Meditation as Experimentation

I have been steeped in reading and writing lately. I just finished teaching a class on the History of Modern Philosophy, I am preparing to teach a class on issues relating to Freedom and Authority, and I am working on a seminary paper that is about the word ‘sutra’ in the Platform Sutra.

At times, it feels like new vistas have opened up before me, both philosophically and spiritually. And perhaps some of these vistas are more than just flickers and flashes passing in the night.

But this morning, while I was sitting, one thing stood out: I cannot think myself through this!

At the same time, practicing with the Platform Sutra and the Diamond Sutra have changed the way I approach practice on and off the cushion.

So here is a thought – passing and fleeting as any other: meditation is a kind of experimentation. Here is an idea for liberation: count your breaths. Then sit and see if you taste peace while doing this. If you sit for 10 minutes, then try 20, then 30, then 60, then 2 hours. When your practice breaks, what remains? What else is there to bring you to peace? In this way, meditation is a kind of experimentation of those crazy ideas we have about Buddha and liberation and peace in our minds.

And then, we experiment off the cushion or while not formally practicing. So we could count our breaths while sitting. Can we still follow them when rushing to work? When talking with friends? When falling asleep? When showering? What does it mean to follow the breath anyways? What are we following? In this way, life is a kind of experimentation of those crazy ideas of peace and happiness we have in our minds.

Doesn’t matter what your practice is: breath counting, hwadu, koan, visualization, and so on. Keep experimenting with it. Let it change as you change, let it change you as you change it, all of which is no change at all, just the practice deepening and illuminating more and more.

Then when you think you are getting it, experiment again and again and again…


One thought on “Meditation as Experimentation”

  1. Indeed, if we’re think we’re getting somewhere, we better get back to the experiment. This reminds me of a short passage I read today on the blog, “Genkaku-Again:”

    “Zen teacher Ta Hui once credited an “ancient worthy” as saying,

    Having some attainment is the jackal’s yelp.
    Having no attainment is the lion’s roar.”

    Better an experimenting lion than a self-assured jackal!

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