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Lions Roar : July 2018
kind of permanent transformation, a sudden burst of insight that fixes everything that’s wrong with us. We hope for an end to suffering, and so we strive to change ourselves through our devotion to intense meditation practice. But awakening is nothing like the unicorns and rainbows of our imagination, although it can sometimes be glorious. It can also be subtle and even quite mundane. In the moment of realization, everything simply appears as what it is. Following my first kensho within the Zen tradi- tion, I perceived everything more vividly. Whatever I encountered shone with its own light. It truly was as if I had awakened from a dream. The Lankavatara Sutra calls this moment “a turning about at the deepest seat of consciousness.” I have observed that most human beings who slow down for some period of time come to some realization like this. Big or small, noticed or unnoticed, it is a common experience. If it is smallish and not very remarkable—if it doesn’t look or feel like the famous stories of enlightenment that enthrall us—we generally tend to forget or discount what happened. One reason is that usually we have no con- text for these moments of awakening. What Zen provides is that context, so that this new revelatory experience doesn’t fade into a memory. Regular meditation practice; sutra, precept, and koan study, as well as working intimately with a teacher allow the mind a way to remember what has happened, and even more importantly, to integrate this turning about into our everyday lives. Realization can appear suddenly or develop gradually. It can happen in the early days of our practice life or much later. And even as the lived experience of each of these moments of awakening fades, our capacity to be present and awake continues to grow and inform our behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and sense per- ceptions. It turns out our delusions, sadness, fear, and anger are as much a part of the awak- ened life as our experiences of happiness, compassion, equanimity, and wisdom. We recognize that everything is already abso- lutely perfect and complete. Once we wake up to it, this very life, with all its complexity and sorrow, is actu- ally the heaven we longed for. MELISSA MYOZEN BLACKER, ROSHI is the abbot of Boundless Way Zen and co-editor of The Book of Mu. Sacred and Perfect Gaylon Ferguson on how to discover your true nature. Because it’s only obscured temporarily. OUR INITIAL MOTIVATION for engaging in the path of awakening is usually to find true freedom from suffering— liberation for ourselves. This involves increasing desirable qualities and letting go of whatever is undesirable in our lives. Contemporary versions of this might include reducing stress and anxiety, or enhancing positive psychological states such as happiness and well-being. Even the higher motivation of complete renunciation of samsara (conditioned existence) involves reducing undesirable conflict- ing emotions and distorted views of reality, while increasing the PHOTOBYA.JESSEJIRYUDAVIS LION’S ROAR | JULY 2018 66