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 community 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:


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If you read the information provided in the link above you would have become aware my background in things Zen, meditation and all, primarily stems from the meeting between me and the man in real life who was the role model W. Somerset Maugham used in his book The Razor's Edge. Although most people take The Razor's Edge as being just a book that was made into a couple of movies, it was actually based on the life of a real live person. Following World War I after his best friend saved his life in a raging dog fight out over the western front, then only to see his friend die right in front of his eyes, torn with remorse, seeking the truth and the meaning of life, he experienced Awakening high in the mountains of the Himalayans.

The graphic below, from the black and white 1946 movie version of The Razor's Edge, shows Larry Darrell, the central character in the story, meeting with the holy man for the very first time. To see a short video excerpt from the movie of that meeting and what Maugham reported the holy man had to say to Darrell that changed his life, and possibly could yours, please click the graphic below:


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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 what little we had with us, following the the footsteps of the monk 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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MEDITATION: For those of you without an inkling, working background, or knowledge of where or how to start, or simply wish to upgrade or finesse latent abilities from the past, one of the best places to start, neophyte or experienced practitioner alike, is Charlotte Joko Beck's book Everyday Zen. The complete, unabridged book is available online in PDF, free, with no sign-ins by clicking HERE.

As the early stages of my study-practice in meditation, Zen, and Enlightenment began slipping into years from weeks and months it was becoming apparent I wasn't making nearly the progress or headway along the path I should have, not in actual results or what my spiritual mentor thought I should or could accomplish. It was only after I met then took the advice of the teacher of one of America's most advanced spiritual personages did I suddenly advance. She felt even though my mentor's heart was in the right place, he took the depth or level of my understanding as being higher than it was and/or misjudged my distance along the path as being futher than it was. To see her simple corrective advice, click HERE.



"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.





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Long before I met the person I speak of she was the teacher of a then unknowing seeker along an unknown path that thanks to her, was eventually Enlightened in the same spiritual manner as attributed to the ancient classical masters. Prior to his Awakening he was investigating any and all routes for a solution to his angst, real or imagined. One day in the process of those investigations he came across a young woman that was somehow different from all other people he had ever met. In an intellectual joust on his part he confronted her with all his knowledge of science, philosophers and the like. Like an expert swordsman or kung-fu master she blocked and parried each blow, leaving herself unscathed and himself defeated. Although she claimed no teacher or any lineage it was apparent her Attainment was deep and to reach the same level of Attainment he decided to dedicate any further seeking to be guided under her auspices, a decision that ended in her becoming his teacher and his Fulfillment.

The teacher and I met following my stint in the military, after which having done months of hard time first in a Himalayan Zen monastery then in the Mahasi Meditation Center, Rangoon, Burma. Returning to the U.S. and with the Army many months behind me, I sought out my mentor once again with the intention of at least a semi-return to practice under his auspices. What he saw he didn't like, saying the military brought out a beast in me, plus all I really wanted to do was use my college time to party and chase girls. He agreed that my unsuccessful foray under the venerated Japanese Zen master Yasutani Hakuun Roshi he sent me to prior to me being drafted should have ended with somewhat better results and was unsure why it didn't.

By spring he had pretty much mellowed and so had I. Thinking I needed something in between Yasutani and his own teaching he arranged for me to go to Connecticut and visit a nearly invisible man of great spiritual prowess by the name of Alfred Pulyan. Just as spring was reaching its final count down I showed up at Pulyan's wooded rural compound and began a most unsual almost non-study study --- the visit growing through to well past the middle of summer because, I'm sure, of my mentor as well as Pulyan's own graciousness. It was during that time period I was introduced to Pulyan's Teacher, a woman of extreme attainment and the person fully responsible for Pulyan's transformation.

Pulyan's teacher was of the opinion, and as I look back now I totally agree with her, that my mentor initally thought I had a greater understanding or was further along the path than I was, apparently feeling my meeting with Franklin Merrell Wolff and my transloction experience on Catalina Island was more fully understood than it was. She thought giving me a book like ZEN BUDDHISM: Selected Writings of D.T Suzuki as early as he had was way to advanced, as was sending me to study under Yasutani. During our discussions she brought out two books, the first being W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, in of which my mentor is the role model for the book's main character Larry Darrell. She flipped through the pages until she came to the following quote where Darrell tells Maugham what he experienced in the mountains:

"I have no descriptive talent, I don't know the words to paint a picture; I can't tell you, so as to make you see it, ow grand the sight was that was displayed before me as the day broke in its splendour. Those mountains with their deep jungle, the mist still entangled in the treetops, and the bottomless lake far below me. The sun caught the lake through a cleft in the heights and it shone like burnished steel. I was ravished with the beauty of the world. I'd never known such exaltation and such a transcendent joy. I had a strange sensation, a tingling that arose in my feet and travelled up to my head, and I felt as though I were suddenly released from my body and as pure spirit partook of a loveliness I had never conceived. I had a sense that a knowledge more than human possessed me, so that everything that had been confused was clear and everything that had perplexed me was explained. I was so happy that it was pain and I straggled to release myself from it, for I felt that if it lasted a moment longer I should die; and yet it was such rapture that I was ready to die rather than forgo it. How can I tell you what I felt? No words can tell the ecstasy of my bliss. When I came to myself I was exhausted and trembling."

After going over the various in-and-out's of what Darrell told Maugham about his experirnce she asked if I had ever had a similar or like experience. I told her the closest to anything like that I was still a young boy and had just met Franklin Merrell Wolff for the first time while wending my way through the mountains of the High Sierras with my uncle. Merrell-Wolff took my hand as the two of us walked slowly along an uneven rock strewn path, stopping only when we came upon a sweeping vista of the full extent of the mountains before us. Waving his hand in the air across the top of the peaks he told me there were trees on the mountains a thousand years old and in the sky above, stars millions of years old. He then said I was not yet twelve, nowhere near the age of the ancient trees or the stars, but we were all made of the samething with the same thought.

"It was as though someone had unexpectedly dumped a 55 gallon drum of ice cold water on me from behind. A feeling rushed over me if only for an instant but seemingly for an eternity, scaring me so much I ran back down the the rough, heavily strewn rocky path as fast as I thought I was able. However, my forward momentum was even faster --- as if I was gliding, my feet seemingly not making any real contact with the ground, almost as though the wind was carrying me and in the process I was part of the wind and the path as well --- blowing me right into the arms of my uncle, all the while still shaking and shivering all over. For hours on end everything seemed as though I was looking through a 3-D viewer. Sounds carried a clarity I never remembered, and smells and odors waifted through my nostrils like never before --- I could even smell my own armpits. When we arrived at camp I was tired and wasted and fell asleep for what seemed like forever. When I awoke the sensations were gone."

Pulyan's teacher asked me if while reading Suzuki's book on Zen Buddhism and came across such words as Dhyana and Samadhi what was their meaning to me? I told her I had to study the words as if learning a new language and even then if I could repeat to others what they meant I didn't understand the understanding behind them. Then she handed me the second book she brought telling me it was nowhere like Suzuki's or the dozens of similar books I've taken upon myself to read. It was first published in 1902, years and years before any Zen or Enlightenment craze, written by William James, a western academic versed head-to-toe in western traditions, not Buddhism, Hinduism, or Zen, all done in english for the english speaking world. The book was titled The Varieties of Religious Experience. She suggested I read the whole book at sometime or the other, but if nothing else do not pass up reading Lectures XVI And XVII: Mysticism. I suggest to you dear reader, to do the same, easily accessed by clicking through the below link.






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