by Derek Ayre
If you were to look at a brick wall in a dingy tenement, if you wanted, you could create a different experience of it by
realizing that that brick wall, shares the same light, air, warmth, cold as everything else in the physical universe. With this
realization, if only for a few seconds, this brick wall would take on a new meaning. You would be looking into the essence of the structure that is part of everything there is. In fact many people throughout the world, have
realized satori (enlightenment, nirvana, kensho) from such mundane objects. In fact, in some Japanese Zen temples, the aspirant is advised to sit facing a wall as beautiful vistas are believed to distract the attention away from his/her true nature.
In zazen (Zen meditation) reason has to be transcended, because reason lies in the domain of ideas and concepts, whilst true Being is beyond all reason. True Being is just simply there and cannot be explained with words or thoughts. It lies in the domain of experience. It is the essence of being. In Zen life, here lies a paradox...
To be liberated from the domain of reason, to reach enlightenment, the practitioner needs to transcend the mind (reason) but if the mind is completely negated, the practitioner would become nothing and seek nothing other than to sit facing a wall. (Some Buddhist Hermits (usually in Tibet) who have literally been bricked up in small huts having their food passed through small slits in the wall have actually
practiced this form of meditation.)
So is it right to practice such deprivation?
To answer in Zen way. It is not wrong or right. It is just what happens in some sects.
The Buddha taught the value of the middle way - to avoid all extremes. To practice total deprivation of food, movement or anything else, may be considered to be an extreme. But in Zen there is also the addition of "or not" to that consideration that negates it as a judgement. Since an extreme is a judgement, it is reasonable and has no place in Zen. Or it does. Another paradox that's saying, don't judge the judgement.
These questions have no answers other than the experience they elicit. And that to me, is the essence of Zen. It is great fun. Have you seen the laughing Buddha?