An odd thing happened today in my sangha. During our dharma talk I found out that the notion or teaching of Zen Masters being able to self-induce (or create for themselves) a feeling of euphoria, bliss, joy, or as they called it… rapture is considered an acceptable (and most desirable) ascertainment for those having achieved a certain level of enlightenment. I had no idea.
The odd part is that this seemingly contradicts everything we have been reading in our book group on avoiding “spiritual materialism“, and what I had just finished reading before I went to the sangha on the concept of Makyo.
Makyo are the phenomena–visions, hallucinations, fantasies, revelations, illusionary sensations–which one practicing zazen is apt to experience at a particular stage in his sitting. Ma means ‘devil’ and ‘kyothe objective world.’ Hence makyo are the disturbing or ‘diabolical’ phenomena which appear to one during zazen.
Although these things may not be inherently “bad” they are seen as obstacles and distractions from the true practice. Some people have visions, see things, hear things, can induce states of bieng or emotions, think they can control things, think they see into the future, black out, white out, think they see through objects… whatever. However, an unlearned practitioner will mistake these things for satori experiences, or things to be sought-after or desired…. mistaking them as gifts that were attained and that are to be used. All this really does though is add to our delusion, distract us from meditation, further objectify things, and hurts our process. In Zen one should seek no such things, and if-and-when they do arise we should see them for what they really are. See them as “Humph. That was interesting. Now go away so I can get back to really meditating!”
So since I just got done reading about this (Makyo) and now was listening to all the cool mental tricks an enlightened being can do due to their higher levels of concentration; such as altered states of consciousness, creating their reality, causing certain things into being by their willpower, and self-induced euphoria… I had to question it. My question was simple: “Why would an enlightened person even want to self-induce a feeling of rapture?”
Think it out some. It implies that the Master is finding him or herself in a mental state that they deem undesirable: I feel ______ and I do not like feeling this way. It then implies that the Master decides that they would rather feel a different way instead so uses their mental capabilities to create that positive feeling for themselves to enjoy. However, as part of the practice do we not strive for reality? To be in and aware of the present moment? Don’t we stay away from objectifying one thing as good and another as bad? How is this not delusion and clinging? Wouldn’t a novice to Zen be aware of the undesirable feelings and come to terms with them as a reality to be embraced? Furthermore a Master should take it a step further and realize that there really is no bad feeling and there is no euphoria… both are objectification, clinging, self… transitory and unreal. So why would a Master instead of moving towards no object pursue creating for himself an object that he desires or likes above another?
I can’t believe that this is a common practice or desire in all Buddhist sects; atleast I hope it isn’t, because I want nothing to do with this part of it. I want reality… cold, hard, truth. I ask for nothing more.
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