content, fulfilled, happy.
4/ From 2/ and 3/ it becomes apparent that a reduction in CMA actually produces a feeling of happiness.
5/ It follows that practicing abstaining from CMA will produce higher and higher degrees of the feeling .
6/ To get our just and proper reward for our successful actions we must confine CMA to its specific role.
That is what the Buddha meant when he said:
Nirvana is the extinction of dukkha.(obsessive thinking - random and habitual CMA)
No, kensho is not a feeling. There are feelings that come in the aftermath of kensho which are usually called bliss, joy, gratitude, astonishment, etc. But kensho itself is not the feelings that arise "in its wake" so to speak.
"Submitting" or "giving in" or "giving up" are ways that people try to describe the prodromal state of kensho. Dogen called this sense of "giving in" by the label "dropping body, dropping mind." It is not a condition that can be willed intentionally, which is why some Zen teachers say that kensho is like an accident and the best we can do with intentionality is to try to make our selves accident prone through our practice. "Giving in" or "submitting" are useful practice guides, because as our awareness approaches kensho there is a deep seated sense of danger or fear as we face the loss of our self-image, and as assistance at the "tipping point" of kensho a firm faith in "giving in" is required just before we "step off the 100 foot pole."
The rationale behind saying that "submitting" or "giving in" can't be done as an act of will is that "submitting" or "giving in" means to give up the notion of and attachment to our self-image, and an intentional attempt to "submit" or "give in" would itself be an affirmation of that attachment to self-image. That is the essential conundrum of Zen. Other religions say to "submit" to the "will of God" but from the Zen perspective, this is a second rate submission as it does not address the fundamental question of what is "will," whether characterized as the will of our "self-mage" or the will of our "God-image."
In basic outline, kensho (seeing nature) is the transformation of consciousness (vijnana) into wisdom (jnana). Note that the difference in the two words in Sanskrit is that consciousness has the prefix "vi" which means "divided." The divided knowingness of consciousness, i.e., the dualistic structure of consciousness, is based on the bifurcating activity of antithetical conceptualization of the interplay of the 6th and 7th consciousnesses. In kensho our awareness "pierces the veil" of its illusion of separation by a direct realization of the so-called 8th storehouse consciousness (alaya-vijnana) dropping the illusion of self. In this direct realization called "seeing the nature," our bifurcated ideational structure of consciousness is transformed into an active "participation mystique" of wisdom, that is non-dualistic "jnana" without the dualism created by the "vi," or dividedness of our previous view of self-consciousness based on our "self-image." Another way of saying this is that consciousness without self is no longer self-consciousness and becomes the knowingness of wisdom. Still another way of saying this is that the nature of consciousness and the nature of wisdom are the same nature, but consciousness sees the nature as separate while wisdom just sees the nature.
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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