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the Wanderling


"The Buddha said that neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring us the real happiness of Nirvana."


"Within an hour of his face-to-face meeting with Sri Bhagavan, his mental barriers were reduced to nothingness."


Saying the young boy's mental barriers were reduced to nothingness is another way of saying Awakened to the Absolute, i.e., Enlightenment. The experience occurred sitting in Darshan after less than an hour under the grace and light of the venerated Indian holy man Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950). Sitting before the Maharshi in Darshan is more-or-less a formal part of the ashram meditative procedure, but regardless of what it is called or how its done, it is meditation. In the section on meditation apps that sent you to this page, the last sentence reads, creating in their use a paradox:

"Painting legs on a snake doesn't make it walk any better. Electronically painting photon-pushing meditation legs to swath your synapses with trompe l'oeil may be for some, better than nothing. However, and this is one of the biggest however's ever, it is that better than nothing that makes it not, not nothing, the goal of meditation."

It is a serious mistake in the understanding of meditation to conflate not nothing as the goal of meditation as being "denial" or "cessation" of conceptual thinking. It is quite clear in Zen Buddhism and the meditation that stems from it and has come down to the everyday use of meditation, that no-mind, rather than referring to an absence of thought, refers to the condition of not being trapped in thoughts, not adhering to a certain conceptual habit or position.

The following discourse is attributed to the Zen master Ch'ing yuan Wei-hsin of the T'ang Dynasty and provides a window into the understanding of Zen:

"Thirty years ago, before I began the study of Zen, I said, 'Mountains are mountains, waters are waters.' After I got insight into the truth of Zen through the instructions of a good master, I said, 'Mountains are not mountains, waters are not waters.' But now, having attained the abode of final rest I say, 'Mountains are really mountains, waters are really waters.'"

He then asks:

"Are the three understandings the same or different?"

ALL THINGS ZEN: An Open Window Into the Understanding of Zen

The error of interpretation made by many scholars (and by Zen and meditation practitioners as well) lies precisely in taking the term "no-thought" to refer to some kind of permanent, or ongoing absence of thought. While this assumption is routinely made, it is impossible to corroborate it in any Zen canon. If we study the seminal texts carefully, we do find a description of the experience of an instantaneous severing of thought that occurs in the course of a thoroughgoing pursuit of a Buddhist meditative exercise.

Nowhere in the Platform Sutra, Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, Diamond Sutra, or any other major Zen text, is the term "no-mind" explained to be a permanent incapacitation of the thinking faculty or the permanent cessation of all conceptual activity.

The locus classicus for the concept of no-thought is the Platform Sutra, and in regards to no-thought says in so many words:

"No-thought" means "no-thought within thought." Non-abiding is man's original nature. Thoughts do not stop from moment to moment. The prior thought is succeeded in each moment by the subsequent thought, and thoughts continue one after another without cease. If, for one thought-moment, there is a break, the dharma-body separates from the physical body, and in the midst of successive thoughts there will be no attachment to any kind of matter. If, for one thought-moment, there is abiding, then there will be abiding in all successive thoughts, and this is called clinging. If, in regard to all matters there is no abiding from thought-moment to thought-moment, then there is no clinging. Non-abiding is the basis.

As you can see, after the break in thought, successive thoughts continue to flow, but one no longer abides in, or clings to, these thoughts. Nowhere is there mention of any kind of disappearance of, or absence of thought. "No-thought" refers to nothing other than an absence of abiding, or clinging. Other seminal Ch'an texts, such as the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, characterize no-thought in precisely the same manner. (source)

There is no need for machines. Don't over think it. Matter of fact, don't think it. See Zen and the Art of Tying Shoes. For your own edification, the following is the closing paragraph as found in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery and refers to the Wanderling:

"There are many strong, notable, and well respected members of the Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, and Enlightenment commmunity that have gone to, studied under, written books about, and run a number of excellent and fine Centers both in America and abroad. Many of the notables went to India or Japan and studied for months and possibly years under highly venerable teachers. Other teachers came to the U.S. passing their understanding to others and they still to even more. However, very little of what has been gleaned or passed on bubbled up untainted and unlayered from the unspoiled roots of their ancient past. I am the only person I am aware of operating at the level that I do that truly bypassed most of the layers --- primarily because where I was none of the layers existed. While at the monastery, I studied under the direct bold, unbending hand of a non-English speaking Chinese master of Zen and Enlightenment. The monastery itself was a cold, stark environment high in the mountains above the tree line, far removed from the western world and civilization, operating beyond the bounds of time, whose lineage, rituals, and beliefs hearkened straight back unbroken and unfettered to the likes of Hui Neng, Bodhidharma and the Buddha. Doing so enabled me to be guided, via the master's skillful means, through to the full level of the unveiled truth, springing unhindered and unencumbered from it's original grounding source." SEE:


The meditation method used by Siddhattha Gautama, then he as the Buddha after having reached his ultimate goal, in turn to be advocated, and taught by him and his closest followers, is called Vipassana Meditation in our present day lexicon. So said, at least by those seeking insight along the path towards Full Enlightenment and Spiritual Awareness a la the Buddha, Vipassana Meditation is construed to be the ultimate and the most sought out method from lay persons to full fledged masters.

In Rangoon, Burma, now called Yangon, Myanmar, there is a world renown but little known outside of certain circles, meditation center secluded away on a generous 20 acre compound dedicated solely to Vipassana Meditation called the Mahasi Meditation Center that provides six to twelve weeks around-the-clock meditation for visiting and foreign monks and practitioners. Amazingly enough, for foreign meditators, the entire period of their stay for study-practice at the center --- six to twelve weeks --- is FREE, including both full room and board.

When I was in my mid-twenties I started the twelve week sessions at center only to have, a short ways into the sessions, a situation that turned such I unable to reach completion of hardly any let alone the full twelve week regimen. However, although I was unable to reach completion of the full 12 weeks as offered by the center, that mention of same refers only to that particular time and event.

Forty years plus later, after having volunteered with the American Red Cross and being deployed for weeks-and-weeks and working four hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike) I made it a point to return to the center. In-turn, from the beginning, re-participating in and completing all 12 weeks of the sessions. I did so primarily because I wanted a distinct separation --- and return to the quietude of the center mixed with the milieu of the Asian atmosphere --- without concern by or for others with my support system.

A few days before I was to complete my full 12 weeks, and for all practical purposes, on a countdown in hours to depart, one of the monks, in a highly unusual set of circumstances, came to me and said an American woman had arrived at the office requesting to see me. In that only a very small cadre of people actually knew where I was and what I was doing, thinking someone seeking me must have some importance behind it, I agreed to go back with the monk. When I got to the administrative area the woman was gone, but after finishing my twelve weeks and eventually catching up with her, led straight to Chiang Mai and the jungles of Thailand.

"According to the Buddha and how the sutras are said to present it, to manifest or execute the abilities of Siddhis, a stringent regimen of meditation and concentration MUST meet certain levels of accomplishments. To reach such a level the meditator must be perfect in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Prajna) and be frequenter to lonely places."

Incident At Supai

Years before, when I first met the woman she was only interested in short cuts. Now, when she traced me down in Asia, she was searching for much more than a quick fix or what one would be typically encounter Unlike most, now, in an honest assessment of herself, she questioned if she could meet such criteria, that is, being masterful in Sila, Samadhi, Jhana, and Prajna and be frequenter to lonely places. However, as time passed and people in her life she cared for and loved began to come and go, some on a more-or-less permanent basis by pushing up daisies, she began reevaluating just where she was finding herself in the overall scheme of things.

A few days after leaving Rangoon and making arrangements with a Buddhist monk in Chiang Mai we headed northeast in a van on the main roads toward the mountains and jungles beyond. After quite some distance and time the monk told the driver to stop. The woman and I got out taking our stuff with us following the monk on foot into the jungle. Some hours later we came upon an opening with a small roofed wooden structure built at least three feet off the ground on stilts with a set of steps in the center-front leading to a wood floor interior. All four sides of the structure were open but had roll up rattan-like shades or blinds that could be pulled up or down forming walls, of which the one in the back was down. The way the structure faced the sun came up in the morning on the far left going across the sky in an arc setting on the far right, shining all day on the structure albeit leaving almost all of the floor area shaded. The only thing inside were two meditation mats neatly laid out on the floor. Hanging on a tree close by was one of those portable bag-like showers that heated the water by the sun, and out front, about 30 feet across the clearing was a fire pit like cooking area. An older Asian woman was in the process of making something over the fire as we came into the clearing and within seconds she put hot tea and cooked rice on the structure floor just at the top of the stairs for us. She and the monk spoke in muted tones for a few minutes pointing and making gestures, then, without explanation, both left, leaving us alone.

After a week or two when I could sense she felt comfortable with her surroundings, the villagers, the jungle, her safety, and especially so with her meditation sessions, I told her I would be leaving. The next day, following one final wave from a distance, I headed alone into the jungle on the same trail the two of us came in on.

When she left or how, or if she ever returned to Thailand or Asia again or went back to the same village I never learned. I know she had a Bangkok to Los Angeles return ticket to meet Thai visa requirements for 60 days or so with her when I left because I bought it for her. If she used it or not is not clear. However, a few years later, some months prior to the Spring of 2012, and unknown to me, she was diagnosed as having terminal cancer. The following year, on September 27, 2013, at age 73, she passed away. See:

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"Real Masters never charge for their services, nor do they accept payment in any form
nor in any sort of material benefits for their instructions. This is a universal law among
Masters, and yet amazingly, it is a fact that thousands of eager seekers in America and
elsewhere, go on paying large amounts of money for 'spiritual instruction.' Masters are
always self-sustaining and are never supported by their students or by public charity."

---Julian P. Johnson, The Path of the Masters (1939)




Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.






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Bodhidharma, Hui'ko, Hui Shen, Hui Neng, Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien, Zhaozhou, Moshan Liaoran,
Mugai Nyodai, Kuan Yin, Tung-Shan, Te Shan, Dogen

As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.