Those persons who had been practicing regular meditation had expressed the benefits of Dhyana. The procedure of meditation involved sitting on the floor with legs crossed in a squatting position. The posture was supposed to be straight and the head straight also. The eyes were supposed to be closed. The hands were to rest on the two knees. Palms upwards and forefingers of each hand to touch the thumb as shown in all the statues of the Buddha in meditation. It was difficult to close eyes and focus on the self.
There were constant distractions of sound and breathing. There was a temptation of looking at other class mates. The eyes wanted to open after short intervals. Constant effort could finally give an experience of some short p of silence from all directions. The void was reached after about an hour or so of concentration on the self. The thoughts interfered with the focus on the self. They wandered from person to person. They kept moving from the past to the present to the future events of life.
Insignificant people, places and incidents of life came before the eyes when closed for meditation. Trivial matters floated up in the mind and quickly swept out of the mind also. Faces of known and unknown people, class mates, girls and boys in and around, at parties, in the college canteen and in the apartment intruded the mind for no reasons at all. Sensations of hunger, craving for shopping, items on sale, dress in the window, make up, home, family, members, sad events and happy moments created a mixture of thoughts and feelings in the mind when it was trying to meditate.
The effort to meditate became difficult because of all these thoughts entering the space of mind. Concentration was impossible and it showed how we are totally occupied with matters which are not important throughout our lives where as meditation showed the way to take charge of our lives for a positive cause of progress of the self and not to waste it in trivial matters that we give so much importance in every day life. The aim of meditation can be achieved if we can focus on the self. Reach a void within. Ponder in that empty space every day.
And awaken to the meaning and purpose of our life on earth. Meditation is the means of understanding our true self. It is the way to remove our ignorance of our own self. It is the way to identify what we want; we should do in life in order to achieve our true aims in this birth. Meditation is the source, the cause and the effect of understanding our true self. Of removing the causes of our suffering and also of working towards a happy state of mind where our surroundings will cease to have control and effect over us.
The experience of meditation lead to the understanding of writings by Gishin Tokiwo, Zen views of suffering exactly as it showed how we suffer for unimportant things in life only because of our ignorance of the self, we do not know what we want and so we seek what is not what we wanted in the whole life. Assignment two- Individual Meditation Individual Meditation offered more tranquillity than classroom meditation. I found a quiet place in the area. I sat in the lotus position as per the instructions for posture of meditation. I took the necessary steps to be able to have a meditation without any disturbance from my surroundings.
I found individual meditation more effective than classroom meditation where I was conscious of myself and also aware that there were others watching me in the class. Thoughts of unwanted issues intruded my peace of mind. I shunned them aside so as to reach a state of total peace. I tried to achieve a status of void in my mind. I made attempts to stay in that hollow space for as much time as I could. The empty space inside, the state of thoughtlessness and the amount of energy I felt because of that short p of void gave me a feeling of happiness like never before.
Meditation in isolation gave me a chance to meet my inner self. It offered me a place of privacy I had never ever realised before. The focus on this empty space gave me an opportunity of knowing myself, getting introduced to the person I was and to learn about the person I was, in this emptiness. For a few minutes I had no thoughts of others but about my self only. Other people, their behaviour and the events around me did not matter but I was alone and very happy to be alone without anyone to bother me about any matter except the one that mattered to me most.
To know more of my self. I felt as though I was learning something without the need of books. It made me feel more confident about myself. Meditation gave me an insight about my inner strengths, my weaknesses, and my struggle to please others for no apparent reasons, my fears of failure and my feelings of insecurity in the society. Individual Meditation made me feel as though I was embodied with all the powers of survival in life. I felt better about my self. I got the courage to face my peers. I was not afraid of my results in the exams.
I was not feeling any fear for my failure and I could realise that these were only temporary phases of my life. I felt that I was not the only one feeling like this and meditation opened the doors to inner doors of more important issues of self than just appearance, money or results in exams. Individual Meditation as related to the teachings of the Zen, made me understand that we are the creators of our own sufferings. We are the ones who create our own problems. That we are the ones who are the cause of our own suffering.
The reason of our suffering is none other than ignorance of our own true self. Individual Meditation can unfold this mystery and lead us to awareness and knowledge which in turn would lead us to true nature of all human beings. That of supreme peace, freedom and fearlessness from all miseries of life. Meditation alone can lead us to the path leading to cessation of suffering. Meditation can open our minds and hearts to the knowledge that there are only four noble truths in life. They are desire, sin, evil and awakening of the self.
One who can achieve victory over these four truths has reached nirvana, salvation in life. It is through Meditation that awakening is possible. Awakening lead to emancipation of ignorance. Ignorance lead to cessation of suffering and this end of suffering lead to the ultimate aim of Nirvana of all souls according to the Zen teachings of Buddhism. We are all born to achieve nirvana from this cycle of death and birth as per the teachings of the Zen. Assignment 3- Eat without company, arouse consciousness. Solitude and isolation from near and dear ones helped to remove clutter from daily life.
We should endeavour to live with our self for some time of the day. Solitude helped me to connect to myself physically and mentally when I was without the company of friends. A simple activity like eating alone gave me so much information about my self and my behaviour that I had not realised before. It was as though I had never known myself at all. From the time I remember I was always surrounded by people at all times. Fearing to be left out of the crowd meant being lost to me. But after class meditation and individual meditation my perceptions had changed.
I was eating alone and I was feeling very comfortable with myself without the company of all the familiar people. Food never meant so important to me, it was only a means of filling up the stomach so I could carry on the whole day. But it meant so much more when I was having it alone. It meant important to me what I was consuming as it was a source of energy not just a matter of gobbling up contents. I had never paid so much attention to what I was eating, how it tasted, what it was made of, who made it, what could have been the process of making it and who all must have been involved in its making.
The depth of these questions came up to me only because I was eating alone. I was doing one thing at a time. I was fully focussed on it without the distractions of music, other people, without the serials or games on television. I was absorbed in the one activity of eating and it somehow gave me immense peace to do so. There was no disturbance of any sound while I sat and ate alone. I was looking at the food before me. I could smell the flavour of its ingredients. I could feel the taste without having put it in my mouth.
I could feel the actual pleasure of consuming it and identify the sound my fork and knife made when I was cutting it into pieces and finally eating the small morsels of the dish. I was living the moment and understanding every aspect of it in total solitude. It was lesson in details of the present moment and I realised the importance of living in it with full concentration rather than trying to do too many things at the same time. The experience of eating alone gave me a powerful realisation of how much there is to every action that we perform every day a million times of our lives and yet are not aware of it.
The experience gave me an awakening that I took everything important for granted and I wasted my time doing things that were not really so beneficial to my ultimate mental and physical growth and spiritual development like gobbling up food, watching too much television, keeping my ears filled with mp3 music all the time, keeping myself occupied with friends and their talks the whole day, browsing the internet for world wide information while I remained ignorant about my own self amidst so called technology, the pressure of studies and the company of my peers around me all the time. Eating alone was no different than meditation.
It clarified the readings of the Zen and Buddhism as it taught me that self concentration or Dhyana is the ultimate aim of reaching a state of perfect bliss. Self concentration was the means of achieving focus on the self. According to the Zen teachings of Buddhism, Samadhi is the way of connecting to the self within and this connection is the source of all energy to accomplish all tasks of importance to an individual self. The experience of eating alone, in solitude and in total peace opened the door to yet another realisation of self concentration and its welfare on human beings as a whole.
Assignment four- Washing dishes, alone. Washing dishes was a mundane chore of daily life. There was nothing so special about it. I would never have given it so much importance until I had the experience of eating alone. The immense pleasure and knowledge I gained by the previous experience inspired me to try to do things all by myself alone. I tried to pay attention to every little detail in the most ordinary situations like washing dishes. I had never realised that there was so much significance to doing simple errands in life.
But I got a strange insight into myself that every fraction of a moment spent in total concentration lead to freedom from it and liberated me from my own ignorance. A person who has attained freedom from worldliness is the tathagatha according to the Zen view of suffering. I had not thought that small things mattered so much to the wellbeing of a person and that they lead to the ultimate emancipation of our deeds. Washing dishes all alone, without the accompaniment of any artificial sound of music, but the flowing of water from the tap.
I had kept the television off so there was neither sight nor sound of television but I had total focus on the froth of soap in the sink. I watched my own hands move in beautiful systematic movements over the dirty dishes as though I was watching wonderful scenery from a window. The bubbles of soap created colours from no where and it seemed like magic to see them vanish one by one under the water. I saw the glass plates getting cleaned one by one and I could see the sparkle on them after washing. I saw my own fingers move over them as though they were not my own.
I was so engrossed in the effort that I had no other vision but that of my hands, the water, sink, soap and the dishes. I heard no other sound but that of the water flowing out of the tap, the subtle sound of soap and its bubbles and the clink of glass dishes which sounded better than any node of any musical instrument I had ever heard. I saw all this as though I was watching from a distance. I was aloof and I did not feel the presence of my own hands on my body. I was totally involved in the activity which made me realise the power of truth to the self. Nothing else mattered but my activity that very moment.
Everything looked beautiful even though it was nothing very extraordinary. I was at peace and I felt happy like never before. I had not felt like that in the best of moments with my friends in the best of parties I had ever attended. Washing dishes opened my inner eyes. Like the teachings of the Zen and view of suffering, I could feel the presence of an inner beauty in every little thing around me. I could sense a pride and pure pleasure in my simple actions. I could feel at peace with myself. I was totally free from pressures of performing my actions and the consequences it would bring upon me.
True to the teachings of Buddhism in the Zen and view of suffering, I felt as though I had been liberated from my ignorance of false pride – the ego. By doing simple actions with dignity gave me a feeling of self esteem. It liberated my false notion that washing dishes was an ugly unimportant boring action forced upon me by others or by demands of time when I lived alone. Just like the Maya represented unawakened beings, not free from worldliness, the womb as the source of self afflicting passions, I felt as though I was born again. I was out of the womb of my inhibitions.
I was born as a free minded person who had the power to break off from suffering. Washing dishes was a suffering till that day but it became a task of beauty, marvel and synchrony of my own body movements. My own hands and fingers gave me the feeling of capabilities of creating beautiful moments in my own life. Assignment five- un employed, un occupied, at attention in a Mall. Meditation awakened an insight into different types of self awareness. The technique of concentration could be practiced amidst crowds of strangers. The concepts of meditation can be practiced even when in a fully crowded area.
And that self awareness was possible even while standing was another lesson I learnt from this exercise with relation to the teachings of the Zen and Buddhism. I walked to the nearby Mall. The shops were flooded with people as it was a Sunday. There was brisk activity of people shopping, eating, and moving around with little children. There were a lot of sound, different types but loud and noisy atmosphere in the Mall. I stood there alone. Isolated. I looked absolutely different that any person present in the shopping place. I was not moving.
I had no shopping to do. I had no aim of meeting any one and I was all alone. Even in a crowd of people, I was all alone. I stood in the middle of everyone. They pushed me aside to make way to move. They said things to me while they did so. But I stood there undisturbed. Aloof. Un attached and un employed to any of the activities that would make me a part of the scene. I did not pretend to be a part of the world as I stood there in the Mall. I tried to connect to my inner self. It was a weird feeling at first. I could see that people gave me strange looks.
But I was steadfast in my intentions of meditation while standing. I cut off all the sounds one by one with my inner self. I aligned my focus from the outside to the inside. I was in the same busy Mall but I was alone. I could feel the peace within. I had reached the void space that I was looking for. The people who touched me to make way did not affect me. Their words did not touch me or make me angry at all. They did not exist. I was standing there alone. All by myself. In total peace and tranquillity. Like a Tathagatha. In Samadhi. In Dhyana.
The teachings of the Zen in his writings about suffering and Buddhism became very clear to me now. The teachings that we created our own surroundings by our ignorance and that we ourselves gave rise to our own suffering as per the teachings of the Zen became evident to me as I stood there in the Mall alone by myself surrounded by strangers and noise. I realised that the exterior did not matter as long as we stayed connected to our true self. What others say or do does not matter as long as we are true to our inner self. Being honest to the moment of the time was the lesson I learnt.
The outside worlds was just an illusion created by our own minds where as the true self was always guiding us to the finer goals of life was the relevance of this experience to the readings in Zen, View of suffering. I had learnt to de socialise from the world. I was not afraid of being alone anymore. I was at peace with myself. I was not restless and self conscious as I stood alone in the Mall. I did not have to give vent to my stressed up or suppressed emotions through body language of moving uncomfortably. I was stronger than before. Least nervous of my identity and I had accepted what and who I was.
I was not feeling engrossed by what others thought about me. I was focussed on my self. My inner space gave me freedom and security like no other person or place could ever give me before. The teachings of the Zen were true word to word after my experience of standing alone in the busy Mall. Assignment six- ride in an Elevator. The ride in an elevator is nothing unusual at all. To think that such an event could impart lessons of spirituality was absurd to me until I had begun to study Buddhism. I entered the elevator like always but this time I entered and did not turn my self towards the others in side the lift.
I looked at the blank metal wall of the elevator. I could feel the strange looks the people around me gave me as I stood unlike them. I could feel their bodies against mine at some time. I could see them giving me funny looks as they entered and walked out at their floors. But I kept my posture and my back towards them just as I was supposed to. The experience in the Mall had given me enough courage to stand up to be an isolated individual who could not be affected by anyone or anything around him. I stood there until I had reached the bottom floor. I could sense the emptiness of the elevator as each one walked out of it.
I could feel that there was no one in it. Then I turned and walked out of the elevator after everyone else had gone. I was self conscious for a few minutes and I could feel the pressure of being the focus of attention in the elevator for the first few minutes. But I soon recovered from my self consciousness as I awakened myself to the teachings of the Zen to suffering. Self concentration was the key to all freedom of existence I realised. I brought it to my realisation again and once the awakening had entered my mind I was at perfect harmony with myself with the other people who occupied the elevator with me.
I was devoid of their presence. I felt bold inside me. I could sense the gravitation pull of the elevator going down. I could feel the presence of men and women inside the elevator without having to see them. I did not feel the urge to look around any more. I was not self conscious of my back to them. Their stares at me did not disturb me. I did not get affected by their back glances at me even though I could see with my back towards them. It was as though I had an eye on my back. I felt the sense of vision without my eyes. I could see without actually looking and I could feel without touching.
I did not feel any presence of their bodies against mine but still I had a sense of presence like a living person. My awareness of my self had distinguished the difference of being self conscious and of being conscious of the self. I had attained the basic knowledge of the self. I felt so liberated to be away from people even when I was a part of them. I felt absolutely free. I felt happy. I felt fearless that nothing could touch me and that no one could bother me if I was aware of my own inner self. I realised that meditation was possible even in a standing position.
I realised that I could find peace even when there was noise around me. I could understand that the others did not make a difference to my life and actions. And that they were not important at all. I was important. The self within me was of utmost importance and the true self was that mattered not the one people saw standing facing the blank wall of the elevator. My experience related to the teaching of the Zen that I was listening to the ultimate truth without relying on any other, anything without any form. That I was my true self alone.
That my suffering was none other than the one I had given opportunity to and that I was in absolute state of happiness or without suffering if I could attain the void inside me. Assignment seven- the world of cruelty and selfish behaviour. The television news channels projected news of child abuse by a single mother. The newspaper story on the front page gave pictures of a young baby thrown out of the window by his own mother in a fit of rage. These two stories are just a few among other crime and violence that has risen in the world in the past few decades.
The quality of human beings has deteriorated in modern lives. No one thinks of any one else but is focussed on the self. This self focus in not the same as promoted by the Zen and his view on suffering. Many people misinterpret the self with the ego and many practice the indulgence in their own self under the name of self focus. But Zen made it clear that the self attached to the four noble truths could never attain the real inner self and could never achieve a state of bliss or emancipation of suffering from meditations.
I meditated on the event of the mother throwing her nine month old baby out of her tenth floor apartment window because he was crying and she could not handle him alone. I had focussed on the scene as I had read it in the newspaper. I reached the inner space of quietude and could see the event as though it was happening before my very own eyes. I could feel the body of the cuddly baby. I could see the shabby state in which the twenty-one year old mother lived on the tenth floor of a shanty tower. I could see that there was nothing to eat and drink for the mother. She was uneducated. She was jobless. She had no support.
She had no one who claimed to be the father of her baby. The baby was starving and crying out to express his need. The mother had had a fight with her new boy friend and was upset that he had not helped her with money. She was angry at her own affairs and suffering and had lost control over her self. She had had none before also. She had lived up to satisfy her four truths, of desire, sin, and evil and had never found opportunity to awaken to her inner self. The young mother did not know what she was doing. His actions were mixed up with her past and future. Her present was out of control as he could not identify her present.
She repeated the mistakes of her past by letting her present go astray. The baby was only living up to its survival needs but the mother could not cope with the demand of time. She had not identified with her true self and was engrossed in selfish aims in life so this led her to end her suffering by doing another evil deed to add up to the others she had always done. The baby was not in a position to govern his thoughts and actions as the mother is Maya who is totally responsible for the suffering or well being of her child until he is grown up enough to have his own thoughts and mind.
This event played before my eyes when I meditated and it clearly awakened me to how ignorance of truth lead to misery of human beings. The perpetrator was behaving in a normal fashion of an ignorant un awakened person. She did not know what was true about her own self. She had not tried to connect to her inner self in order to identify her root cause of misery. She gave extraordinary importance to actions of short lived pleasures which had no ultimate welfare for human beings. I put myself in the shoes of the Perpetrator and I found that it was not so abnormal for her to be cruel to her child.
On the basis that she herself had been raised in a similar unkind manner. The fact that society did not give her opportunity of learning about the finer virtues of human beings like compassion, honesty and truthfulness lead her to behave in a base manner un fit for human with a high intellectual capacity. The teachings of Buddhism, Zen and views of suffering enlighten this very basis of human behaviour and how it lead to suffering and misery. When analysed the story gives perspective of how the past catches up with the present and if not handled with knowledge lead to a worse future for the same human being.
But on the other hand an individual who had been brought up with teachings of Buddhism or high values of life in his childhood would not react to a situation in this manner at all. A self aware person would concentrate on the situation and fulfil his responsibilities as a mother instead of shunning them like this mother did. A person grown up with meditation and self focus would firstly never get involved in short term bodily pleasures of creating babies without providing for them. The true essence of mother had been violated by this mother who aimed at satisfying her worldly pleasures all her life.
She was devoid of any connection to her own self. She had no sense of direction to her life. Her aims were not aimed at her well being so she eventually created nothing but suffering for her self . She was the cause of her misery and she did nothing to elevate herself from it. The teachings of the Zen could have had a positive effect on her. People like her would rise above suffering and could contribute towards a superior self if they knew about the teachings of Buddhism. Assignment 8 – Act of compassion.
There were so many destitute I had seen every day. They had failed to arouse my compassion any more. I was totally un aware of their presence and I felt un attached to their misery. The teachings of Buddhism and the practice of meditation gave rise to the sensitive aspects of my own self. I could feel the tingling of fresh breeze when I walked to college. I could hear the sounds of birds and bees through the park. I could see the people who lived in underprivileged circumstances in the same surroundings as I lived in my plush apartment on the 14 floor.
They had never mattered to me for so long but meditation had awakened my finer senses and I had decided to reach out to them one day. It was Christmas time and I had planned a party at my apartment for all my friends. I had saved up enough money for the event. A week before Christmas I saw a child from this shanty town asking me for some money. I had asked him why and he had told me that he wanted to buy a new pair of socks for his little baby brother as he did not have any to keep him warm. This information had awakened me to the fact that I should rise above myself.
I should rise above the four truths of the noble path. I decided to cut down my party by half the expense and donated the remaining money for the whole family of this little boy. I took him to a nearby sale with me and bought woollens for his baby brother, mother, father and the little boy. His face was overjoyed and for the first time I felt a strong sense of joy like never before. The connection to my inner self had become stronger. I did not feel the need to associate with the people who I wanted to help. They did not have to known to me nor related to me at all.
Compassion was within us but we had to reach out to it by deep insight only possible through meditation. “If you realise that whatever you do, or however you are, ultimately fails to hold good, then what you do, you do” is the essence learnt from the Zen views of suffering and tenets of Buddhism. One had to rise above his own self, forget his physical form, his own identity with respect to others and only then humans could achieve freedom from misery. The teachings illustrated this realisation when I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I had no connection with these people and yet they became a part of my life.
I could feel happy by my actions and the same actions could have brought me misery once upon a time. The Zen teaching made me realise that we truly governed our misery and that we only could relieve ourselves from it. Compassion was a virtue that did not need special learning. We were imbibed with it and that we did not need to have extraordinary resources to perform acts of compassion. There were ample opportunities to acts of kindness if we were aware of our capability to do so. We could be kind to any one on the street without having to go out of our ways to help him or her in her time of need.
The amount of positivity we earned by performing acts of kindness only strengthened the teachings of the Zen and his views of suffering in our daily life. It was possible to apply these teachings in every step of our day if only we were aware of our inner selves and if we connected to the source of origin of all energy within us. Assignment ten- give up something for the welfare of the planet. The very basis of Buddhism and its teachings is non violence, truth, acceptance and surrender of the self to the self and to the universe. The aim of Buddhism is to help every human being achieve nirvana.
The goal of Buddhism teachings is to attain Samadhi or to reach a state of total bliss, emptiness through self realisation. To renounce ignorance and awaken to the understanding of the self as a part of the universe. The modern humans have used their brain power to enhance technology into our daily lives so much so that we are not aware of our total dependence on it everyday. We have destroyed tiny creatures inhabiting this planet with us to build empires of magnitude over the destruction of natural resources of the earth like mountains, rivers, sea and air,
All these contradict the teachings of Buddhism. I decided to make my contribution to earth by planting more trees in and around my area whenever I saw deforestation for new buildings in the locality. I made sure I planted trees and shrubs that grew naturally in that area so that I could conserve the tiny species of insects, animals and birds that lived on these wild herbs. I did not want to beautify it with plants from the nursery but I wanted to preserve the natural foliage for saving the lives of all those who depended on it. I sacrificed my entertainment funds to buy trees and plant them nearby.
I spent my time of partying on week ends to look after these trees instead. Every new leaf on the plants would revive my faith in my self. This action gave me confidence on how we could save the planet with small individual efforts rather than talk big and plan big for the government system to execute in the state. I have realised that when actions arise out of inner inspiration there is no sacrifice in them. There is absolutely no feeling of being deprived of neither time nor money when you are involved in an action which originated from your mind and heart for a noble cause you believed in.
The money I spent to buy the trees did not pinch me a bit. I did not miss not seeing those movies and those outings with friends. I was nourished by an extra inner energy which boosted me for more such actions above my own self. The week end hours I sacrificed with my friends did not feel like a sacrifice but gave me immense satisfaction in the end of the day. I realised how much I could do to better the lives of all around me not just for my self but for the betterment of all. I learnt so much about environment I had never learnt through the internet.
Physical work gave me good physique and I saved up the money I spent on gymnasiums instead. This activity in turn gave me an appetite for food so I cooked good meals and had sumptuous food instead of fast food junk I used to eat before. My overall health improved to an extent never before so how could I ever call this a sacrifice? I realised that the inner self was the source of well being. Not harming others and thinking of others gave rise to inner potential. I awakened to the fact that I had the capacity and the capability to do anything all alone. I understood that others did not create my misery.
I felt free as I realised I had the power to create my own happiness. Meditation opened up inner doors to the treasures of human qualities that are hidden in each one of us. The Zen view of suffering unfolded all the ignorance I had about my problems. The teachings of Buddhism taught me to live free, fearless and with peace even if I was in the middle of a shopping mall, a crowded elevator or a class full of boisterous peers. I could still find my own space of perfect peace and tranquillity in the same world. I could connect to my inner self to be able to reach out to the universe in return.