The Sixth Phase of Meditative Development by Master Sheng-Yen

This month we look at phase six, ''The Unified Mind of Samadhi''. This is where your whole world is blown to bits. Where all of your cherished ideas, beliefs, and concepts are seen for what they really are: an unreliable means of understanding the way things are. Sure, they are useful to help us navigate through the realm of form, but ultimately, to hold them as truth is to experience suffering.

I also greatly stressed the importance of being honest and truthful with where you are within your individual journey upon the path of meditative development. I am not outside of this admonishment.

We now come to phase six and this is a phase that I have only scratched the surface of. I once had an experience of ''completeness''. One in which I KNEW the completeness of the Infinite Mystery and the completeness of all the individual expressions of IT. In this experience I understood the Truth of What I am and the role I play in the totality of completeness. In Zen circles we call this experience, ''kensho''--seeing One's true nature. And though this experience was shallow, it changed the course of my life forever.


6. The Unified Mind of Samadhi

In the sixth diagram, your mind is so concentrated that the act of meditation itself--both the counting of the number and the presence of the breath--is forgotten. As the mind becomes truly calm and concentrated, the act of effortful meditation itself seems course and distracting. Letting go of it, number and breath vanish, and body, breath, and mind meld into a single unity. At this point, you may feel as though spatial distinctions no longer pertain amount body, mind, and the world. The opposition between self and other people seem to vanish, and then he boundary between the internal and external dissolves. The previous sense of dividedness is replaced by a feeling of pure and harmonious being that is so wondrous as to be indescribable. This is the basic experience of samadhi, or what we variously refer to as, ''meditative absorption'', ''unified mind,'' and ''one pointedness of mind.'' However, there are many levels of samadhi, some shallow, some deep. They can range from the simple and relatively shallow experience of purity and oneness described above, to experiences of infinite light and sound, boundless space, limitless consciousness, limitless emptiness, and even the inconceivable experiences of enlightenment described in such Buddhist scriptures as the Avatamsaka**, or Huayan, Sutra.

Regardless of how sublime the content, such states of meditative absorption are!still defiled by the presence of discriminating thoughts and attachment. This defilement is none other than the subtle sense of ''selfhood''. At deeper levels of samadhi, the mind becomes so supple and powerful that even the subtlest thought is experienced on a vast scale. Because attachment to self is still operating in samadhi, samadhi actually entails the magnification of self to a cosmic scale. The experiences of limitless consciousness, bliss, being, and other feelings associated with samadhi are actually the projections of what we call the ''great or expanded sense of self''. Until this particular impediment is removed, enlightenment has not dawned and one is still subject to the bonds of deluded existence. Samadhi experiences of this ilk will be no more than a mundane or worldly samadhi, and the spiritual insights generated from them, a mundane wisdom still tainted by defiling outflows.


Master Sheng-Yen holds nothing back. He opens up the heart of the matter and dares you to look at it. This is where you finally KNOW what all the fuss is about, why Bodhidharma has no beard and you see your original face before your parents were born. However, you still believe there is a ''you'' that is experiencing it. You still believe you are a wave of the Ocean when in Truth, you are the Ocean expressing your Self as a wave and the wave next to you and the wave down the beach and the wave yet to come…

But for now, this is the next phase in your development. ''Don't put the cart in front of the horse'', as my Grandpa was fond of saying. And don't hold onto this experience, either. Let it be what it is and then let it go. Constantly tell yourself, ''Not yet''. In the Identity of the Relative and Absolute it states'' encounter the Absolute is not yet enlightenment...'' So even though your experience phase six this is just passing through the gateless gate. You have surrendered accepted total defeat and in this act you taste freedom! But to stop here is like pushing aside the curtains to see the beautiful day out the window and then being content with just staying right there. Living as an expression of the Infinite Mystery is going outside to experience fully what you seen through the window. Don't settle for anything less. See you next month.

in gassho,


**“The Avatamsaka Sutra or Avataṃsaka Sūtra (the Mahāvaipulya Buddhāvataṃsaka Sūtra) is one of the most influential Mahayana sutras of East Asian Buddhism. The title is rendered in English as Flower Garland Sutra, Flower Adornment Sutra, or Flower Ornament Scripture. It has been called by the translator Thomas Cleary “the most grandiose, the most comprehensive, and the most beautifully arrayed of the Buddhist scriptures.” The Avatamsaka Sutra describes a cosmos of infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing one another. This sutra was especially influential in East Asian Buddhism. The vision expressed in this work was the foundation for the creation of the Huayan school of Chinese Buddhism, which was characterized by a philosophy of interpenetration. The Huayan school is known as Hwaeom in Korea and Kegon in Japan. The sutra is also influential in Chan Buddhism." (excerpt from