Silent Illumination – The Awakened Heart

I sometimes refer to our meditation practice by different names. It is called zazen, just sitting, shikantaza or silent illumination. These are just names that point at what we do when we get on the cushion.

“Silent Illumination” best describes our meditation practice. I first learned the term “Silent Illumination” from a book titled “The Method of No-Method” by Chan Master Sheng Yen. Master Sheng Yen described Silent Illumination as another name for Shamatha-Vipashyana, a meditative practice of stilling the mind and developing insight. These are often traditionally practiced as two different but complementary types of training. (See the accompanying article by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche which beautifully describes Vipashyana meditation.) By contrast in our Ordinary Zen practice with it’s emphasis on the sudden approach to realization, these are practiced simultaneously. In the Pāli canon, the Buddha  describes samatha and vipassana as two “qualities of mind” to be developed through meditation. Silent Illumination can awaken us to our original nature, also known as the awakened heart, Buddha Nature, basic goodness or as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche says, “Deep Seeing”.

Deep Seeing

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