Advanced meditation leads you into the world of Enlightenment. There is basic meditation. What is basic meditation? Basic meditation is sitting, struggling, feeling love and ecstasy, practicing zazen meditation two times a day, stopping your thoughts, focusing on a chakra, on a candle flame, sitting there trying to calm the inner noise to detach yourself from your mind, and trying to stop those thoughts.
But I believe in Eternity. As Shakespeare said: "There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." Everything happens perfectly. Sometimes we don't understand why we suffer, why we go through experiences. But that's the way of life. It is not necessarily understandable.
The reason why we have experiences is because of Karma. We have done something in this life or in a past life. In my own case, I have been a teacher in many lifetimes – hundreds, thousands. I've been Enlightened for a long time. In each incarnation I come into the world to be of service to people who seek knowledge, empowerment, Enlightenment; who seek to grow, evolve and develop, who want to have more fun with their lives, and experience the profundity of being, and who want to become more conscious in their short time in an incarnate form. I travel from world to world, teaching as I go. Fighting battles with the forces that prevent Enlightenment. I'm a teacher.
What do I have to say about advanced meditation? It's a feeling. It's beyond the body and beyond the mind. I would classify beginning meditation, as meditation with thought. As long as there is thought in the mind while you are sitting practicing zazen, you are in an early stage of meditation. When you are sitting and there is no thought at all, no thought, no image, no idea, no feeling, no sense of thought, no sense of self or non-self, then you have entered into the realm of advanced meditation.
Swami Bramananda, who is a student of a very famous Enlightened teacher, Sri Rama Krishna, said that: "Advanced practice begins with Samadhi." Samadhi is meditation without any thought, any focus. To arrive at that point, you begin with simple practice. Each day when you rise in the morning you meditate, because your mind is not filled with impressions. You sit in front of an object of contemplation, with the eyes open. You focus on a candle flame, on a yantra – on something precise – a little dot, something small, and you just look at it. And you focus on it, until there is nothing else in your mind. This develops willpower, then after a while, after doing this for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, or twenty minutes, you close your eyes. Then you pick one of the chakras. There are seven primary chakras or energy centers that are located in the subtle physical body, the body of light and energy that is our awareness and surrounds the physical. There are seven primary chakras, and thousands of lesser chakras. Chakras are doorways to other worlds. When you focus on them, you step through into something else.
There is a still point in Eternity. There is a still point where all things intersect. There is a still point that is beyond, life, time, death, pleasure, pain, and the senses. Your experience of the still point is Enlightenment. This point, you can say, is everywhere, but it's specifically within your mind, not within your physical brain, per se, but within your deeper mind, within your conscious awareness. Advanced meditation is absorption into the still point. It's called Enlightenment, Nirvana, God, Truth, call it what you will. There is no activity, other than the eternal activities of the Universe. Perfect being; the awareness of all suchness.
Advanced meditation is being able to detach your mind from your physical activities, from your plans, schemes and dreams, pains, sorrows, thoughts, jealousies, emotions, spiritual ideals – being able to let go of all of it. Focus yourself one-pointedly until you are completely absorbed in the still point, which is Eternity. Everything you see is Eternity. There are Ten Thousand States of Mind, ten thousands windows to look outside of, to view life, death, and the world. Each is real, but they are transient; they don't last. You move from window to window in a very large house with different views. Life is just made up of views. You are perception, and awareness. You are that which views, the experience, that is to say, the intersection of the view and the perceiver of the view.
In advanced meditation, you are going to step beyond your role as perceiver of the view, perceiver of your life, and perceiver of your death. That's just a way of looking at things in duality. Instead you are going to merge everything to the flux. You are going to go to stillness, and when that happens, the world collapses. There is no time, no space, no viewer, no viewing, and no object in view. Beyond the Ten Thousand States of Mind is the still point. It exists within them all, this is the riddle, yet it is beyond them, is not affected by them, and it gives birth to them. You came forth from the still point that is reality. That's where I come from, that world. There are different worlds, endless worlds, and different beings come from different worlds. Some people are born in Africa, some in Australia, and some in America. Some beings, begin in a world, this world or that world. In my particular case I come from the stillness, that world. We call it the Dharma-kaya, the clear light of reality. I know it quite well.
In basic meditation, you sit for fifteen minutes, a half an hour, forty-five minutes, or an hour, depending on your ability. First focus on something outside, and then you close your eyes and focus on the chakras. I normally recommend selecting one of three chakras: the third eye, between the eye browns and a little above; the heart center, located directly in the center of the chest; or the navel center, which is about an inch below the navel. In Zen there are three primary aspects of balance or focus. There is power, knowledge and balance. You need all three to succeed, to reach the still point.
The power chakra is the navel center. The center of balance is the heart chakra; this is the center of our being. There are actually three chakras above and three below. Above is the throat chakra, the third eye, and the thousand petals lotus of light, known as the crown chakra at the top of the head. Below there is the navel center, the power center. The third eye is the center of wisdom, the ajna chakra. There are two lower chakras, which are also power chakras, but it is not advisable for persons who are in the early stages of meditation to meditate on the two lower chakras. You will unleash powers and forces that will throw you into powerful altered states of consciousness that might not be pleasant at all. Until you have tremendous control, it is not a good idea to meditate on these centers. The navel center will bring the power of all three of the lower chakras into your being, but with safety. The throat chakra is the center that really is ascetic. It gives one the appreciation of beauty. The thousand petal lotus of light, the crown center doesn't really become operative until one is on the verge of Enlightenment itself. You don't really have to meditate on it. It just is. It lights up – the thousand petals gradually light up.
In basic mediation, you sit for a period of time. If you are a beginner fifteen minutes, after a while half an hour, then forty-five minutes, maybe after a year or two. Eventually, bring it up to an hour, hopefully twice a day. You might sit longer; sometimes, you'll just find yourself doing it. But normally it is not how long you do it, it is better to just sit for an hour and then improve the quality of that meditation.
Naturally meditation is more than just sitting and focusing: it's also letting go. When you meditate you focus to clear the mind and to bring the willpower together. After you have been meditating for a while in an individual session, perhaps the first third or half, you focus on something with the eyes open; then close the eyes and focus on a chakra. Finally, toward the end of the session just let go; don't focus at all; just melt into Eternity. You've raised enough energy and quieted your mind sufficiently so that you can just become Eternity. Try to approach that still point. You just let go and see what happens.
Your mind is turbulent, because you are full of desires and frustrations. You want too many things. You are afraid of too many things. It is necessary to overcome both attraction and repulsion to still the mind. There are lots of mental conditioning, programming that has been put in there during this life by your parents, teachers, and society. You have been told what is and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. This has to be all pushed aside. Then, there are the tendencies from your other lifetimes – ways of seeing, habits that are so strong that they affect you now. These have to be washed away also. They are the operative situations in your life that are created by karma. What you've done causes things to happen. Your situation in life now is predicated upon your previous actions. If you made a lot of money last year, and you didn't spend it, you have it this year. If you didn't work, you may not have any money.
We must control the tendencies within our being that are destructive: when we want to slam somebody else and hurt them, injure them, push them out of the way. A reverence for life needs to be developed, in which all things are sacred. At the same time, we have to create the balance of being happy. In other words, you can't become so "spiritual" that you are not having a good time. You don't want to create a plastic image of what it is to become spiritual and become it, because you won't be capable of it, and that will frustrate you. Even if you could do it, if it's not really what you like, then you would be miserable. You need to be yourself, but constantly upgrade yourself. A lot of self-acceptance is involved in this process. You've got to be able to look at both your dark side and your light side, if you will, not get enamored over, or depressed by either.
This is the process of mental analysis – shifting through the selves, shifting through our thoughts, practicing mindfulness, and learning to control thought. During the day, when you are thinking and you find yourself dwelling on something negative, consciously use your willpower to remove your mind from that which is negative – a jealous thought, an angry thought, a fearful thought – and move your mind into the flow of something positive. Learn not to be attached to others, to other people, and to certain kinds of experiences. Allow the flow of life to guide you wherever it is supposed to, and accept with equanimity, balance, and poise whatever happens, do not try to force your will on things. Allow your will to work from deep within yourself, almost unconsciously, to bring about necessary changes.
Advanced meditation is not just sitting and meditating. It's addressing all these aspects of life. It is to be aware of the designs of others, the dark side of others that seek to interfere with our evolution, and to keep ourselves distant and closed to such beings. Recognize that they are part of the Universal process too, but not a part that we need to be open to at this time. Spend time alone, particularly in areas of low population density, away from people where you can feel the stillness, where you don't pick up psychically everybody's thoughts and desires. Because, if you are just picking up everybody's thoughts and desires, you'll think that they are your own thoughts. Go and walk in the woods, or on the beach, go out into the dessert, or up into the mountains. Go to the beach, not so much in the summer, but in the winter. Take short walks in the park, down a happy trail. Spend time with people who are also in the pathway to Enlightenment, and avoid people who aren't, in your free time. Be happy to deal with anyone in the world of business or whatever is necessary.
Have a wonderful sense of humor, particularly about yourself and your own situation. Yet do not simply laugh, but work to change and improve things; even though, at times, it seems impossible. This is advanced meditation. In other words, advanced meditation is not performed simply when we are sitting down once or twice a day meditating: that's beginning and intermediate meditation. Advanced meditation means, all day long, all night long, keeping our mind in a specific state or series of states of awareness, that engender or lead to Enlightenment. That means not being angry when we can be angry, not being hateful when we can be hateful, and not being depressed or remorseful. It means lifting ourselves out of these states with our willpower, willing something else, and having dreams and believing in them. They don't have to come true. They are true just as a dream. Life itself is a dream.
In the actual practice of advanced meditation, while you are sitting doing zazen, formally meditating, you won't be doing that much which is outwardly different. You'll be sitting for your hour; certainly it will be an hour at that point, twice a day. You'll probably start meditating with your eyes open, focusing as a warm up. Then focus on a chakra, but then you won't spend that much time focusing; you will just let go and merge. Not just let go of your thoughts and sit there and think or move into sleepy states of awareness. Move into high power states of attention to bring you to that still point.
Studying with a teacher doesn't simply mean going to an occasional seminar, lecture, or Zen retreat. It means fully applying yourself to what a teacher says, most of which is not verbal. When you go to see the teacher, you need to be meditating, sitting there in a very precise state of attention. If you are studying with a real Zen Master, a real Enlightened person, then the teacher will be moving through thousands of states of mind, and sometimes beyond mind. While you are with the teacher, and he is talking or doing zazen, or taking you out for a bite to eat afterward, the teacher is always in a state of higher awareness. Be sensitive to that, and don't be flaky and emotional, but just be sensitive and develop the respect that is necessary for the teacher as the teacher respects you.
A lot of people over focus on Zen Masters and teachers as an excuse to avoid their own life, and that way they fail to take responsibility for themselves. They have this feeling that the teacher will take care of them. Some teachers have said: "Just devote yourself to me and I'll take care of it." This is nonsense. You never devote yourself to a teacher. You devote yourself to the practice. The teacher is there to teach. The way Zen Masters teach is not just through talking though: they teach in a variety of ways. They interact with you in powerful and often surprising ways, sometimes shocking ways. They cause you to shift awareness. The Zen Master can see precisely what it would take to cause your awareness to become free. But the Zen Master can't do it. If you have done your homework, and you have been meditating, and putting your life in order, and following the teachers recommendations, then when you interact with the teacher, you are keyed, and you are prepared. Then the slightest motion from the teacher can cause you to spin into hundreds of different states of mind to radically shift you in moments. But that only happens to the prepared individual.
Advanced meditation has more to do with the interaction of student and teacher. It's not that necessary in the beginning. A person just comes, meditates, takes a seminar, comes on a regular basis, applies the general teachings to their lives, works on their lives, feels wonderful improvement, practices zazen once or twice a day, sees tremendous improvement in how they feel, and their energy level, their ability to concentrate, to accomplish things, and so on. They start to become more still. That's the measure of your success: how still you are, how satisfied you are, how happy you are with everything. But in the advanced practice, the relationship between the Zen Master and the student becomes very important. The Zen Master will expect things of the student, because the student is now in graduate school. In graduate school, you do the amount of work in a year that you might have done in three years as an undergraduate. It's not rushed or under pressure, because that's the level that one is ready for; otherwise you shouldn't be in graduate school. It's a level of professionalism, of dedication and respect in the world of advanced meditation, particularly in that association. It takes tremendous self-restraint on the part of the student not to want to monopolize the teacher's attention, to live a very controlled life, a happy life, and to be dedicated to the cause.
Advanced meditation has to do with spreading the dharma. In the beginning, when you meditate, it is not really necessary to do that. It's just for you to learn how to meditate, have much more fun with your life, and gradually start to clear yourself from the things I mentioned before. If you decide to progress to advanced meditation, then you need to take an active part in the spreading of the dharma. In other words, meditation just can't be for personal gain. You need to consider now, actively, the welfare of others. This can be done in two ways essentially. One way is by participating in an organic fellowship. You have a Zen Master, there are projects that need to be done, office work, working at a seminar, artistic projects, creating a brochure, or whatever it may be. If the Zen Master sees that that will cause a person to progress, he will ask that person to do a task. Then the task will be charged with power, and if it's performed properly, it's a koan. It's a koan between yourself and the Zen Master, and you will make tremendous breakthroughs. If it's not performed properly, then just the opposite can occur.
Everyone in advanced meditation practice should be more involved with the economic support of the spread of the dharma. We live in a material world, and it's very expensive to teach meditation – extremely expensive, to rent halls, insurance, publicity, accounting procedures. The costs are phenomenal. Even when one charges seminar fees, it rarely covers the expenses involved. It doesn't even approach it most of the time. So the advanced student of meditation takes an active part in supporting the work of their teacher, beyond even just participating, attending seminars and giving the normal seminar fee, or whatever it is. They happily work more hours or do whatever is necessary to help out more. Those extra hours they spend, to make more money to support the dharma, is selfless giving. It's their zazen, and it will create a powerful change in their awareness field, because they are not just working to make money and buy their own clothes, buy their own food, and drive their own car, and learn Zen for themselves. If you work an extra ten hours or an extra weekend once in a while, or part of the hours that you are working in your normal work week are dedicated to producing money to spread the dharma, those hours become hours of tremendous power. That time is spent in zazen meditation.
It is not necessary or proper to give all of your money over to the spreading of the dharma. You should have whatever you need. A good place to live, transportation, money for food, entertainment, all those things should be yours. But beyond that, beyond your own personal needs, then create money to help spread the dharma. This will cause much faster progression, beyond your own needs, beyond your own expenses to study yourself. You are now going to do something for the dharma, for a higher cause, a higher ideal. Part of your time and life is being directed toward that. That's advanced meditation, it's not just for yourself.
Advanced meditation is when we go beyond the self. Such a person would make regular contributions. They will even select a career where they will make more money, and work and develop that career. Again they won't be pie in the sky schemes that never work out. They will be grounded, whether it's working down in McDonalds for the weekend, or doing extra programming, or whatever it may be. You don't wait for the perfect job to come along; it doesn't matter what it is. If you have humility, you are willing to undertake anything to spread the dharma. Sometimes the teacher will have some students give some basic lectures on meditation. That's another way of spreading the dharma. Again, there is no pushing people into it, nor trying to program them. It's for people who are sensitive and aware, and who are ready for awakening.
Advanced practice then, is sitting and meditating and stopping all thought completely, but there are other elements that become more involved. There is a sense of commitment to the study. It's happy, it's never forced, and it's the natural evolution process of an evolved being. The association with the teacher becomes more critical. It has to be handled properly with tremendous respect. A certain amount of time is given in effort to spreading the dharma. Whether it's developing funds or working in some way, it's all done with tremendous integrity. Time is spent all day and all night monitoring your thoughts and constantly keeping them in a high plateau. Avoid places that pull your energy down, and avoid people that pull your energy down. Have humility and lead a balanced life.
Work at that job very hard in a precise way, because it will help you develop your attention. Participate in sports to develop your body, artistic pursuits to balance your spirit, and just plain have fun. Deal effectively without complaining about the opposition to Enlightenment. Anyone who seeks Enlightenment is going to encounter opposition, whether it's from their society, or from non-physical forces, or friends, or whatever it is. Be strong enough to do that and win. That's advanced practice.
Advanced meditation is the entrance into the Ten Thousand States of Mind. Most people exist in five or six of these states in their whole lifetime. Gradually you will go through all of them with your Zen Master. He will lead you from plane to plane, level to level. Then, once you have mastered the Ten Thousand States of Mind, then it's Para-Nirvana. The absorption into the stillness forever, to go beyond this life, while in this life. At the same time, you will be normal, happy, effective in the daily world, fearless, have humility, a wonderful sense of humor, and just plain happy and satisfied with your life. But don't sit around and wait for this to occur. You’ve got to sit down at those daily meditations and work on them. You have to put your will into it. You have to put your will into creating money to spread the dharma, or participate in it, and do it in good consciousness. You have to put your will into perfecting your daily life, into monitoring your thoughts. You have to put your will into your association with the Zen Master which is, as far as I'm concerned, the most key and most misunderstood part of the advanced meditation process. As a Zen Master, I only work closely with people who are prepared for that.
Many people come to seminars, and I do as much as I can for them there. I use energy applied in different ways, koans, meditations, thousands of things to shift the awareness of all those who come to see me, on many physical and non-physical levels. This creates powerful change, particularly if the person follows some of the recommendations and implements them in their daily life. But I select people to work with more closely, when they are prepared to, and I see that.
Enlightenment requires discipline, balance, knowledge, power, happiness, and a sense of responsibility. It means being able to make sacrifices and do things with your life that you would have not done otherwise; to aid others, and meditate well so that you can become a good instrument of Eternity. You could have a mediocre meditation today, but you are not going to because you must be at your best. Because today you might run into someone who you might talk to about the dharma, and you have to be at your best.
Do your best at your job, even when you can just do a mediocre job, bring it to perfection, not because of the money, but because that brings perfection into your attention field. Any area that you slack off in your life, will reflect in your meditation. Be happy when you can be depressed. Push jealousy, fear, and anger out of your mind, when you can just indulge in it. Do not feel sorry for yourself. This is advanced meditation practice; it's the most wonderful and beautiful thing.
All of it on the surface may sound kind of austere. It sounds like: "God, I've got to do all this stuff." But each time you do one of these things, a curious thing happens: you smile more, and your mind becomes more still. When you do sit down to practice zazen meditation, it's easier. You are in a higher state of mind. But there is a part that resists all of this naturally, and it is much too religious. It's sort of this arbitrary thing that we have to do with our life, and we can't have any fun. This is nonsense. Doing all of this is the real fun. Each time you do this, it refines your attention. You perceive the beauty and perfection of life; it's wonderful. But it should never be forced. Will it and work at it, because you've selected to do this and you enjoy it. Never force it. If you are forcing it, there is something wrong.
There is a difference between willing and forcing. When you will it, that simply means you are not being lazy. You are applying your full power and intensity to something, and you immediately feel great doing that which raises your power level. You never feel good if you don't do something perfectly. But forcing it, means that you are not just willing something, you are trying to do something that is inappropriate or you are doing something that is appropriate in an inappropriate way. You are not being intelligent here. This you should avoid.
There is a beautiful flow to the study of Zen. Sometimes we have to be hard on ourselves, naturally; we have to get on our case for being sloppy, lazy, and indulgent. We are hanging around in mental states that we don't belong in. We are not working effectively and efficiently. We are just being selfish. We are not working for others. We are not contributing to the spreading of the dharma, and all that stuff. But all of this should make you happy. If it's not making you happier, then you are not practicing correctly. You are not listening to the Zen Master – what he is saying outwardly, but even more important what he is saying inwardly.
Peace, sublime peace, ecstasy, love, all these things are there for you. But you have to reach for them; they don't come by themselves. We live in a world that is dominated by war, hate, violence, and suspicion. Those are the things that come naturally in this world. You have to will something else, and not allow yourself to be discouraged when it doesn't work out quite as quickly as you thought it should, or in the way that you suspected it would. This is advanced practice. It's for individuals who in spite of their failures, in spite of their imperfections, and in spite of the times they have been literally knocked down, are willing to get up with a smile and start again. Having the right attitude is advanced practice and feeling that you were always a beginner in Zen. They refer to it as "beginner's mind," just be a perpetual beginner is what they are saying. The beginners are the most excited. I feel I'm a beginner, always. Because it's true.
Advanced practice is not simply meditating a couple of times a day. But it's living your meditation 24 hours a day, doing more for others, contributing with your love, with your effort, and supporting the spread of the dharma. Believe in it, getting excited about it. Be excited about the fact that new people are discovering meditation and that it is awakening them. Do not be selfish and feel that those people will take more of the teacher's attention and you won't get it. That's nonsense. With that attitude you won't get it, that's for sure. The teacher sees that attitude and he would have very little to do with you, because you are selfish and stuck in yourself. You are not seeing things properly. You are in a very illusory state of mind.
Advanced practice occurs when you gain control of your time, life, and mind in a happy, productive and sincere way. You don't take yourself completely seriously and you work very hard. You meditate impeccably and you work hard to support the spreading of the dharma, and you are mindful all day long. You practice mindfulness and monitor those thoughts, emotions and feelings. You are creative and you follow the glitter, the shiny stuff, the beauty. You never get so stuck in being responsible and mindful, that you can it let it all go, and run off with the Zen Master, or to run off chasing your private dream that leads to the shiny worlds, the worlds of beauty. Some people are so solemn and they take their practice so seriously, that when the moment comes to let go of it, they can't. Some people just chase the glittery stuff and they have no substance to their life whatsoever, and have no balance and no wisdom.
Complicated? Yes and no. It depends. In advanced meditation, you sit and stop your thoughts for an hour. Merge with Eternity. Reach the stillness between the turning worlds. The way you learn that is by sitting with the Zen Master, and as he moves into those states of attention you feel that and follow him. He generates tremendous energy during meditation practice, or when he is doing anything, and if you are there in his physical presence, you will feel that. You are taught inwardly: it's the psychic teaching. The rest of the time just work on it and have fun with it. It's the most exciting study there is. It's the only thing in life that makes you feel consistently better, no matter what is happening outside, whether it's success or failure; whether they love you or hate you, you are consistently happy. In the beginning you are not consistently happy. You are consistently up and down, but at least you are consistently up and down. At least there is up; before there was only down. But eventually you reach a level of stability where you just don't let yourself go down, or if you do, you bring yourself back up to an even higher place than you were before.
Eternity is everywhere. It stretches in all directions, never beginning and never ending. Merge with it, embrace it, let go of your ideas and concepts of what Zen is, what Zen Masters are, and who you are, and what life is, and what death is. Be free and disciplined. This is advanced practice. . . as one Zen Master sees it.