“My meditation practice was a godsend to me because it allowed me to relax while not feeling like I was frittering away precious time” – Brad Warner, “How to Not Waste Time” (Tricycle, Summer 2012)
‘Silent illumination’ is a meditation practice from the Zen school of meditation.* The practice is described in ways that often sound impossible and contradictory to the Western ear: just sit, the method of no-method, and so on. So how does one attempt to do something that is ‘not doing’?
Lion’s Roar has published an eminently practical description of silent illumination from Master Sheng-yen [1930-2009], the founder of Dharma Drum Retreat Center (“There is No ‘I’ Who is Sitting,” 1 Sept. 2003). Some bits and pieces from his teaching:
I’ve written from time to time about the benefits of meditation, and also contrarily about the uselessness of meditation. Against the view that ‘meditation delivers benefits X and Y’ is the view that ‘meditation is simply the experience of life, being in the moment’. The latter does not mean stopping to think, “this meditation will put me in the moment,” but just sitting and being open to whatever the moment (life) happens to be. The latter is true zen.
Here is a beautiful zen story that illustrates the mysterious adventure of ‘just sitting’ without any ideas of gaining or losing.