torstai 21. joulukuuta 2017

Secrets of the Marathon Monks and Chain Gangs

Secrets of the
Marathon Monks and Chain Gangs

by Kim Katami, 
Pemako Buddhism,
12/2017, updated 2/2020

See also: Walking Meditation Tutorial at YouTube.

A long time ago, as a youngster in the peak of my vitality, I read about Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei (Tendai-school of Japanese Buddhism) and was very impressed. Before discussing my own views of this practice, I'd first like to introduce marathon as a form of Tendai Buddhist-training.

For deeper understanding, find this article from Wikipedia or John Stevens' book on marathon monks.


The formal name of the practice is called kaihogyo which literally means ”to circle around a mountain”. The name comes from the fact that tendai-monks run or walk marathons on paths around mountains. Monks who are accepted as marathon monks, go through demanding training which on top of the daily chores of a temple monk, includes running or walking marathons at night.

The full training lasts for 7 years. On first, second and third years, the monks run 40 kilometers for 100 days in a row. On fourth and fifth years, they run marathons for 200 days in a row. On sixth year, they go 60 kilometers per day for 100 days in a row and finally on the seventh year they run a double marathon for 100 days in a row. The training is finished with a dry fast of 7 days and nights (used to be 10 and then 9 days but the monks tended to die before finishing it) when the monk is required to sit up in meditation for 23-24 hours a day, guarded by two monitors whose job is to make sure the monk doesn't fall asleep. It is extreme.

It is interesting that some marathon monks are grown men, not youngsters in the peak of their vitality. One of the monks, Yusai Sakai, finished his second 7-year training when he was 60 years old. He is the only one who has done it twice.

My own experiences

I haven't done training as rigorous as the marathon monks but back in 2003 I did half marathons (15-35 km) daily for 3 months in a row, to test the technique. 
I'd like to go through the various aspects of this practice and share my own findings with whoever might be interested. The practices that the marathon monks do are stricly guarded by secrecy but I believe I have figured out the very practices that enable them to keep going.

Body and breath

The body is kept straight during walking. Chest and shoulders are relaxed, arms hang and swing freely on the sides. Toes aim forward. Knees are kept close to each other which enables one to keep the center line of the body straight and the posture integrated. The rhythm of stepping should be kept the same throghout the course, regardless of up or downhills. Length of the step varies a bit but rhythm stays the same. The whole body is subtly extended but simultaneously relaxed.
Some schools of yoga insist on breathing trough the nose and never through the mouth but I think one can use both: mouth when more oxygen is needed (for example during uphills or after chanting of mantras) and nose when the air is sufficient. What matters more is the settledness of the breath and even calm rhythm of breathing. Breathing moves the belly, doesn't raise the chest or shoulders.
Schools of meditation that are based on the view of mindfulness instruct one to keep the gaze of the eyes straight ahead, while remaining panoramically attentive. Nonmeditation or dzogchen, however, does not rely on effort-based mindfulness so the question of eye posture is irrelevant.

In the West there is no culture how the body is kept upright, yet relaxed at the same time. We do not have culture for carrying the body the way it does in China or Japan. To get the alignment right, one has to know how the structure of the body, bones and joints, are built or aligned in a way that moving becomes natural, flowing and effortless. To understand how to align the body it is beneficial to study inner martial arts such as tai chi, yi quan or chi gong. It will take at least couple of hundred hours to understand what proper alignment means.

Common people do not pay attention to their posture or the flow of the breath. Non-practitioners also walk or run too fast. This results in strain, discomfort, injury and scattering of energy. On the other hand, skillful use of the body, opening of joints, upright alignment, deep breathing and rhythmical movement increases vitality and clarity of the mind, while strengthening the muscles of the body, without any risk of injury.

Mind and Energy

In Tibet, there is a similar tradition of yogic running. The name for it is lung gom which literally means energy contemplation or energy meditation. Tibetan word lung is prana in sanskrit, as in pranayama, for example. Hence, the meaning of lung gom is to work with subtle energy of the breath and channels in the midst of running.

Long distance running is demanding, like a pressure cooker, but energetically is no different than prana practices performed on one's sitting cushion or yoga mat.  The similarities with sitting yogic practices are great but due to the physical stress there are also differences.

At some point there will be physical discomfort and straining. Also the mind will get scattered and perhaps clouded with thought and emotions in various degrees depending on one's stage of practice. In order to do the training in harmonious, comfortable and non-destructive way, the posture needs to be repeatedly re-aligned and relaxed, breath kept deep and mind serene. If this is not done, one's vital energy gets scattered and this single issue will make things difficult, if left unadressed. We only need to watch a running competition from television to see how athletes fail in their performance due to not understanding these basic guidelines. When done as spiritual practice, we always need to make sure that we don't force ourselves. Exercising will power is different from forcing. 

To keep going despite of great obstacles, such as aches and tiredness, the marathon monks carry a knife with them which they are to use to kill themselves if they were to give up. This is again that old ascetic die hard mentality but I think that at the same time there is truth in not giving up too easily. I think that modern people especially need to learn to not give up so easily. It is good to have that same spirit of not giving up unless one absolutely has to. When I did my half marathins as an enthusiastic young man who had very little real understanding, I used to keep a 2€ coin in my pocket. I jokingly called it the ”two of death” that I was to use for buying a bus ticket if I had to give up. Never used it though.

When pushing ones limits, there will be physical and emotional discomfort. This is true with any spiritual practice. 

The Genious of Work Song

We used to have a vibrant culture of work song in the West. From Finland it has completely disappeared but I believe it still exists in some countries and cultures such as Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. I think work song is a wonderful thing but it is such a pity that this tradition is lost in most cultures.

People used to sing together during physical labour. On fields, at construction, in whatever physical work, even in war, people kept their bodies and minds fresh by singing songs. The most obvious beneficial aspect of work song is that it keeps the spirits high. However, there is another aspect to it which is as important. It is bone vibration.

When one sings or chants, the bones vibrate subtly. Through continuous chanting, this subtle vibration keeps the bones, joints and muscles in constant state of vibration which prevents knots or areas of tension from accumulating. The body is being subtly massaged and because of this one won't get as tired as one would without chanting. In fact, while one can feel the tiredness of muscless one's energybody, that is the mind, can remain completely fresh. 

Pioneers, field slaves and chain gangs had to do hard physical labour for 12 hours a day for 6 or 7 days a week, sometimes for years on end. I think this would have been impossible without work song and it's immense benefits. This is also what marathon monks do.


Along the 40 kilometer route, the marathon monks are required to stop at small shrines and other locations for short prayers. According to Stevens, the monks stop up to 200 times along the way. This means that they make brief stops every 200 meters. It is here, in brief breaks of tantric practice, where another secret of their practice lies, in addition to actually giving the muscles of the body repeated moments of rest.

Tendai is a tantric school of buddhism. This means that they have deity empowerments and mantra practices. According to a Tendai buddhist priest that I once discussed with, the marathon monks mainly chant the mantras of their chosen deity (tib. yidam) in their practice. So they don't only get constant relief from physical and emotional stress through bone vibration caused by the use of their voice, but also their minds are flushed by the utterly pure energy of the buddhist deities - embodiments of perfect enlightenment.

To speculate on this a bit, I'd say that while the world champion of marathon running could probably endure days or perhaps even weeks of staying up all day working and running marathons at night, it is quite certain that without specific yogic knowledge and application of energy skills and mantras, event the best sports athletes would fail to accomplish 100 days of marathon, not to even mention the more challening parts of the 7-year training.

My own Experimentation

I am a tantric yogi and a practitioner of dzogchen, so I have used the mantras I have learned from my gurus during walking practice, combining it with the body and breath aspects that were outlined above.

One thing that is very important is to use audible voice because the bones need to vibrate physically. The effect is not the same with silent mantra, although this can also be used.

Tantric charge has the effect of flushing one's bodymind with pure and fresh energy. When this is continued for 1-2 hours in a row, among walking, it has a very profound effect which, I think can be compared to several hours or even a day or two on meditation retreat. The same happens when applying tantric mantras to prostrations and yoga postures.

I mostly use guru mantras: Namo Guru Rinpoche, Namo Yeshe Tsogyal Ye. Sometimes I use the short syllables of Open Heart Yoga, rhythmically intoned, with the rhythm of the feet. Sometimes I chant long syllables, like Ooommmm Aaaa Huummmm, because they get to the really deep tensions.

I greatly enjoy combining all these elements into one. If you like, I recommend you to try. 

Namo Guru Rinpoche,

torstai 7. joulukuuta 2017

Why I Didn't Quit Guru Yoga

Why I Didn't Quit Guru Yoga

In the Winter release of 2017, the Tricycle magazine published Stephen Batchelor's article entitled ”Why I Quit Guru Yoga?”. This is my casual response to Mr. Batchelor's presentation.

I consider Batchelor a great contemporary voice of buddhist study. I think his work is a fresh breeze of reason and intelligence among the large and quite colourful field of buddhism. I have been a fan of Batchelor's work for several years. However, learning about his views of Guru Yoga lead me think that it was either presented to him in a mistaken manner or he misunderstood the instructions, or both.

Batchelor doesn't mention Guru Yoga with nonphysical masters, like Guru Rinpoche, as it's method. He only discusses his experiences with his living Tibetan lamas who he apparently was encouraged to be seen as living buddhas. Rightly, this should easily raise doubts. It is strange that he doesn't mention Guru Yoga with nonphysical gurus as their presence is widely invoked in various schools of vajrayana buddhism. I think there are big problems in the way this is practiced but that is another discussion.

I would like to expand on what is correct Guru Yoga.

Tantric Guru Yoga

Contrary to orthodox vajrayana buddhism, I do not think that a student needs to receive an empowerment or initiation in order to practice Guru Yoga with a particular nonphysical guru, such as Guru Rinpoche, Milarepa, Machig Labdron or any other. I am neither saying that an empowerment couldn't help. It's just that it isn't a requirement.

The principle is that minds vibrate. The mind, or energetic body, is a developed and complex organic machine which vibrates energetically. The difference between the mind vibrations of deluded beings and gurus is that the minds of samsaric beings are soiled with numerous habits while the minds of gurus aren't. Despite of the significant difference between these two, the point is that minds vibrate.

This is the reason why anyone at any time or place, can focus one's mind and tune in to the presence of any guru, say Guru Rinpoche. This can be done by calling the name of the guru (Guru Rinpoche... Guru Rinpoche... Guru Rinpoche), thinking his image, by combining name and image or by mere intention. What happens is that the mind of the one who invokes gets in touch with the mind of the guru's. This brings in a flood of blessings and fresh energy which greatly clarifies the mind and hence makes the dharmakaya aspect of the buddhanature, or awareness of the student pronouncedly evident and helps purifying the many defilements stored in the energy body. This principle applies to any mahasiddha guru, or an attained buddha. To do this, there is no requirement of empowerment, particular mantras or other specific practices. The principle is simple and straightforward.

When it comes to long prayers, mudras, rituals and whatnot else in Guru Yoga these are just a matter of technical and cultural elaboration based on the principle. However it should also be added that unfortunately the underlying principle of particular techniques quite often seems poorly understood.

By Great Transference we mean that the material body is
integrated with the substance of the elements and disappears
into the light. Those who have the capacity can continue to see it,
but for those who are limited to a common vision it is as if it disappears.
In short, those who manifest the Great Transference continue to live in light, give teachings and work for the benefit of all beings who have
the capacity to get in contact with them”
- Namkhai Norbu

It seems that Batchelor was not introduced to this underlying principle. If this is so in his case, it probably is so in the case of many others as well. Would be wonderful to get this clarification from Mr. Batchelor.

The Greatest of Gifts

I do not think there is a gift greater than helping a deluded being recognise his nature of mind (buddhanature). In my understanding, based on thousands of hours of tantric guru yoga, this is exactly how the nonphysical gurus want to help those still caught in the wheel of samsara. They want to help. But it needs to be asked first. Asking and receiving the charge is the practice of Guru Yoga. One outgrows Guru Yoga only when becoming a living buddha oneself.

I wanted to write this short text to clarify this point to that faulty views about Guru Yoga wouldn't spread and cause harm to beings who would benefit of correct Guru Yoga the most.

I was relieved to have recovered my own authority for living my life. I realized that I had been intimidated by a culture of fear. I no longer needed to ask my teachers’ permission for what I could and couldn’t do with my mind.” - Stephen Batchelor

This is precisely what true gurus help us to accomplish.

- Kim Katami, 7.12.2017

tiistai 5. joulukuuta 2017

Shane's Awakening

Shane's Awakening

See Shane's before and after photos below.
"Before I discovered the Two-Part Formula I hadn’t much experience in meditation, in fact, for reasons that I am not entirely sure of, I hadn’t meditated for nearly 10 years.

My brother introduced me to meditation about 12 years ago and the first method I learned was a breathing awareness meditation. This seemed to have a very positive effect on me so I made a commitment to practice everyday, even though the idea of awakening or enlightenment was completely unknown to me at this stage. Around this time I also took part in a small number of retreats that were focused mainly on the practice of pure awareness. I stuck with this meditation for a while but found it
hard to stay committed. My daily practice became less and less frequent until
eventually I stopped.

During the 10 years of not meditating I had considered returning to a daily practice but could never find the inspiration that I needed. One day my
brother mentioned to me that he had discovered a new meditation technique that was awakening nearly everybody who tried it. As you can imagine I found this quite hard to believe but simply hearing about it was enough to reignite a spark in me. I didn’t go to the 2PF straight away, there was definitely something in me that was resisting it. It took a few months before I eventually decided to give it a go.

The 2PF felt strange at first and was quite unlike any meditation technique I had tried before. I certainly wasn’t one of those individuals who awakens
after one or two days. In fact, it took several weeks to break through the illusion. The 2PF never felt like it was having a very strong effect on me. I found it difficult to trigger any strong sensations of self, but I was committed and eventually it worked.

My awakening happened early on a Saturday morning, but since the afternoon of the previous day I had felt like a shift had occurred. I went out that evening to meet friends and go to a concert and throughout this whole time I felt unusually peaceful. So content and relaxed, yet energised. Socialising was much easier than usual. I often had difficulty relaxing in large groups and would usually resort to excessive drinking as a way of dealing with the tension. While cycling home I decided to try out the affirmation. Saying the words out loud and in my head, I couldn’t help but notice how the words had lost some of the meaning that they previously had. Almost to the point where they felt like they weren’t bouncing off anything, like they weren’t triggering anything in me. I went to bed when I got home and as I lay there, already after 4 am at this point, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself that something was missing. This couldn’t be awakening. My experience lacked heart, lacked warmth and love.

While lying there I became increasingly aware of a glow between my eyes. I had felt something like this before during meditation, but it had previously felt more like tension, like a clenched fist, or a rock, or a knot in my forehead. Now it felt like it was coming to life , growing warmer, and pulsing with energy. I decided to focus my entire being on it and as I did so it started to expand. The more it expanded the warmer and freer I felt. Suddenly I realised something that I had known before, but there was a sudden shock realisation of what it truly meant. For the first time in my life I realised I can be me now, really me. I said this to myself out loud. “Oh my God, I can be me now”. Nothing to be scared of anymore, nothing to chase, no-one to be, except me.
These words had such profound meaning to me that I needed to repeat them several times, completely shocked by the realisation. Suddenly I started crying
and the warm glow that was expanding across my forehead suddenly exploded, releasing a massive wave of energy across my entire body. The feeling was so indescribably intense that I broke down in completely uncontrollable tears.

My body was shaking. It felt like a huge amount of dark energy was bursting out of my body through this point in my forehead. I’m not sure how long the tears lasted but as they calmed down they were replaced by laughter and a feeling of lightness and energy like nothing I’d felt before. Even though it was 5 am I felt like getting dressed and running down the road telling everybody I met what had happened to me and how much I loved them! Crazy! I did go for a walk but you can imagine what the few people around would be like at that time on a Saturday morning, so I kept it to myself.

My awakening was such an intense experience that it took several days to recover from. The whole experience had rattled me so much that I could do
very little for those few days. But as my life gradually returned to normality reality started to sink in. The sights, the sounds, I no longer feel separated from them as I did before. I feel so connected with everything and everyone around me. Such a strange but beautiful feeling. My self could never have experienced life in this way." 



For more info and instructions of the Two-Part Formula:

tiistai 24. lokakuuta 2017

Introduction to Tibetan Heart Yoga

Introduction to Tibetan Heart Yoga

by Kim Katami
Open Heart,

  • Man has three bodies:
    1. physical body
    2. energetic body/mind and
    3. awareness.
    Physical and energetic bodies are three-dimensional, awareness is non-dimensional.
  • Practice of dharma is centered on removing dukkha or unsatisfactory and confused existence, as is taught in the Four Noble Truths. Existential confusion means perceiving our life in dualistic fashion. Because we perceive ourselves as individual entities or selves, we get confused and suffer. When this self-based dualistic perception does not arise, even momentarily, that is a moment free of suffering. 

    Introduction to Tibetan Heart Yoga: Lecture about the Principles: 

  • Selfing is spread over the energetic body or mind. It can be removed according to the laws, functions and mechanisms of the mind. Selfing cannot be removed by denying it or by disregarding the way how the mind works. Selfing cannot be thoroughly removed by physical exercises or by the means of plain awareness approach alone, although both are very relevant. Psychology cannot be bypassed. If profound transformation or realisation is attained it is through the delusion stored in your mind, not in any other way. 

    Tibetan Heart Yoga: Guided Practice:

  • When samsaric mind is ”seen through” by sutra or tantra practices, it gets transformed into wisdom mind. Seeing through refers to the principle of vipashyana meditation which means ”seeing clearly”. Seeing clearly or vipashyana is a principle that can be applied in sutric or tantric fashion. When a mental element, such as a thought is seen through, it means that the self-charge in it is released. Thereafter it has no binding power that causes selfing. In this way, our sense of self is seen through and released by piercing through it, not by transcending it. As vipashyana practices are applied, the practitioner's mind becomes growingly more lucid, while one's true self, selfless awareness, becomes the dominant mode of living. 
  • Samsaric mind, in other terms, the psychology of man, has four main aspects:
    1. subject-self
    2. object-selves referring to thoughts and emotions
    3. subconscious mind (energetics inside the physical body, bhumis 1-6) and
    4. substrate consciousness (energetics outside the body, bhumis 7-10, skt. alaya vijnana).
    All aspects of the mind correlate directly to energy channels (nadi) and energy centers (chakra). The ”mind” consists of numerous energy channels and centers. Having a samsaric mind that goes round and round in thoughts, emotions, fantasies and dreams means that the channels and centers are filled with junk, junk that is our selves with all the habits, tendencies, needs and drives. 
  • By tantra practice, all of samsaric mind is transformed into wisdom mind. This means that the self-charge, self-delusion, is released from the mind elements. This is the outcome of vipashyana practice. ”Wisdom mind” means that all the thoughtforms and formless energies of the subconscious mind (numbers 3. and 4. together) become embodiments of awareness itself. When the self-charge is released from mental elements, their true nature is experienced. True nature refers to qualities such as sense of freedom, openness, lucidity, clarity, lightness, elation, naturalness, aliveness and utter ordinariness. All these are qualities of awareness or buddha nature.

  • In tantra, the self-charge is removed with the help of a guru and buddha-deities, that the master or guru has assigned for practice. In Open Heart we ask blessings and meditate many different masters of the Mahasiddha Family, but the main masters are Guru Padmasambhava and Guru Ma Yeshe Tsogyal. Buddha-deities are cultivated through singing and repeating mantras, verbal sounds, which are the main technique of tantric yoga. Also Guru Yoga is one of our central practices where master's presence is invoked and felt in one's own bodymind. 
  • Deities are always learned or received through empowerment given by the guru or his representative so that the practitioner gets the deity or deities correctly. 
  • In Tibetan Heart Yoga, there are over 20 different buddha-deities. The list can be found from the website.

  • By using mantras relating to buddhas, the practitioner's mind goes through a transformation where the self-charges are released from all mentioned areas of the mind systematically. While some effects can be instantly experienced, thorough transformation takes time and committed effort because selfing is so deeply ingrained in the channels and centers of the energy body. 
  • In addition to mantras, the practices include mudras (hand gestures), visualisations and breathing techniques. 
  • Open Heart-method includes three approaches: sutra, tantra and dzogchen. Tantra is recommended to householders because it is easy to learn and practice, and it gives fast results. Results of Tibetan Heart Yoga can be observed from publicly released bhumi studies from the Open Heart-blog and Open Heart-YouTube-channel
  • In Open Heart, progress in practice is measured with Open Heart Bhumi Model
  • The first task in practice is to open the bhumis, all the way up to the 11th bhumi which is the first ”mahasiddha bhumi”. Throughout this process one has glimpses and insights into the selfless nature of the mind and also grows in experiencing natural awareness. 
  • When the 11th, 12th and 13th bhumis open up, awareness becomes one's default mode. Opening of the 11th bhumi brings an important paradigm shift as one mostly rests in the natural state. There is no need to ”get back to it” anymore. From this point onwards, tantric and dzogchen practice is continued for the reason of removing all habits, tendencies and karmas which in other words is perfecting the bhumis.

  • First (of three) stages of buddhahood is attained when the whole energetic body, including all channels and centers, relating to the four aspects of the mind, and the first 10 bhumis, is fully purified. After this there are no impulsive actions in one's mind at all. Being a ”buddha” means being free of one's mind while still having it. This is what the famous line from the Heart Sutra means: ”Form is emptiness, emptiness of form. Form is form, emptiness is emptiness”. A buddha does not experience selfing at all and because of this is no longer a samsaric being. The first stage of buddhahood could be described as ”mental nonduality” while the latter two stages, referring to 12th and 13th bhumis concern ”physical nonduality” and the so called ”light body” or ”rainbow body”. 
  • In Open Heart, attaining the first stage of buddhahood where all of psychology has dissolved into awareness, is seen as a realistic goal to be achieved in this body and life. It is not something that should be postponed because that is what we truly are.

Open Heart


May be freely copied and quoted with mentioning the source
Copyright Kim Katami 2017

perjantai 20. lokakuuta 2017

Awakening Statistics

Awakening Statistics

  • People who awakened in this guidance: 98/100
  • Percentage of people who attained awakening in this guidance: 98%

Since April 2014, when I started giving Guidances to Awakening, I have kept statistics which have been visible at the Open Heart-website. My purpose was to gather data from the first 100 cases (4/2014-10/2017) to see how well or poorly the technique, The Two-Part Formula, and the instructions would do. In the beginning I didn't know how the success rate would turn out and whether the percentage of success would be very low, high or something in between. Here are some facts and my thoughts about the statistics from the first 100 cases.

Why compile statistics?

An important reason behind compiling this data was that to me it got old that reliable data about how well or poorly a practice or a system does, is extremely scarce. If you start thinking about it, the field of spirituality is the only one to do so among all other possible fields of human endeavour and expertise. If data about functionable and beneficial applications was not available in science, education or culture, it would be seen suspicious and unacceptable. It is not common to find statistic data regarding awakenings or other levels of attainment (which has also been done in this blog here) but I personally think it should be a standard.

Doing this would illuminate a lot of corners. The most obvious concern is of course whether practitioners of a system do or do not wake up at all. And if they do, the next logical questions are how, within what time range, with how much effort and time put into the practice and how much help was needed from a teacher or a guide. This is simple logical reasoning, isn't it.

Guidances given by myself or other teachers

The statistics include the first 100 guidances that were given by myself or a couple of other Open Heart-teachers. The number of cases done by other teachers were 9 in number which included 7 succesful cases and 2 unsuccesful ones. At their first try (also the teacher's) two persons didn't get awakened through the guidance. After participants had failed to get awakened, I offered to do the guidance with these people for second time through which both cases succeeded. In the beginning, in all arts there are failures until the art is mastered enough for keeping the standards where they should be. This is a natural part of the learning process.

During my first 10-15 guidances I had two cases who didn't awaken. These failures happened due to my lack of expertise in giving guidance with the Two-Part Formula (2PF). Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to do the guidance with them for second time.

Even though the 2PF hits precisely at the core of the selfing mechanism, it requires skillfulness from the guide to both give helpful pointers as well as to intuit what the person needs. Just as peoples personalities differ, guidances differ quite a lot. An advice that worked for one person might not work for another, even though they are using the same technique as the basis for their processing.

Through doing these 100 guidances I've noticed that my way of doing it has changed and developed along the way. I have always put a lot of emphasis on the preparation of the person involved and as a general rule I always require 1-2 weeks of preparation, going through the materials and doing the 2PF on their own, before the guidance begins. One reason for this is that if the preparation is not well done, then the teacher has to work needlessly hard and repeat the same points over and over, from one guidance to another. A more important reason of the preparation is that the responsibility of the process is and always should be on the seeker as it his problem that the guidance seeks to solve, not the teacher's. The person involved needs to understand his responsibility and make the commitment. There were a couple of cases who started the process too casually but who understood the importance and value of the opportunity once it was pointed out to them. The teacher is there only to give pointers, and even though they are crucial, the work has to be done by the person in question.

Three kinds of cases

12 cases of the total awakened without any one-on-one attention from teacher. These people include cases who joined public lectures (30-60 min in duration) given about awakening and the technique (where technique was taught to them) and people who studied the online materials (dialogues found from Awake-ebook and Open Heart-blog) and did the 2PF on their own. All these people contacted me to ask what had happened to them or whether they had awakened. I verified their awakenings, as in all cases, through reading their verbal descriptions and by analysing their photographs.

Some people, perhaps about 15% of the total (15/100), needed very little help from the teacher. When learning about it, these ”easy cases” realised the usefulness of the technique and did the heavy lifting by themselves without much help from the teacher. In these cases the guidances lasted from few hours (the shortest was two emails changed within 6 hours) to few days. The average duration of all guidances was 4-5 days of emailing. The longest guidances, less than 10 cases, lasted for 4-5 weeks, where a break of two weeks was held in the middle.

In overall

In the beginning I didn't expect the success rate to turn out as high as 98%. As I also was identified with some of the many mistaken views about awakening out there (that have been extensively discussed in my blog and The Lion-Faced Guru Podcast), I became convinced of the effectivity of the Two Part-Formula and the guidance only after 30-40 cases.

Various aspects of awakening has been covered in my talks, writings and other materials so I will keep this short but I'd like to mention one thing. Resistance and cynicality towards Guidance to Awakening and the 2PF has been extensive, in many forms. While witnessing the peak of people's delusion disappear first hand over and over again, I have come to see this foolish critique as an indication of a very low level of understanding about awakening in our present spiritual culture, whether hindu, buddhist or otherwise. To date, I have not received a single disappointed email from anyone who took guidance or were verified awakened by me, obviously because (one of) their problems was solved for good.

It has become apparent to me that most old traditions who are the main proponents of the whole theme of awakening (!), often actually know very little about it. I have discussed problems related to this here: A Look at Awakening and The Two-Part Formula.

I am genuinely woeful for having to say this as it always upsets people who have invested in the old traditions but I have to speak my mind. I'd like to remind that in my own case it took 8½ years of 8 hours daily sitting, following old ways and views with full dedication, until I woke up. Awakening certainly doesn't replace long-standing practice but I, like many, was a victim of false views of what awakening is, how it fits in the big picture and how it is achieved. I hope it need not be so for future generations.

Thank you to all those who took this teaching seriously, worked hard and burst their bubble of self. Great!

Thank you also to many dharma friends and teacher colleagues who have given their support to my work and Open Heart.

Finally, thank you to Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal and the whole Mahasiddha Family. Jai Guru!

- Kim Katami, 20.10.2017
Open Heart,

torstai 19. lokakuuta 2017

Quotes from Zen Buddhist-teachers with Comments

Quotes from Zen Buddhist-teachers 
with Kim's Comments

By James Ford, Soto Zen and Sanbo Kyodan Zen

"In the Western Zen scene today words like enlightenment, kensho, and satori have been pushed to the background. Any emphasis on the experience of awakening has been minimized. There are reasons for this. And I think some of them are legitimate.
However, that acknowledged, the great project of Zen is nothing less than awakening. And, sliding over that, shifting the point to something else, is making a terrible mistake...
As it happened this minimizing of kensho was also the general stance within the Soto school. In a delightful illustration of this Huston Smith tells of visiting the “other Suzuki,” the renowned Shunryu Suzuki Roshi:

When, four months before his death, I had the opportunity to ask him why satori didn’t figure in his book, his wife leaned toward me and whispered impishly, “It’s because he hasn’t had it”; whereupon the Roshi batted his fan at her in mock consternation and with finger to his lips hissed, “Shhhh! Don’t tell him!’”When our laughter had subsided, he said simply, “It’s not that satori is unimportant, but it’s not the part of Zen that needs to be stressed.”

Kim's Comment: While jokes are good, old zen-master (roshi) admitting never having had an insight (awakening, opening of the 1st bhumi) is alarming. It is a direct indication of admitting not understanding the essence of buddhism. How can one present oneself as a buddhist teacher, without having a single insight into the selfless nature of the mind? This has been warned by generations of ancient zen and dzogchen masters. Bhumi-analysis on Suzuki Roshi confirms that he was not awakened.
In his book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, says, "If you feel that you are somebody, you have to practice zazen harder". I wonder what Suzuki Roshi meant with practicing zazen, or "just sitting" harder? If by practicing harder he meant paying more attention, the whole practice becomes reduced into calmness meditation (shamatha) of beginning stages (see nine stages of shamatha meditation). This is not at all what "just sitting" (shikantaza) is. See  below for more about just sitting.

"In fact others practicing within the Soto school would go much farther, denying the experience itself or denigrating it or its pursuit as nothing but a “gaining thought,” another dualistic trap...
So, in a reaction to D. T. Suzuki’s many writings, and in particular the focus found in that first book on Zen practice the Three Pillars a baby was thrown out with the bath water. Zen without awakening is a hobbled eagle. I suggest if we want Zen to be more than a mindfulness practice that will get us an edge in whatever project we want an edge in, we need to reclaim awakening as the central purpose of the project."

Kim's Comment: What many Soto Zen Buddhists don't understand is that kensho is not an experience in the same way as other experiences are. Kensho means to see one's true nature, one's buddhanature and by definition it is not a kensho if it has no irreversible effect. Zen Buddhism, like dzogchen, is correct in its view that the buddhanature cannot be created or generated but it makes a horrible mistake in its attempt to "just sit" without any kensho which for samsaric beings is an impossibility.

"Zen is a spiritual process completely bound up with the actual world; it is not meant to be a philosophy. Nor is it psychology. It is about our awakening. And when awakening is brought together with our practices and the precepts, we begin to see the contours of what Zen actually offers to the world..."
"Kensho means “to see,” and its related term is Satori, which means “to know.” Both point to the great opening of heart and mind. Sometimes, in Zen mostly, they’re synonyms for that big thing. Although I’ve seen kensho to be used for lesser insights and satori for either the big one or sometimes even for the cumulative place that one on a path that attends to these things may at some point find themselves.
The reality is dynamic, even messy. And I like the term to be a bit messy, as well. I suspect it cannot be fully described. But we can take a stab at it. At least I’m going to here.
First, I would like to hold up the big thing that is awakening as I understand it. The deepest thing is a collapsing of one’s sense of self and other and finding a place of radical openness.
The rhetoric attached to this awakening is that it is a once and forever. I have a sense of that. And at the same time I’ve seen in others who have been recognized for their awakening as well as in myself that it isn’t an escape from one’s place in karma. As the famous Fox koan reminds us, awakening does not free us from the consequences of our actions. It doesn’t even free us from taking actions in the future that will have negative consequences. What awakening is, is an existential stance of radical openness. It does not mean there are no blind spots. It does not mean one is free of the play of those endlessly arising constellations of grasping, aversion, and death-grasping certainties. But, it does mean some part of the person who has had this experience sees or knows the freedom as well as being fully in the play of life and death. So, yes, once and forever. And, no, not free from karma or even stupid or possibly evil actions."

Kim's Comment: We have to be clear about a few things: 1. The need for insights into the empty nature of the mind, 2. The range of our self-delusion and psychology so that 3. We can understand how our self-delusion (dukkha) and the path of insight meet each other. If these three points are not understood it becomes impossible to understand our position in reference to the ultimate attainment of buddhahood. It is precisely this lacking in knowledge that has been depicted by many zen- and other buddhist masters through their harmful actions and scandals. 

- James Ford, Zen-teacher of Soto and Sanbo Kyodan schools

Quotes from:

By Sheng Yen, Chinese Chan-master of Caodong and Linji-schools

So they (the students) hoped I can give them a way to sudden enlightenment. It seems to them that, given the way to sudden enlightenment they would get enlightened immediately. I told them, ”I'm sorry. If there is such a way, I would have used it first. But up until now I have not invented it.” Up until now no Chan Buddhism literature has shown who had used it. It's like making a pill from a thing called sudden enlightenment and then once you swallow it, you'd be enlightened immediately. Or like getting a morphine injection. You want enlightenment? No problem. I have this thing that you inject and you become enlightened at once. Or how about something like an acupuncture needle? One needle at the acupuncture point and enlightenment at once. All these are sudden enlightenment, aren't they? I say, what a pity, no one has yet made the discovery... Some attain enlightenment gradually while others attain enlightenment at once.”

Sheng Yen's quote from: The difference between gradual and sudden awakening:

Kim's Comment: It is very unfortunate that someone as influential as master Sheng Yen, spreads such misleading views. The view of there not existing practices that directly generate sudden awakening is very widely spread, especially in the world of zen buddhism. However, such practices do exist.  It is a great pity that such techniques have been kept secret in Tibet but, nevertheless such techniques do exist. Refer to Daniel Brown's instruction given here and The Two-Part Formula openly shared by Open Heart.

By Shinzen Young, Rinzai Zen, Shingon and Theravada

Shinzen Young, who trained extensively in Rinzai Zen, was interviewed by the Buddhist Geeks in 2010,

BG: ”
How common is that dramatic, sudden experience of enlightenment as
compared to the more gradual and even integration?”

Shinzen Young: ”
The sudden epiphany that’s described in many books about enlightenment, that has definitely happened to some of my students. And when it happens, it’s similar to what is described in those books*. How frequently does it happen? I don’t know. I don’t keep statistics, but maybe a couple times a year.”

*Visuddhimagga and Three Pillars of Zen were mentioned earlier in the interview

By Robert Aitken Roshi, Sanbo Kyodan

Aitken Roshi's student wrote: ”Aitken Roshi often noted that awakening doesn't happen by a one-size fits all formula and is as unpredictable as a lightening strike, but that while there is an "accidental" quality to the timing of one's awakening, we can make our selves "accident prone" by our cultivation of samadhi power”. 

Kim's Comment: I know zen-practitioners who had their first kensho on their first retreat, who had it after 8 years of dedicated practice and retreats or who never had it, despite of the practice aiming at it. It is unfortunate that Robert Aitken Roshi, a prioneer of American Zen spreads this misleading view, because it is incorrect. It may be the case in zen buddhism that awakenings are "unpredictable" and "accidental" but in the light of better knowledge, it is like saying that "We don't really know what we are doing". To better understand my criticism, read this. The level of dharma in the present world is regrettably low. When dharma holders and their respective methods are inable to assist people coming to them properly, I think it is logical to question the validity of the concerned tradition and its particular techniques. The methods of dharma should meet the needs of those who turn to them. This should always be the priority. Without authentic insight, a tradition, its long history, valuable ites and rituals are of little use. 
Refer to instructions that directly generate awakening here (Daniel Brown) and here. 


By Sokuzan Bob Brown, Soto Zen and Tibetan Kagyu

"There is only one awakening. There is not a shikantaza awakening, mahamudra awakening, zen awakening or tantric awakening. There is only reality. If you awaken to it, you know it. You are not in doubt, you are in certainty."

By Denko John Mortensen, Rinzai Zen

Rinzai zen-teacher called John Denko Mortensen, who took up dzogchen after decades of getting trained as a zen-teacher, said in dharma talk given in 2012, "While zen-masters say weird things, dzogchen-people actually explain things"

Kim's Comment: Please refer to my long article on Pedagogy of Dharma here

By Kobun Chino Roshi, Soto Zen

Someone wrote: "My first buddhist teacher was Kobun Chino Roshi. In one class, someone asked him how to get closer to his lineage or more involved with his lineage. His answer was to look into dzogchen." 

Kim's Comment: Kobun Chino's recommendation is like fresh air! A teacher who can admit the weak points of one's own lineage, is one among hundreds. It is a common trait that a follower of a certain method is self-sufficient and has no interest in expanding his knowledge beyond one's own system. To rely on a single lineage or a school can cause a faulty sense of confidence and authenticity. A blog about the authenticity of a dharma teacher can be found here.  

By Meido Moore Roshi, Rinzai Zen

"If I were to critique some aspects of Western Zen I have observed, though, it would be that in some quarters a misunderstanding of words like "just sit" and "ordinary mind" leads many practitioners to go off in a mistaken direction, often for years or decades. Their "just sit" is, in fact, just sitting there within the habitual arising of stale habit, and their "ordinary mind" is really just ordinary, delusional mind. Yet they are immune to correction, as they have read and been told for years that "just sit" is sufficient, that "practice IS enlightenment," etc... and have interpreted those words according to their own understanding/experience, rather than as goads to genuine realization and descriptions of the radical confidence/faith that arise within the fruition of practice."

By Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, founder of Sanbo Kyodan Zen

When people get fixed about a teacher/lineage/school and stuff like that they easily loose their sight of what they are actually doing and then say stoopid stuff like "My roshi teaches just sitting but it seems different from what sifu from China teaches with silent illumination". I've seen such discussions so many times. It's madness. It beats me how folks can loose sight of the fact that all beings have buddhanature and all these direct path meditations are solely about recognition of one's buddhanature and familiarisation of it. I think such debates are just indications how rare the recognition and familiarisation of it is.

Here is a fine example how faulty instructions can be, from one of the most highly respected Japanese zen masters of the last century, Yasutani Hakuun Roshi:

"In doing shikantaza you must maintain mental alertness, which is of particular importance to beginners-and even those who have been practicing ten years could still be called beginners! Often due to weak concentration, one becomes self-conscious or falls into a sort of trance or ecstatic state of mind. Such practice might be useful to relax yourself, but it will never lead to enlightenment and is not the practice of the Buddha Way. When you thoroughly practice shikantaza you will sweat-even in the winter. Such intensely heightened alertness of mind cannot be maintained for long periods of time. You might think that you can maintain it for longer, but this state will naturally loosen...To do shikantaza does not mean to become without thoughts, yet, doing shikantaza, do not let your mind wander. Do not even contemplate enlightenment or becoming Buddha. As soon as such thoughts arise, you have stopped doing shikantaza...Sit with such intensely heightened concentration, patience, and alertness that if someone were to touch you while you are sitting, there would be an electrical spark! Sitting thus, you return naturally to the original Buddha, the very nature of your being."

He says he is teaching just sitting, recognition of buddhanature, the highest practice in zen buddhism, but is actually describing three-dimensional attention with very high intensity. This is developmental shamatha, not the natural state. He is basically narrating a huge misunderstanding. In mahamudra, this is known as shamatha without support, although I've never seen any Tibetan recommend sitting with so much intensity that you sweat in Winter's cold. I perfectly admit the value of momentary heightened attention, which is what I call dynamic concentration, but this simply is not shikantaza, buddhanature sitting. On longer scale, practicing like this is not healthy either.

lauantai 14. lokakuuta 2017

About Zen Art and Ordinary Art

About Zen Art and Ordinary Art

Some casual thoughts about art.

Zen Art

I was a student of a Japanese zen master, Terayama Tanchu Roshi, who was one of the greatest zen artists and zen art teachers of Japan. His art was calligraphy but he could comment all other arts and their spiritual or mundane features because he knew how to analyse the "zen quality" in them. This was possible because he knew the mind where art emanates from through his own zen meditation practice.

In short, the zen quality in art means whether the utter clarity and aliveness of mind is transmitted into and through the art piece to the observer. Pieces of zen art, created by people who have pure minds are impressive and have impact in a deepest meaning of the word because it reaches and touches the core of the viewer or listener, instead of merely causing the viewer to think or feel on the level of thoughts and emotions as ordinary art does. Zen art clarifies, purifies and inspires the viewer's mind while ordinary art clouds it with thought and abstract mental ideas.

In zen calligraphy, the form of the art piece can be a simple dot, a line or a circle or it can be an abstract painting or a poem brushed in alphabet or Chinese letters. In music this can mean playing a single or very few notes or creating elaborate tonal textures of complex harmonies. The form does not matter even nearly as much as the zen quality of it. If the vibrancy and aliveness of buddhanature does not come through the art, it is not zen art.

Zen and the arts have not only a closely-tied but an
inseparable relationship, like Siamese twins. The inseparability
arises because zen negates the self and in the absolute being called buddha, then affirms its being. The self once negated is not only the simple limited self but is also the manifestation of buddha, symbol of that which we revere
as universal life. When something which cannot be seen or touched is symbolized in this way, it is worthy of recognition as a magnificent
work of art. When this occurs, zen takes the form of artistic expression.
But notice, all work from a zen priest is not necessarily zen art. The art must embody the selfless absolute and in the true religious sense zen art must embody the mind that is awake.”

- Omori Sogen Roshi, Japanese zen master

Ordinary Art

In my teens I was a keen musician and studied guitar with several great musicians, played a few hundred gigs and went through the whole formal music education channel. I also became a music producer until I quit music entirely for nearly 20 years. I never stopped listening music, though.

At the time I didn't know what it actually meant but I always sought ”truth” through music. I thought that through learning the instrument, its playing techniques, musical theory and many things about melody, harmony and so on. would help me to get there, to truth, whatever it was. I spent many thousands of hours learning these things but ironically it was only when I somehow got out from everything I had learned when great music came out and and touched the hearts of the listeners. I spent a few dozen hours a week learning all these things about fingerings, chords, effects and copy the musical phrases of great musicians but when ”that something”, a glimpse, happened live, it was like jumping out from the box of musical learning to an unknown and utterly fresh territory where pure expression gushed out from. At the time as a teenager I intuited that it had to do with what was talked about by spiritual masters in their books but no one I knew had ways to systematically cultivate this.

In retrospect, after countless hours of meditation and study of buddhist psychology and zen art, I know that these moments of pure expression happened because my sense of me-ness subsided for the true me, the selfless creative space, to take over. This is nothing new to anyone who has delved deeply into doing their favourite hobby or art. My own mother, a professional of handcrafts, could instantly recognise from my narration what she has often experienced.

This is what all the greatest artists and athletes speak about. Champions like Ayrton Senna (Formula 1) or Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players ever, always say that they played and achieved their best when they went beyond their mind that thinks in usual terms of their art such as: winning, competing, game tactics or particular techniques like running, jumping, throwing, hitting the gas or changing the gear. Similarly musical giants like John Coltrane (jazz saxophone) and Steve Vai, (electric guitar, of whom I have written a book about), who are keenly into sitting meditation and prayer, testify that when their usual sense of self subsides, the true art emanates forth by itself. This is why the greats are known as ”greats”.

Ordinary Education

It is curious that one cannot become a zen calligrapher by applying brush, and black ink on white paper alone. In the same way a musician cannot learn to know and express the deepest and the most profound part of him- or herself by playing his instrument alone. One cannot learn to know ones mind, its deluded and pure areas, in any other way than through meditation. And it is here where the biggest problem and hindrance of musical education lies at because no system of musical education teaches us how to study our minds.

The consequence is that educated musicians become good at technique and they come to know everything there is to know about the common aspects of music, but they don't learn to know themselves as existential beings beyond their self-deluded mind. In terms of musical education the self-delusion becomes created through becoming biased to the works of idols, to the theory of music and by identifying with a particular genre or style of music. The students become biased to the view that this is all they need to learn, that these are the ingredients that will enable them to become as great as their idols. But this is a misleading idea because the whole thing lacks a larger context, that of mind and awareness which is the basis of everything.

Whenever we go into that creative element of our brain,
we always gravitate to the thing that interests us the most.
Some people are very passionate about politics, about love affairs,
about fast cars, most of the time we are thinking about sex... Right?
But for some reason, ever since I was very young, I've been a seeker,
after truth or reality. And through the years, I've studied,
even more than guitar, more than anything, I've studied
various religions, spiritual thoughts and truths.
You know, that's a personal journey, we all can have.
And when I go to write my music, many times I immediately just
gravitate to that core. Then my brain has all the technical information
and ability so it mixes it all up. That's how I get the music that I write.”

- Steve Vai from ”Zen of Steve Vai”

We play and create music firstly with our hearts and minds, and secondly with our bodies, voices, fingers, feet and instruments. Sounds that we create are expressions of our minds. A skilled zen artist can instantly recognise whether the notes, musical vibrations, carry the messy energy of conceptually biased mind or whether they transmit freshness and wonder of the natural mind. The nature of mind infuses the art with way more power and appeal than a deluded mind ever could.

Education of Zen Art

Music is about listening or hearing. Hearing means being in a receptive mode, rather than in a transmitting mode, projecting outwards. After one has learned the essentials about one's own instrument and music in general, it is important for one to become a listener, or otherwise one ends up blabbering all the things you've heard from others which is interesting only to those who are stuck in the same limbo. Learning to listen can and does take years of practice but if you ever stepped out from your limited mind zone and tasted pure expresion, you already know it is more than worth it.

We need to learn to listen in order for us to hear our own voice. This point has been stressed by all spiritual classics. Hearing our own voice means going beyond our sense of me-ness with all the conceptions we have acquired. When we do that, expression begins to flow by itself. We start to play, or dance or sculpt in a way we always dreamed of.

People ask me,
'How do you write music and how do you get inspiration?'.
Sometimes inspiration just comes and you never know how it's gonna come. The best music comes when you listen to your inner ear
and you hear the melodies there.”

- Steve Vai

This happens because the nature of awareness is to create and express its own nature in every way it can. For this reason we can detect the same feel, or zen quality in the work of a master race car driver, a master rock'n'roll guitarist or in the work by a master craftsman. The same vibe can be observed from an aware person walking, fixing a car, having a cup of tea, or when having an argument.

Thank you for reading.

- Kim Katami. 10/2017

Teacher of zen art, buddhist tantra and dzogchen. Amateur guitar player.

Open Heart,

See also my Soul of Sound-Facebook project about music and guitar.