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Commentary on The Method of Sitting Meditation
: : The method of sitting meditation is extremely simple and easy…
9) When first beginning sitting meditation, you may find your faces and bodies feeling itchy, as if there were ants crawling over them. This sensation is evidence of the blood flowing more actively through the capillaries. Be sure not to touch or scratch.
We often hear phrases like “seek after truth,” “seek enlightenment,” or “realize truth” and occasionally come across those who strive to do that. Some of those who are in pursuit of truth lead unusual lives, forsaking their ordinary lives. Many pursue special abilities through being conversant with mysticism, sometimes sacrificing everything and abandoning all duties and responsibilities of reality. They may be among those who devote themselves to Zen meditation, prayers, or recitation of chants.
Some devotees practice sitting meditation in anticipation of the special abilities alluded to in the passage, but such practice is merely a misdirected endeavor. The Ven. Sotaesan strongly cautioned us against having such misled expectations.
“Bizarre states” and “mysterious signs” refer to such misdirected endeavors. The “bizarre states” refer to the establishment of conditions in which events that cannot occur in everyday practice take place, such as displaying the ability to make miraculous things happen, foretelling a person’s future, or healing a sickness in “miraculous” ways.
“Mysterious signs” refers to certain illusions surfacing or passing by in the mind, various phenomena appearing in a person’s mind who is in a state half asleep and half awake in which supernatural occurrences may take place. They may take various forms, such as receiving a divine revelation, meeting with a sage or the Ruler of Heaven and coming back from the beyond, radiating light in meditation, or emitting an auspicious energy or light.
The Ven. Sotaesan strongly cautioned us against seeking these signs. He instructed us to “think of them only as freakish. Pay them no attention; just look past them unconcernedly.”
In spite of this warning, people experiencing such sensory conditions often mistake them for achieving some kind of great thing and become so insolent as to think that they are now conversant with Truth. Most of the time, they will delude the world and deceive the people, including themselves, and ultimately end up in hell where there’s unceasing pain and suffering. Occurrences such as these have no relevance to the principle of our original nature. They have nothing whatsoever to do with awakening the principles of “the great” and “the small,” “being and nonbeing
,” or the principle of cause and effect. Nor do they have any connection to understanding right and wrong, or benefit and harm. Hence, they have no relevance to the deliverance of our souls or the attainment of our spiritual freedom. They do not provide any kind of help.
If such is the case, what good purpose will they serve in our becoming decent human beings who are obliged to fulfill the duties of husband or wife, parent or child, brother or sister, fellow citizen, friend and colleague, and superior or subordinate.
When those supernatural and mysterious conditions are met with the greed, hatred, and delusion rooted in our mind, we are led to indulge ourselves further in the Three Poisons, deluding the world and unrepentantly deceiving the people. What can be more treacherous and freakish than this?
The true purpose of sitting meditation lies in calming thoughts and cultivating right mindfulness. For those who are not interested in the true purpose and who are deluded by bizarre states and supernatural phenomena, the dedication to the “preservation of right mindfulness” is lost. Furthermore, those around them who have witnessed these signs could be lured away from the right dharma and the correct path into the seduction of supernatural and mysterious things, and thus led into a pitfall of delusion.
Since ancient times, supernatural and mysterious signs have been said to be a most peripheral issue for the sages. When met with such sensory conditions, those who follow the right course will merely look past them unconcernedly, intent on erasing their influence and striving not to leave a trace of such things. If, deluded by a trifling little trace of such phenomena, you make a boast as if it is a great and rare thing, you will not only be committing an act of foolishness, but may also be engaging in a greater wrong because of the potential of deluding the world and deceiving the people. This is especially true to the extent that you are inclined toward such deception. Therefore, you must be on your guard against such things. They will decisively interfere with your following the “great path” and therefore are certainly freakish and treacherous.
Therefore, it is prescribed in the Principal Book that, even if “bizarre states” and “mysterious signs” occur, we must pay them no attention and look past them unconcernedly. The Book instructs us to think of them only as freakish and to ignore them altogether.
The phrase “pay them no attention” means not to hold on to them, not to allow them to remain in your mind. The more you cling to them, the longer you allow them to stay in your mind, the stronger they will grow, as a treacherous and freakish force that works against your following the “great path”.
“Look past them unconcernedly” means to think of them merely as trivial occurrences. In other words, do not hang on to them, thinking that they are something good, and do not allow yourself to be afflicted by their presence, thinking that they are something bad. You need only to think lightly of them and treat them accordingly. Becoming attached to such phenomena, being afflicted by their presence, or taking a dislike to them will all function as freakish interference, which will ultimately lead you into a pitfall. When treated lightly, they are trivial, insignificant, and ever so powerless. However, the more you hold fast to, dislike, or are afflicted by their presence, the stronger the power they will demonstrate. The Principal Book enlightens us to pay close attention to this fact.