Satori is the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism (in Chinese: wu). It is a key concept in Zen. Whether it comes to you suddenly seemingly out of nowhere as found in the Enlightenment process called Aparka Marg, or after an undetermined passage of time centered around years of intense study and meditation as with the female Zen adept Chiyono, or after forty unrelenting years as with the Buddha's brother Ananda, there can be no Zen without that which has come to be called Satori. As long as there is Satori, then Zen will continue to exist in the world.
Satori roughly translates into individual Enlightenment, or a flash of sudden awareness. Satori is as well an intuitive experience. The feeling of Satori is that of infinite space. A brief experience of Enlightenment is sometimes called Kensho. Semantically, Kensho and Satori have virtually the same meaning and are often used interchangeably. In describing the Enlightenment of the Patriarchs, however, it is customary to use the word Satori rather than Kensho, the term Satori implying a deeper experience. The level of Enlightenment reached by the Buddha and others of similar ilk is refered to as Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.
There are, as seen in the above, more than one "level" of Self-realization. Most levels, except perhaps Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi, have been blanketed with what has become now a more general term, "Satori," Satori having fallen into the day-to-day lexicon exemplified in a variety of sources from the Eight Jhana States, to the Five Degrees of Tozan, to the Five Varieties of Zen. There are also, as claimed by some, three kinds, levels or varieties of Satori --- typically listed as being 1) emotion-based or Mystical Satori, 2) mind-based or Intellectual Satori, and 3) desire-based or Cosmic Satori. (see)
It was not always that way. If you scroll down to the Satori discription by D.T. Suzuki, below, you will gain a much greater insight into the original meaning of Satori. There is an enormous difference between say something like a rather uncomplicated early stage such as as Laya to the somewhat deeper initial step of Inka Shomei and the state of Enlightenment at the level of the Buddha.
The only way that one can "attain" Satori is through personal experience. The traditional way of achieving Satori, and the most typical way taught to Zen students in the west --- but NOT the only way --- is through the use of Koans such as those found in the Gateless Gate, the Mumonkan. Koans are "riddles" students use to assist in the realization of Satori; these words and phrases were also used by the early Zen masters. See Regarding Mu.
Another method is meditation. Satori can be brought about through Zazen meditation. This meditation would create an objective self associated awareness with a feeling of joy that overrides any other feelings of joy or sorrow. See: Shikantaza.
Even though Satori is a key concept in Zen, it should be brought to the attention of the reader that Zen and it's traditions does NOT have exclusive rights to the Enlightenment experience. That which is called Satori in Zen is a term that is wrapped around a phenomenon that "IS" and that "IS" is not "owned" by any group, religion, or sect.
Many, many, occurrences of that particular "phenomenon" has transpired both inside and outside the Doctrine of Buddhism. The person who was to become the Sixth Patriarch in the Chinese Lineage of Ch'an was Enlightened as a young boy when he overheard a sentence being spoken from the Diamond Cutter Sutra. He had gone into town to sell firewood for his mother when he just happened to hear the line. Until that point in time he had not received any formal practice in meditation, nor was he versed in Buddhism to any great extent, if at all. So too, again outside the scriptures, the great Indian sage Bhagavan Shi Ramana Maharshi was a typical of his culture teenage boy and most certainly not deeply seeped into formal religious tracts, when all of a sudden out of the blue, Satori-like, he was Awakened to the Absolute.
It is often said that when you truly need a teacher --- or that which will function in lieu of a teacher --- that is, a teacher or Satori for example, will fall upon you. This may due to some inexplicable serendipity. It may be due to the fact that the seeker has searched deeply within himself or herself and determined what sort of instruction seems to be required. It could be swept over him or her like the First Death Experience of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, or the Bhagavan's little known Second Death Experience. Or it could be a spiritual desperation on the part of the seeker, or maybe no more than a successful sales pitch by a teacher (sincere or not). It may be a combination of the previous factors, or some intuitive awareness beyond expression. For whatever the reason, the saying often applies and the coming together of the results of inner and outside forces, some within one's control, some without.
However, in the end , it is NOT just potential Zen masters in ancient China nor people in India that such events transpire, but everyday people as well. There are numerous Awakening Experiences in the Modern Era, but, even if those experiences parallel that which is called Satori, those experiences are not always called Satori. See:
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
RECOUNTING A YOUNG BOY'S NEARLY INSTANT TRANSFORMATION INTO THE ABSOLUTE DURING HIS ONLY DARSHAN WITH THE MAHARSHI
It should be noted that Adam Osborne, who, as a young boy grew up at the Ramana ashram and the son of one of the foremost Ramana biographers Arthur Osborne, played a prominent role in the Last American Darshan as linked above.
The following six points on Satori are from D.T. Suzuki's An Introduction to Zen Buddhism
1. People often imagine that the discipline of Zen is to produce
a state of self-suggestion through meditation. This entirely
misses the mark, as can be seen from the various instances cites
above. Satori does not consist in producing a certain
premeditated condition by intensely thinking of it. It is
acquiring a new point of view for looking at things. Ever since
the unfoldment of consciousness we have been led to respond to
the inner and outer conditions in a certain conceptual and
analytical manner. The discipline of Zen consists in upsetting
this groundwork once for all and reconstructing the old frame on
an entirely new basis. It is evident, therefore, that meditating
on metaphysical and symbolic statements, which are products of the
relative consciousness, play no part in Zen.
2. Without the attainment of Satori no one can enter into the
truth of Zen. Satori is the sudden flashing into consciousness of
a new truth hitherto undreamed of. It is a sort of mental
catastrophe taking place all at once, after much piling up of
matters intellectual and demonstrative. The piling has reached a
limit of stability and the whole edifice has come tumbling to the
ground, when, behold, a new heaven is open to full survey. When
the freezing point is reached, water suddenly turns into ice;
the liquid has suddenly turned into a solid body and no
more flows freely. Satori comes upon a man unawares, when he
feels that he has exhausted his whole being. Religiously, it is a
new birth; intellectually, it is the acquiring of a new viewpoint.
The world now appears as if dressed in a new garment, which seems
to cover up all the unsightliness of dualism, which is called
delusion in Buddhist phraseology.
3. Satori is the raison d'etre of Zen without which Zen is no
Zen. Therefore every contrivance, disciplinary and doctrinal,
is directed towards Satori. Zen masters could not remain patient
for Satori to come by itself; that is, to come sporadically or at
its own pleasure. In their earnestness to aid their disciples in
the search after the truth of Zen their manifestly enigmatical
presentations were designed to create in their disciples a state
of mind which would more systematically open the way to
enlightenment. All the intellectual demonstrations and
exhortatory persuasions so far carried out by most religious and
philosophical leaders had failed to produce the desired effect,
and their disciples thereby had been father and father led
astray. Especially was this the case when Buddhism was first
introduced into China, with all its Indian heritage of highly
metaphysical abstractions and most complicated systems of Yoga
discipline, which left the more practical Chinese at the loss as
to how to grasp the central point of the doctrine of Sakyamuni.
Bodhidharma, the Sixth Patriarch Hui-neng, Baso, and other Chinese
masters noticed the fact, and the proclamation and development of
Zen was the natural outcome. By them Satori was placed above
sutra-learning and scholarly discussions of the shastras and was
identified with Zen itself. Zen, therefore, without Satori is
like pepper without its pungency. But there is also such a
thing as too much attachment to the experience of Satori, which
is to be detested.
4. This emphasizing of Satori in Zen makes the fact quite
significant that Zen in not a system of Dhyana as practiced in
India and by other Buddhist schools in China. By Dhyana is
generally understood a kind of meditation or contemplation
directed toward some fixed thought; in Hinayana Buddhism it was a
thought of transiency, while in the Mahayana it was more often
the doctrine of emptiness. When the mind has been so trained as
to be able to realize a state of perfect void in which there is
not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense of being
unconscious having departed; in other words, when all forms of
mental activity are swept away clean from the field of
consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of every
speck of cloud, a mere broad expense of blue, Dhyana is said to
have reached its perfection. This may be called ecstasy or
trance, or the First Jhana, but it is not Zen. In Zen there must be not just
Kensho, but Satori. There must be a general mental upheaval which destroys
the old accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for new
life; there must be the awakening of a new sense which will
review the old things from a hitherto undreamed-of angle of
observation. In Dhyana there are none of these things, for it is
merely a quieting exercise of mind. As such Dhyana doubtless has
its own merit, but Zen must be not identified with it.
5. Satori is not seeing God as he is, as might be contended by
some Christian mystics. Zen has from the beginning made clear and
insisted upon the main thesis, which is to see into the work of
creation; the creator may be found busy moulding his universe, or
he may be absent from his workshop, but Zen goes on with its own
work. It is not dependent upon the support of a creator; when it
grasps the reason for living a life, it is satisfied. Hoyen
(died 1104) of Go-so-san used to produce his own hand and ask his
disciples why it was called a hand. When we know the reason,
there is Satori and we have Zen. Whereas with the God of mysticism
there is the grasping of a definite object; when you have God,
what is no-God is excluded. This is self-limiting. Zen wants
absolute freedom, even from God. "No abiding place" means that
very thing; "Cleanse your mouth when you utter the word Buddha"
amounts to the same thing. It is not that Zen wants to be
morbidly unholy and godless, but that it recognizes the
incompleteness of mere name. Therefore, when Yakusan
(aka Yaoshan Weiyan, Yueh-shan Wei-jen, 751-834)
was asked to give a lecture, he did not say a word, but instead
come down from the pulpit and went off to his own room. Hyakujo
merely walked forward a few steps, stood still, and then opened
his arms, which was his exposition of the great principle.
See #5 below as well as Turiyatita.
6. Satori is not a morbid state of mind, a fit subject for the
study of abnormal psychology. If anything, it is a perfectly
normal state of mind. When I speak of mental upheaval, one may be
led to consider Zen as something to be shunned by ordinary
people. This is a most mistaken view of Zen, but one
unfortunately often held by prejudiced critics. As Joshu
declared, "Zen is your everyday thought"; it all depends on the
adjustment of the hinge whether the door opens in or opens out.
Even in the twinkling of an eye the whole affair is changed and
you have Zen, and you are as perfect and as normal as ever. More
than that, you have acquired in the meantime something altogether
new. All your mental activities will now be working to a
different key, which will be more satisfying, more peaceful, and
fuller of joy than anything you ever experienced before. The tone
of life will be altered. There is something rejuvenating in the
possession of Zen. The spring flowers look prettier, and the
mountain stream runs cooler and more transparent. The subjective
revolution that brings about this state of things cannot be
called abnormal. When life becomes more enjoyable and its expense
broadens to include the universe itself, there must be something
in Satori that is quite precious and well worth one's striving
About SATORI, in a similar, yet somehow somewhat different approach, Suzuki goes on to write in ZEN BUDDHISM: Selected Writings of D.T, Suzuki, (New York: Anchor Books, 1956), pp. 103-108
1. Irrationality. "By this I mean that Satori is not a conclusion to be reached by reasoning, and defies all intellectual determination. Those who have experienced it are always at a loss to explain it coherently or logically."
2. Intuitive Insight. "That there is noetic quality in mystic experiences has been pointed out by (William) James...Another name for Satori is Kensho (chien-hsing in Chinese) meaning "to see essence or nature," which apparently proves that there is "seeing" or "perceiving" in Satori...Without this noetic quality Satori will lose all its pungency, for it is really the reason of Satori itself. "
3. Authoritativeness. "By this I mean that the knowledge realized by Satori is final, that no amount of logical argument can refute it. Being direct and personal it is sufficient unto itself. All that logic can do here is to explain it, to interpret it in connection to other kinds of knowledge with which our minds are filled. Satori is thus a form of perception, an inner perception, which takes place in the most interior part of consciousness.
4. Affirmation. "What is authoritative and final can never be negative. Though the Satori experience is sometimes expressed in negative terms, it is essentially an affirmative attidude towards all things that exist; it accepts them as they come along regardless of their moral values."
5. Sense of the Beyond. "...in Satori there is always what we may call a sense of the Beyond; the experience indeed is my own but I feel it to be rooted elsewhere. The individual shell in which my personality is so solidly encased explodes at the moment of Satori. Not, necessarily, that I get unified with a being greater than myself or absorbed in it, but that my individuality, which I found rigidly held together and definitely kept separate from other individual existences, becomes lossened somehow from its tightening grip and melts away into something indescribable, something which is of quite a different order from what I am accustomed to. The feeling that follows is that of complete release or a complete rest---the feeling that one has arrived finally at the destination...As far as the psychology of Satori is considered, a sense of the Beyond is all we can say about it; to call this the Beyond, the Absolute, or God, or a Person is to go further than the experience itself and to plunge into a theology or metaphysics." See #5 above as well as Turiyatita.
6. Impersonal Tone. "Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Zen experience is that it has no personal note in it as is observable in Christian mystic experiences."
7. Feeling of exaltation. "That this feeling inevitably accompanies Satori is due to the fact that it is the breaking-up of the restriction imposed on one as an individual being, and this breaking up is not a mere negative incident but quite a positive one fraught with signification because it means an infinite expansion of the individual."
8. Momentariness. "Satori comes upon one abruptly and is a momentary experience. In fact, if it is not abrupt and momentary, it is not Satori.
As an interesting sidelight, in his paper on Zen master Te Shan (known throughout Zen lore for burning all his commentaries and books on Zen immediately following his Awakening), refering to the above book by D.T. Suzuki, the Wanderling waxes semi-nostalgic about the importance of his early association with the meaning and context of the same book:
"Several years ago my younger brother was cleaning out his attic when he ran across a long forgotten box of stuff stashed away that at one time belonged to me. Among the contents of the box was a beat up 30 year old copy of D.T. Suzuki's ZEN BUDDHISM: Selected Writings of D.T, Suzuki (New York: Anchor Books, 1956), a book that had not seen the light of day in at least 20 years. The pages were faded and worn. Corner after corner of pages folded down. Pencil notes all over the margins and inside the covers. Sentences were underlined in ink. Whole paragraphs were highlighted in a now barely discernible yellow.
"My brother reminded me of how I, not unlike Te Shan, used to carry that book around like a bible my last two years of high school and several years afterward. Anytime anybody said anything about anything out would come my book...always ready with a "Zen answer." Then one day something was different. Like Te Shan I somehow didn't need books much any more. Don't know why, it just was."
Although the above may not seem Satori related specifically, in actuality it is. In clarification, the following by the Enlightened sage Shri Ranjit Maharaj, is offered:
"Therefore, what I say is false, but true, because I speak of That. The address is false but when you reach the goal, it is Reality. In the same way, all the scriptures and the philosophical books are meant only to indicate that point, and when you reach it they become non-existent, empty. Words are false; only the meaning they convey is true. They are illusion, but they give a meaning. Therefore,All Is Illusion, but to understand the illusion, illusion is needed. For example, to remove a thorn in your finger you use another thorn; then you throw both of them away. But if you keep the second thorn which was used to remove the first one, you'll surely be stuck again."
THE AWAKENING EXPERIENCE IN THE MODERN ERA
THE SAMADHI TRILOGY
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.
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
ON THE RAZOR'S
THE BUDDHA AND THE QUALITIES OF A DHARMA TEACHER
SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL
THE FALSE GURU TEST
Santina, Peter Della, AN INTRODUCTION TO MAJOR TRADITIONS OF
BUDDHISM, Chico Dharma Study Group.
Eastman, Roger, ed. THE WAYS OF RELIGION. New York: Oxford University
Prebish, Charles, S., ed. BUDDHISM: A MODERN PERSPECTIVE. University
Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975.
Smith, Huston. THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco,
Aparka Marge is one of two forms of Sannyasa:
The first, sannyasa-vidvat, is the one known as Aparka Marge.
Aparka Marg comes upon a person by and of itself. Whether they like it or not they are seized by an inner compulsion. The light explodes and shines so brightly within that they become blind to all 10,000 things of the world. Probably two the best known cases is that of the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Hui Neng, and the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi --- although in either case, by no means is their experience totally unique. See: As The Day Broke In Its Splendor.
Aparka Marge is that original sannyasa without the name, which was described in the Brihadaranyakopanishad:
"Once a man has come to know Him (the great unborn Atman), he becomes a muni. Desiring him alone as their loka, the wandering monks begin to roam." (4.4.22)
It should be noted that the aforementioned tradition of wandering monks (parivrajaka) continued from its original roots through to Buddhism and on to Zen. Traveling on foot, known as hsing chiao, is an ancient tradition with Zen wanderlings and considered the Third Stage or phase in Zen training.
The other kind of sannyasa (vividisii-sannyasa) is taken by a man in order to get jhana (wisdom) and moksa (liberation). It is a sure sign of the greatness of Indian society that its tradition encourages a man to devote the last stage of his life to the sole quest for the Self, renouncing all else as if he were dead already. Sannyasa, when genuinely lived with all its implications, is certainly a man's most direct route for becoming a jnani and finding liberation. Even then it is clear that no one would ever take sannyasa unless he had already glimpsed the light in his own depths and heard the summons within. (source)
The ambivalence of sannyasa is such that, in the last resort, when stripped of all rules and outward signs, it can no longer be differentiated from the spontaneous inner renunciation of any Awakened man. Nothing external can serve as the sign of the sannyasi. He may roam throughout the world, he may hide himself in caves and jungles, and equally he may live in the midst of the multitude and even share in the world's work without losing his solitude. The unperceptive will never notice him; only the evamvid (the one who knows thus) will recognize him, since he too abides in the depth of the Self. However, anyone who is already in the slightest degree Awakened cannot fail to experience something of his radiance--a taste, a touch, a gleam of light--which only the interior sense can perceive, and which leaves behind it a truly wonderful impression.
TRANSMISSION OF SPIRITUAL POWER
Brihadaranyakopanishad is the largest Upanishad of all. That is why it is called Brihad. It forms the final portion of the Satapatha Brahmana. There are six chapters in it on various subjects/persons such as Sandhya, Ushus, Karma, Vichara, Brahma, Saguna, Nirguna, Prajapathi, Devas, Asuras, Jiva, Jnana (Gyana), etc. Though Sankara fully developed Advaita only in the 8th century AD, the doctrine which teaches that there is only one reality (Para Brahma) and that all else is unreal is seen clearly in this Upanishad.
Although it has since been made no longer accessible on the net, awhile back a web-based spiritual organization that leans heavily toward the works of Richard Rose --- and of whom I write, within reason, quite favorably on my page about Alfred Pulyan --- placed a page on the web that relates directly to our discussion here regarding Satori and any levels of Satori that may exist thereof.
The placing of the page was done basically verbatium, albeit without citing the original source all the while placing it under a NEW title with NO reference to the original title, A Child of the Cyber-Sangha, simply calling it THE WANDERLING --- stating the author as "unknown."
In that it relates to Satori you may find their reasons for placing the article on the web of interest. An editor of the organization wrote at the top of the page:
"This article was posted and garnered responses from several readers. The common theme among the readers: they believed that the author of The Wanderling experienced an intellectual satori but did not have a maximum realization experience."
Elsewhere the Wanderling has stated he is NOT in agreement with the decision reached that the level of Attainment alluded to by the young man so attested to in the article was just, only, merely, or limited to so-called Intellectual Satori --- the Experience being much more encompassing. It could be the reason reached among the readers that they themselves were coming from an intellectual bias. As to the Wanderling reasons for disagreement, although it has been years since he had contact with the young man in question, he did have numerous contacts with him both prior to and following his claim as put forth in the article --- so how the Wanderling views his outcome may be somewhat enhanced away from the Intellectual Satori view by information made privy to him that goes unknown to others.
Although the web-based spiritual organization used "The Wanderling" as the title for the article A Child of the Cyber-Sangha, do NOT confuse the contents contained therein as relating to the the Wanderling as being the person the article refers to.
For one thing the young man so refered to was born in 1983 --- the Wanderling was at the ashram of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi 40 years before the young man was even born as outlined in SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: The Last American Darshan --- noticeably coming into the world well before the year 1983. So too, as for any Attainment so related back to the Wanderling please see Dark Luminosity. For level of Attainment please see Inka Shomei --- a Zen or Buddhist related term from the Japanese language that means or translates into "the legitimate seal of clearly furnished proof," --- a confirmation made by a master that his student has completed his training with said master.
For those of you who may wish to know more about just what Intellectual Satori means please click the link. For more on Satori in all its forms, refer back to the works of D.T. Suzuki as presented in An Introduction to Zen Buddhism.