i am not talking about zen as a whole. to be clear i'm talking about a very specific type of enlightenment. the kensho or satori that happens to people who, without the proper timing and method, would not see nibbana but it happens only because a master did something for them at the right time and the right place. an example would be a samurai who suddenly sees nibbana at a zen temple because a master presented him with a koan or a whack on the head or a shout at the perfect moment. he has not the prerequisite morality or other factors to see nibbana and then after his realization he continues to kill and dies in battle, deluded, again.
for the longest time i didn't understand how someone could have possibly had satori but then backslide, but now i think i get it.
it is totally legitimate. it works and happens all the time. however the reason someone who has had this kind of zen awakening may not come off as an arahant and can backslide into delusion again is because it is like looking down an alleyway at the right moment to see a car slow and then immediately drive out of sight. right place, right time. no fully understood view of it nor knowledge of how to see it again. you definitely saw it, but that's it, a glimpse.
so you see nibbana, but then you're back into regular thought. the realization remains but can become clouded over time. like if you saw big foot or chupacabra in the forest for a split second. you know you saw it. but then over the years you start to wonder if it was just a person in a suit or a bear or a large dog. the memory fades and you start to doubt yourself. as long as one continues what hakuin called "post satori practice" one should continue to have revelations all the way up to arahantship or at least sotopanna. the problem is many get that one glimpse and assume that's the end. they go on about their lives and don't even realize they are not enlightened. they just force everything into their idea of them being enlightened.
of course this is not the norm, most zen practitioners only have a glimpse after the same progression as with theravada; one is lead through morality intensely as the first step, then mindfulness, and finally concentration. so when a realization comes it's more stable and lasting and has a huge base to sit on, even if it clouds with time the base is so strong it doesn't matter as the ball is rolling so strong.
i just came to this conclusion and also considered the idea that people may see nibbana on drugs or other altered mind states for a split second and not even realize it or even if they do, because it was revealed in a forced and artificial way, it does not stick in any way. and again, without the proper prerequisites the realization clouds and without any knowledge of the dhamma it would cloud extremely fast and may even be totally covered up and out of view.
the same is true for theravada, someone can see it for a moment and then utterly backslide. the only difference is that there is not much effort to suddenly enlighten people, it's very gradual, so there's probably less warriors seeing nibbana as there aren't methods presented for them to do so. they would be taught to drop the violence, clean up their act, then be mindful, then meditate and then might have a realization. a master probably wouldn't even consider that they would be capable of seeing nibbana unless the prerequisites were met.
again, this is about a very specific kind of zen experience. i am not talking about zen as a whole but a single type of event that has been talked about in zen literature, namely sudden and surprising satori happening to a person without them having fulfilled the other steps on the eightfold path. and of course this is just my opinion, just for fun.
Last edited by alan...
on Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:19 am, edited 1 time in total.