Advanced Meditation Practices

The scene is quite as you’d imagine it to be. I’m here in Big Sur; rented a little cabin. I was just out for a walk along the beach and the surf is crashing along what must be the most beautiful coastline in the world. The moonlight is playing on the water. The mountains are behind me. I’ve got a little fire going here in the fireplace. Maybe you can hear it crackling in the background. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea. I came up here to have some conversations with you.

Big Sur is a fascinating place. It’s one of the true power places in America. And it seems a fit setting at about 12:30 at night, on the 17th of December, almost Christmas, to talk to you about the most important thing—advanced meditation practices.

I’ve been meditating for a while. I started formally meditating when I was about 18 years old, but really I’ve been meditating all my life. When I was very young, three, four, five, I used to go into samadhi, a very high state of meditation. I’d be outside in the backyard of my parents’ home.

And I’d just look up at the sky and go away, dissolve, go beyond this world. Naturally, growing up, I never realized that I was essentially different from other children. Of course, I noticed that I was, but I didn’t realize that other people didn’t see life the way I did.

I was drawn back to meditation when I was, as I said, around 18. I studied with a number of different teachers. But really, I’ve never studied with teachers, to be honest. I’ve spent time with them, tried to help them in ways that I could, be of some assistance, before I became a teacher myself.

But the only thing that’s ever interested me in life is eternity. Nothing else makes any sense to me.

The world as we see it is a part of eternity—houses, cars, people, buses, smog. But for me it’s always been easier to capture eternity in the falling snow or along the coast where the waves crash and in solitary and lonely places. I never feel lonely in them. Oh, I see eternity in the city. I like the city too. I like its pulse, its energy, so I choose both.

But to be honest, it’s the quiet places where it’s easiest to feel eternity, far from the maddening crowd. So it’s in such a place that I have decided to talk to you about advanced meditation.

Yes, I started to meditate formally at about 18 and I began to go into samadhi right away. Samadhi is a very advanced state of meditation. I can remember sitting on a mountaintop in Southern California. I’d been meditating for maybe six months, just on my own. I read a book or two about it. It reminded me of something, and I would sit out there around twilight and focus on my third eye, and everything would become still. Rings of light would appear, and I’d go through them. Then suddenly I would be beyond time and space, beyond life and death. I would dissolve for what, an hour, a lifetime, eternity—there are no words. And I was changed by this experience.

That was many, many years ago. Since then, I have gone through a process of enlightenment.

Thousands and thousands of times I have been cast into the white light of eternity, dissolved, re-formed.

Now there isn’t really a difference, essentially, from my point of view, between myself and anything else.

I am that stateless state.

Advanced meditation leads you into the world of enlightenment.

Oh, there’s basic meditation. What is basic meditation? Basic meditation is sitting, struggling, feeling love and ecstasy, two times a day; practicing zazen meditation, stopping your thoughts; focusing on a chakra, on a candle flame; sitting there trying to calm the inner noise to detach yourself from your mind, trying to stop those thoughts.

But I believe in eternity. As Shakespeare said, “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” Everything happens perfectly. Sometimes we don’t understand why we suffer, why we go through experiences. But that’s the way of life. It’s not necessarily understandable.

The reason we have experiences is because of karma. We’ve done something in this life or a past life. In my own case, I’ve been a teacher in many, many lifetimes—hundreds, thousands.

I’ve been enlightened for a long time. And in each incarnation, I come into the world to be of service to beings who seek knowledge, empowerment, enlightenment; who seek to grow, evolve, develop; who want to have more fun with their lives and experience the profundity of being; who want to become more conscious in their short time in an incarnate form. I travel from world to world, teaching as I go, fighting battles with the forces that prevent enlightenment. I’m a teacher.

What do I have to say about advanced meditation? It’s a feeling. It’s beyond the body and beyond the mind.

I would classify beginning meditation—beginning, intermediate, whatever you’d like to call it—as meditation with thought. As long as there’s thought in the mind while you’re sitting, practicing zazen, then you’re in an early stage of meditation, from my point of view.

When you’re sitting and there’s no thought at all—no thought, no image, no idea, no feeling, no sense of no thought, no sense of self or non-self—now you have entered into the realm of advanced meditation.

Swami Brahmananda, who was a student of a very famous enlightened teacher, Sri Ramakrishna, said that advanced practice begins with samadhi.

Samadhi is meditation without any thought, any focus. To arrive at that point, of course, you begin with simple practice. Each day when you rise in the morning, you meditate because your mind is not filled with impressions.

You sit in front of an object of concentration with the eyes open. You focus on a candle flame, on a yantra, on something precise—a little dot, something small—and you just look at it.

You focus on it until there’s nothing else in your mind. This develops willpower. After a while, after doing this for ten minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, you close your eyes, then pick one of the chakras.

There are seven primary chakras or energy centers that are located in the subtle physical body,

There are seven primary chakras, thousands of lesser chakras.

Chakras are doorways to other worlds. When you focus on them, you step through into something else.

There’s a still point in eternity. There’s a still point where all things intersect. There’s a still point that is beyond life, time, death, pleasure, pain and the senses.

Your experience of the still point is enlightenment. This point is, you could say, everywhere, but

Advanced meditation is absorption in the still point.

It’s called enlightenment, nirvana, God, truth, call it what you will.

There, there is no activity, other than

This is advanced meditation—

being able to detach your mind

being able to let go of all of it

Everything you see is eternity. There are ten thousand states of mind, ten thousand windows to look outside of, to view life, death, the world.

Each is real, but they’re transient; they don’t last.

You are perception, awareness.

In advanced meditation, you’re going to step beyond your role as perceiver of the view, perceiver of your life, perceiver of your death.

Instead, you are going to merge everything into the flux. You’re going to go to stillness.

When that happens, the world collapses. There’s no time, no space, no viewer, no viewing, no object in view.

Beyond the ten thousand states of mind is the still point. It exists within them all—this is the riddle—yet it’s beyond them. It’s not affected by them. It gives birth to them.

You came forth from the still point that is reality.

That’s where I come from, that world.

There are different worlds, endless worlds, and different beings come from different worlds. Some people are born in Africa, some in Australia, some in America.

Some beings begin in a world, this world or that world.

In my particular case, I come from the stillness—that world. We call it the dharmakaya, the clear light of reality.

In basic meditation, you sit for 15 minutes, a half an hour, 45 minutes or an hour, depending upon your ability, and you focus—first on something outside and then you close your eyes and focus on the chakras. For focusing, I normally recommend selecting one of the three chakras-- either the third eye, between the eyebrows and a little above; the heart center, located directly in the center of the chest; or the navel center, which is about two inches below the navel.

In Zen there are three primary aspects of balance, of focus. Just as we have the legislative and the judicial and the executive, we create a checks and balance system – there’s power, knowledge and balance. You need all three to succeed, to reach the still point.

The power chakra is the navel center. The center of balance is the heart chakra; it’s the center of our being. There are actually three chakras above and three below. Above is the throat chakra, the third eye and the thousand petal lotus of light, the crown chakra at the top of the head. Below, of course, is the navel center, the power center. The third eye is the center of wisdom, the agni chakra.

There are two lower chakras, which are also power chakras, but it is not advisable for persons who are in the early stages of meditation to meditate, in my opinion, on the two lower chakras. You will unleash powers and forces that will throw you into very powerful altered states of consciousness that might not be pleasant at all. Until you have tremendous control, it is not really a good idea to meditate on these centers all of the time.

The navel center will bring the power of all three of the lower chakras into your being, but with safety.

The throat chakra is the center that really is aesthetic. It gives one an appreciation of beauty.

The thousand petal lotus of light, the crown center, really does not become operative until one is on the verge of enlightenment itself. Then you don’t really have to meditate on it. It just is. It lights up—the thousand petals gradually light up. This is all a way of talking, of course, a way of describing something that’s impossible to describe.

In basic mediation then, you sit for a period of time. If you’re a beginner, 15 minutes; after a while, a half hour then 45 minutes, maybe after a year or two. Then eventually, bring it up to an hour, hopefully twice a day, once [a day] in the beginning. Oh, you might sit longer sometimes. You’ll just find yourself doing it. But normally it’s not how long you do it—it’s better to just sit for an hour and then improve the quality of that meditation. In other words, once you’re sitting for an hour—and there’s no rush to get to that point, it will happen naturally, you’ll just find that it is happening, it’s what you’re doing—then what you want to do is work on overcoming thought, not increasing the time.

As I said, you begin by focusing on something external, a candle flame, a yantra, something like that, with your eyes open. You should spend at least half your time in a meditation session doing that and then closing the eyes for the second half and focusing on either the third eye, the heart chakra or the navel center. It’s a good idea to alternate them. You can alternate one, two or three in an individual meditation session, or I think it’s probably better, each time you meditate, to focus on a different one to gain power, balance and knowledge.

That’s basic and intermediate meditation.

Naturally, meditation is more than just sitting and focusing. It’s also letting go. When you meditate, you focus to clear the mind and to bring the willpower together.

But then, after you’ve been meditating for a while, as you’re sitting in an individual session, perhaps for the first third or half, you focus on something with the eyes open. Then you close the eyes and focus on a chakra, and then toward the end of this session let go. Don’t focus at all; just melt into eternity. You’ve raised enough energy and quieted your mind sufficiently so that you can just become eternity. Try to approach that still point. You don’t really try, you just let go and see what happens.

But our life interferes, doesn’t it? Our mind. Our thoughts. In other words, meditating is not just a practice of asserting will and learning to develop control of the mind, it’s also developing control of one’s life and gaining wisdom.

Now we move into advanced practice.

Your mind is turbulent because you’re filled with desires, frustrations. You want too many things. You’re afraid of too many things. It’s necessary to overcome both attraction and repulsion to still the mind. There is lots of mental conditioning—programming—that’s been put in there during this life by your parents, teachers, the society. You’ve been told what is and what is not, what is right and what is wrong.

This has to all be pushed aside.

Then, there are the samskaras, the tendencies from your other lifetimes, ways of seeing, habits that are so strong that they affect you now.

These have to be washed away also. They’re the operative situations in your life that are created by karma.

What you’ve done causes things to happen. Your situation in life now has been caused by—is predicated upon—your previous actions. If you made a lot of money last year and you didn’t spend it, you have it this year. If you didn’t work, you may not have much money.

So the way you set your life up and the way you conduct it—the kinds of thoughts you think, feelings that you allow yourself to have, where you focus on life—brings about a mental state. That’s karma. You can gain power and lose power. That’s karma, depending upon, of course, how you handle yourself.

Then there are unforeseen incidents. You’re walking down the street and someone comes up with a gun and demands your wallet. That’s not necessarily your karma. Someone else is creating karma—bad karma for themselves. You can have good karma, you can be a relative innocent, and bad things can happen to you.

And if it disturbs your mental equilibrium, of course, you won’t meditate well.

Meditation is the ability to clear ourselves of all conditioning, be it present life or past; to be able to deal with unexpected situations, both pleasant and unpleasant, and maintain our inner equilibrium; to be able to downplay our desires and our ego which wants attention and wants always to be right and to be noticed.

We must control the tendencies within our being that are destructive—when we want to slam somebody else, hurt them, injure them, push them out of the way.

A reverence for life needs to be developed, in which all things are sacred.

At the same time, we have to create the balance of being happy. In other words, you can’t become so “spiritual” that you’re not having a good time. You don’t want to create a plastic image of what it is to be spiritual and try to become it because you won’t be capable of it, and that will frustrate you. Or even if you could do it, if it’s not really what you’re like, then you’ll be miserable.

You need to be yourself, but constantly upgrade that self.

So a lot of self-acceptance is involved in this process. You’ve got to be able to look at both your dark and your light side, if you will, and not get enamored of or depressed by either.

This is the process of mental analysis—sifting through the selves, sifting through your thoughts, practicing mindfulness, learning to control thought.

During the day when you are thinking and you find yourself dwelling on something negative, actually consciously using your willpower to remove your mind from that which is negative—a jealous thought, an angry thought, a fearful thought—and moving your mind into the flow of something positive.

Advanced meditation, in other words, is not just sitting meditating. It’s addressing all these aspects of life—

This is advanced meditation.

In other words, advanced meditation is not performed simply when we’re sitting down once or twice a day meditating. That’s beginning and intermediate meditation.

Advanced meditation means, all day long, all night long, keeping our mind in a specific state or series of states of awareness that engender or lead to enlightenment;

In the actual practice of advanced meditation, while you’re sitting doing zazen, formally meditating, you won’t be doing that much that is outwardly different. You’ll be sitting for your hour—certainly it will be an hour at that point—twice a day.

You’ll probably start meditating with your eyes open, focusing as a warm-up. Then focus on a chakra, but then you won’t spend as much time focusing—

Not just let go to your thoughts, and sit there and think, or move into sleepy states of awareness—but move into high-powered states of attention that bring you to that still point.

Studying with a teacher. Studying with a teacher doesn’t simply mean going to an occasional seminar or lecture or Zen retreat. It means fully applying yourself to what the teacher says, most of which, of course, is not verbal. When you go to see the teacher, you need to be meditating, sitting there in a very precise state of attention.

If you’re studying with a real Zen master, a real enlightened person, then the teacher will be moving through thousands of states of mind and sometimes beyond mind.

While you’re with the teacher, whether the teacher is talking, doing zazen or taking you out for a bite to eat afterwards, the teacher is always in a state of higher awareness—being sensitive to that, not being flaky and devotional, but just being sensitive and developing the respect that is necessary for the teacher, as the teacher respects you.

We see in a lot of practice this flaky devotionalism where a person feels the necessity of bowing and scraping all the time and sucking up to the teacher and all that sort of nonsense. It’s very phony. It’s counterproductive to enlightenment and spiritual development.

What’s necessary is mutual respect. The teacher respects the student. The student respects the teacher and [develops] a sensitive awareness to what is being taught.

Now as a Zen master, of course, I teach all the time. Most of the teaching I do is not verbal. It’s in every movement of my body. It’s in my dance. It’s in the way I lift a glass of water. It’s in my voice tone. It’s in every aspect of my life.

Because it isn’t my life any more. It’s eternity expressing itself in manifold ways.

[Studying with a teacher means] being able to keenly perceive not those outer expressions of enlightenment but the enlightenment itself. Feeling that. Learning from it in a balanced happy way. Again, without over-focus.

A lot of people over-focus on Zen masters and teachers as an excuse to avoid their own life, and that way they fail to take responsibility for themselves. They have this feeling that the teacher will take care of them.

Or some teachers, of course, have said that. They say, “Just devote yourself to me, and I’ll take care of it.” This is nonsense.

You never devote yourself to a teacher. You devote yourself to the practice.

The teacher is there to teach.

The way Zen masters teach is not just through talking—they teach in a variety of ways. They interact with you in powerful and often surprising ways,

The Zen master can see precisely what it will take to cause your awareness to become free. But the Zen master can’t do it. If you’ve done your homework and you’ve been meditating and putting your life in order and following the teacher’s recommendations, then when you interact with the teacher, you’re keyed, you’re prepared, and then the slightest motion from the teacher can cause you to spin into hundreds of different states of mind, to radically shift in moments. But that only happens for the prepared individual.

So advanced meditation has more to do with the interaction of student and teacher.

It’s not that necessary in the beginning. A person just comes, meditates, takes a seminar, comes on a regular basis, applies the general teaching to their lives, works on their lives, feels wonderful improvement, practices zazen once or twice a day, sees tremendous improvement in how they feel, and in their energy level, their ability to concentrate, to accomplish things and so on.

But in the advanced practice, in advanced meditation, the relationship between the Zen master and the student becomes very terse.

The Zen master will expect things of the student because the student is now in graduate school, and in graduate school you do the amount of work you did in a year of graduate school that you might have done in three or four years as an undergraduate—which is not rushed or over-pressured, because that’s the level that one is ready for—otherwise you shouldn’t be in graduate school.

There’s a level of professionalism, in other words, of dedication and respect in the world of advanced meditation, particularly in that association.

Advanced meditation has to do with spreading the dharma. In the beginning, when you meditate, it’s not really necessary to do that. It’s just enough for you to learn how to meditate and to have much more fun with your life and to gradually start to clear yourself from the things I mentioned before. If you decide to progress to advanced meditation, then you need to take an active part in the spreading of the dharma. In other words, meditation just can’t be for personal gain. You need to consider now, actively, the welfare of others.

This can be done in two ways, essentially.

Everyone in advanced meditation practice should be more involved with the economic support of the spread of the dharma.

We live in a material world, and it’s very expensive to teach meditation, extremely expensive to rent halls, to have insurance, publicity, accounting procedures, on and on and on. The costs are phenomenal. Even when one charges seminar fees, it rarely covers the expenses involved. It doesn’t even approach it most of the time.

So the advanced student of meditation takes an active part in supporting the work of their teacher, beyond even just participating, attending seminars and giving the normal seminar fee or whatever it is. They happily work more hours or do whatever is necessary to help out more.

And those extra hours they spend—to make more money to support the dharma—is selfless giving.

It’s their zazen, and it will create powerful changes in their awareness field because they’re not just working to make money to buy their own clothes, eat their own food, drive their own car and learn Zen for themselves. If you work an extra ten hours or an extra weekend once in a while, or whatever, or just part of the hours that you’re working in your normal work week are dedicated to producing money to spread the dharma, then those hours become hours of tremendous power. That time spent is zazen; it is meditation.

A cautionary note—it’s not necessary or proper to give all of your money over to the spreading of the dharma. In other words, you should have whatever you need—a good place to live, transportation, clothes, food, money for entertainment, all those things should be yours.

But beyond that, beyond your own personal needs, beyond your own expenses to study, you should then create money to help spread the dharma.

That’s advanced meditation, when we go beyond the self. Such a person will make regular contributions or irregular contributions or whatever. They’ll even select a career, perhaps, where they can make more money and work and develop that career. Again, they won’t be pie-in-the-sky schemes that never work out. They’ll be grounded, whether it’s working down at McDonalds on a weekend or doing extra programming or whatever it may be. You don’t wait for the perfect job to come along; it doesn’t matter what it is.

If you have humility, you’re willing to undertake anything to spread the dharma.

Sometimes the teacher will have some people give basic lectures on meditation for those whom that would be helpful. That’s another way of spreading the dharma, or just telling people. Again, not pushing people into it, not trying to program them, but [telling] people who are sensitive and aware, who show an interest once exposed to Zen or other forms of self-discovery, who are ready for awakening—by sharing with them your experiences about the stillness and what it’s done for your life, what it’s like to awaken, even if you’ve only awakened a little bit. To share that but never to push it, never to be a missionary, and to be completely selfless while you do that—to never think much of yourself, to realize you’re only an instrument of eternity, to not get stuck in that terrible trap. You can lose everything if you get stuck in that.

Advanced practice then is, needless to say, sitting and meditating and stopping all thought completely, but there are other elements that become more involved. There’s a sense of commitment to the study. It’s happy, it’s never forced. It’s a natural evolutionary process of an evolved being. The association with the teacher becomes more critical. It has to be handled properly, with tremendous respect. A certain amount of time is given in effort to spreading the dharma, whether it’s developing funds or working in some way, and it’s all done with tremendous integrity. Time is spent all day and all night monitoring your thoughts and constantly keeping them in a high plateau, avoiding places that pull your energy down, avoiding people that pull your energy down, having humility and leading a balanced life, working at that job very hard in a precise way because it will help you develop your attention, participating in sports to develop your body, artistic pursuits to balance your spirit, just plain having fun, dealing effectively—without complaining—with the opposition to enlightenment.

Anyone who seeks enlightenment is going to encounter opposition, whether it’s from their society or from non-physical forces or friends or whatever it is, and [you are] being strong enough to go through that and win. That’s advanced practice.

There’s much more to advanced practice, needless to say. These are the elements of style.

Advanced practice really, beyond all this, is the entrance into the ten thousand states of mind. Most people exist in five or six of these states in their whole lifetime.

Gradually you will go through all of them with your Zen master. He will lead you from plane to plane, level to level. And then, once you’ve mastered the ten thousand states of mind, then it’s parinirvana, the absorption into the stillness forever—to go beyond this life while in this life and at the same time being normal, happy, effective in the daily world, fearless, having humility, a wonderful sense of humor, and just plain being satisfied and happy with your life.

Again, there’s no fanaticism in any of this. There’s intensity.

You have to make it happen. Don’t sit around and wait for this to occur. You’ve got to sit down at those daily meditations and work on them. Don’t just sit there and expect it to happen. You have to put your will into it. You have to put your will into creating money to spread the dharma or participating in it and doing it in a good consciousness. It’s easy not to. You have to put your will into perfecting your daily life, into monitoring your thoughts.

You have to put your will into your association with the Zen master which is, as far as I’m concerned, the most key and most misunderstood part of the advanced meditation process.

As a Zen master, of course, I only work closely with people who are prepared for that.

Most people come to seminars, and I do as much as I can for them there. I use energy applied in different ways—koans, meditation, thousands of things to shift the awareness of all those who come to see me, on many physical and non-physical levels. This creates powerful change, particularly if the person follows some of the recommendations and implements them in their daily life.

But I select people to work with more closely when they are prepared to, and I see that. They don’t have to tell me. I know. Then I will give them a task of some type, and that task becomes the koan between us.

I highly respect those who support the dharma economically, who have that level of commitment. These individuals receive my highest respect because we share something in common—a belief in truth.

That individual is exceptional. They’re stepping beyond. They’re doing something extra. I recognize that, and while I will not necessary acknowledge it outwardly, which would only add to their ego, we understand—I understand what you do. If you don’t do that, that’s fine. There is no right or wrong in any of this.

I understand you. I can see. I understand your sufferings, your difficulties, your higher and lower tendencies, and there’s something beyond all of that nonsense. That’s what I’m trying to tell you about. There’s a wonderful glitter that you can follow in life.

It’s the joy, it’s the ecstasy.

Nothing is here in this world that’s of any interest at all.

There’s no point in being, if you will, straight, a responsible member of society. Who cares? All the responsible members of society are just stuck in being responsible members of society. Nor is there any point in being an irresponsible member of society. All those people are just stuck in being irresponsible members of society. Both are very defined descriptions of selfhood.

What matters is the spiritual adventure as you move into those higher planes of consciousness. It’s ecstasy. It’s perfection.

So always follow the glitter. Follow those inner impulses. But at the same time, it’s essential to be grounded because that helps you do that. Otherwise it’s my experience that people who practice, who don’t work, who don’t participate in society, who don’t have jobs, who don’t have friends and so on, these individuals think they’re being very spiritual and they’re just being very stuck in irresponsibility and cultism and all kinds of nonsense. That has nothing to do with Zen mind or enlightenment.

Enlightenment requires discipline, balance, knowledge, power, happiness and a sense of responsibility—being able to make sacrifices and do things with your life that you would not have done otherwise, aiding others, meditating well so you can become a good instrument of eternity. You could have a mediocre meditation today, but you’re not going to because you must be at your best because today you might run into someone who you might talk to about the dharma, and you have to be at your best.

[Enlightenment requires] doing your best at your job, when you could just do a mediocre job, bringing it to perfection, not because of the money, but because that brings perfection into your attention field. Any area you slough off in your life will reflect in your meditation.

[Enlightenment requires] being happy when you could be depressed; pushing jealousy and fear out of your mind and anger, when you could just indulge in it; not feeling sorry for yourself.

This is advanced meditation, approaching these goals. This is advanced practice, and it’s the most wonderful, beautiful thing.

All of it on the surface may sound kind of austere. In other words, it sounds like, “God, I’ve got to do all this stuff?” But each time you do one of these things, a curious thing happens—you smile more and your mind becomes more still. And when you do sit down to practice zazen meditation, it’s easier.

You’re in a higher state of mind.

But there’s a part of us that resists all of this, naturally, and wants to make it sound as if it’s much too religious. You know, it’s sort of this arbitrary thing that we have to do with our life and we can’t have any fun. This is nonsense.

This is the real fun. Each time you do this, it refines your attention. You perceive the beauty and perfection of life. It’s wonderful.

But it should never be forced. I say “will it” and work at it, but that’s because you’ve selected to do this because you enjoy it. But never force it. If you’re forcing it, there’s something wrong.

There is a difference between willing and forcing.

There’s a beautiful flow to the study of Zen.

Sometimes we have to be hard on ourselves, naturally. We’ve got to get on our case—if we’re being sloppy, lazy, indulgent; we’re hanging around in mental states that we don’t belong in; we’re not working effectively and efficiently; we’re just being selfish; we’re not working for others; we’re not contributing to the spread of the dharma, and all that stuff.

All of this should make you happy.

If it’s not making you happier, then you’re not practicing correctly.

You’re not listening to the Zen master, what he’s saying outwardly, but even more importantly, what he’s saying inwardly.

Peace, sublime peace, ecstasy, love—all these things are there for you. But you have to reach for them; they don’t come by themselves. We live in a world that’s dominated by war, hate, violence and suspicion. Those are the things that come naturally in this world. So you have to will something else and not allow yourself to be discouraged when it doesn’t work out quite as quickly as you thought it should or in the way that you suspected it would.

This is advanced practice. The person who, in spite of their failures, in spite of their imperfections, in spite of the times that they’ve been literally knocked down by it all, they’re willing to get up with a smile and start again.

Having the right attitude is advanced practice, feeling that you are always a beginner in Zen. They refer to it as “beginner’s mind”—being a perpetual beginner is what they’re saying. The beginners are the most excited. I feel I’m a beginner, always. Because it’s true.

So advanced practice is not simply meditating a couple times a day, but it’s living your meditation 24 hours a day, doing more for others, contributing with your love, with your effort, supporting the spread of the dharma. Believing in it, getting excited about it, being excited about the fact that new people are discovering meditation and that it’s awakening them, not being selfish and feeling those people will take more of the teacher’s attention and you won’t get it. That’s nonsense. With that attitude, you won’t get it, that’s for sure. Because the teacher sees that attitude and will have very little to do with you because you’re selfish and stuck on yourself and you’re not seeing things properly. You’re in a very illusory state of mind.

People who use their mental powers to block the enlightenment of others, who see somebody doing well and they attack them and knock them down—the teacher has nothing to do with people like this. These people lack control. What can you teach someone who lacks control? They can’t control their anger and hostility.

The teacher is only interested in persons who have control, who can control these feelings. Everybody feels some jealousy, some anger, some hostility—at least until you’re enlightened. Then there’s no one to feel any more. Not that there’s nothing to feel. There’s everything to feel. There’s just no one to feel. So to feel these things is not bad or wrong, don’t feel guilty. But to allow them to become dominant expressions of your way of life is definitely off the wall. You can’t let it happen. If you do, you’re a beginner.

Advanced practice occurs when you gain control of your time, life and mind in a happy, productive, sincere way. You don’t take yourself completely seriously, you work very hard, you meditate impeccably, you work hard to support the spreading of the dharma and you’re mindful all day long. You practice mindfulness; you monitor those thoughts, emotions and feelings.

You’re creative and you follow the glitter, the shiny stuff, the beauty. You never get so stuck in being responsible and mindful that you can’t let it all go to run off with the Zen master or to run off chasing your private dream if it leads to the shiny worlds, the worlds of beauty.

Some people are so solemn. They take their practice so seriously, that when the moment comes to let go of it, they can’t. They get so stuck in the catechism that they forget that the point of the catechism was to lead you some place. It wasn’t an end in itself.

Some people just chase the glittery stuff and they have no substance to their life whatsoever, and no balance and no wisdom. And actually all they really want is power. But they pretend that what they’re interested in is enlightenment.

Complicated? Yes and no. Depends. This is advanced practice or an introduction to it. Advanced meditation. It’s not something that you just do. Oh, advanced meditation, yes, sit and stop your thoughts for an hour. Merge with eternity. Reach the stillness between the turning worlds. The way you learn that is by sitting with the Zen master, and as he moves into those states of attention you feel that and follow him. He generates tremendous energy during meditation practice or when he’s doing anything, and if you’re there in his physical presence, you will feel that. You’re taught inwardly in other words. It’s a psychic teaching. The rest of the time just work on it and have fun with it.

It’s the most exciting study there is. It’s the only thing I know of in life that makes you feel consistently better, no matter what’s happening outside—whether it’s success or failure, whether they love you or hate you, you’re consistently happy. In the beginning you’re not consistently happy, you’re consistently up and down. But at least there’s up! Before there was only down. Eventually you reach a level of stability where you just don’t let yourself go down, or if you do, you quickly bring yourself back up to an even higher place than before.

Eternity is everywhere. It stretches endlessly in all directions, never beginning and never ending. Merge with it. Embrace it. Let go of your ideas and your concepts of what Zen is, what Zen masters are, who you are and what life is and what death is. Be free and disciplined.

Advanced practice. As one Zen master sees it.