Apparently sex was used by some Zen masters – for example, Ikkyu – as a way to transform energy. However, in no translation to date does evidence of this appear. It seems disciples excluded from their records about their master any mention of sex, for fear that their master would be misunderstood. Would you like to comment?
It is a long story . . .
Zen has moved from one country to another country, from one climate to another climate. It was born in India.
Hinduism, as such, in its early stages, was very natural, very existential. It had no taboos about sex, its seers and saints had wives. Celibacy was not an imposition; it came on its own accord through the natural experience of sex. Hinduism in its early stages was a very natural, very existential approach – almost like Zen.
But then there was another tradition which is represented by Jainism. It is a very puzzling question, and historians are almost silent, because nobody wants to stir any controversy. It is left to me to create all kinds of controversies.
Jainism is not a part of Hinduism; it is far more ancient than Hinduism. […]
And Jainism has never indicated that it belongs to Hinduism. Its whole approach is different. […]
Jainism has nothing in common with Hinduism. Its language is different, its conception about the world is different, it has no God. It does not have any yoga system, it does not have any Tantra. It is absolutely against sex, it is repressive of sex. But this repressive tradition of Jainism influenced the whole of India.
Of course, their saints looked far more deeply holy than the Hindu saints who were married, who had children. And not only children, but they were allowed to have concubines. These saints were just householders and lived in the forests, they had all the possessions that anybody can have. In fact, they had more possessions than ordinary people, because thousands of disciples brought presents to them. Each seer had become almost a university in himself. Around him thrived hundreds of teachers, disciples, visitors. But compared to the Jaina saint, these Hindu saints looked very ordinary.
Because of this comparison, Hinduism also became contaminated with the idea of repression of sex. Otherwise, you can see beautiful statues of men and women in deep embrace, in different postures even in the temples in Khajuraho, in Konarak, in Puri. Such beautiful sculpture you cannot find anywhere else. These temples were Hindu. Of course, sex was accepted by the Hindus – not only accepted, but a system of transforming the sexual energy, Tantra, was developed by the Hindu saints.
Jainism has remained a very small current, but very influential. It is one of the very important things to understand: the more miserable your saint, the holier he seems. If the saint is happy, joyous, loves life, and enjoys everything that existence allows him, you cannot think of him as very holy. To be holy, one has to be miserable.
In short, pleasure in any direction is condemned. Jaina saints looked more saintly, more holy, and Hindus felt that they had to change – and by and by, they did change, but not consciously. They started respecting the repressed person. Tantra became taboo, and Hindus became completely disoriented from their own sources. It happened again when Christianity came, and Hindus became even more repressed.
Gautam Buddha is the original source of Zen. He was born into a Hindu family, but he lived a very different life than is possible for ordinary people. From his very childhood he was allowed everything that he wanted; he was kept surrounded by beautiful girls; he was married. His whole life up to the age of twenty-nine years was wrapped in pleasure, in dancing, in music, in women, in wine, because the astrologers had predicted that this boy either would become a great saint or would become a great conqueror of the world.
And of course, his father was concerned and worried – he did not want him to become a saint. He was his only son, and he wanted him to become a world conqueror. He asked the astrologers how to prevent him from becoming a saint. Those idiots advised that he should be surrounded with pleasure: “Don’t let him know that there is misery. Don’t let him know that there is sickness, old age, death. Don’t let him know at all about these things. Just let him be drowned in music, in dancing, surrounded by beautiful girls. Make three palaces in different places for different seasons: a cooler place when it is summer, and a warmer place when it is winter . . . ”
And the father followed all the instructions of all those so-called wise men; in fact, their advice made him a saint. Twenty-nine years of continuous luxury – he became fed up. And suddenly, when he saw one sick man, it was a shock, because for twenty-nine years he had been kept unaware of sickness, old age, or death. And when he saw these things… how long can you prevent? Even twenty-nine years must have been very difficult for the father to manage him not to see a flower dying, or a pale leaf falling from the tree. In the night, the garden had to be cleaned of all dead flowers, dead leaves. Gautam Buddha should not know that there was something like an ending.
But this created exactly the situation in which he became first, exhausted, bored . . . so many beautiful women. By the age of twenty-nine years, he became as old as a man cannot experience in three hundred years. In twenty-nine years, he saw everything of luxury, of sex, of licentiousness. And when he suddenly came to know old age, and saw the body of a dead man being carried, he was shocked. He would not have been shocked if from the very beginning he had known that people become old – it is natural. These twenty-nine years of protection proved dangerous. When he saw the dead man, he inquired of his charioteer, “What has happened to this man?”
The charioteer said, “I am not allowed . . . in fact, the whole city has been told that you are passing by this road, so no old man, no sick man, no dead man, should be allowed on this path. How he has entered . . . but I cannot be untruthful, he is dead.”
And the second question immediately was, “Is the same going to happen to me?” And the charioteer said, “I don’t want to say it, but the truth is, it happens to all. Nobody is an exception.”
And just then he saw a sannyasin in orange robes. He asked, “What kind of man is this, and what kind of uniform . . . ?”
The charioteer said to him, “This man is in search of the eternal. He has become aware that this life is momentary, made of the same stuff as dreams are made of. Hence, he has started a search to see whether there is something inside him which will survive even death, or if there is nothing. He is an inquirer.”
Gautam Buddha was going to inaugurate the annual festival of youth. He told the charioteer, “Take me back home. I am no longer interested in the festival. I have been cheated. For twenty-nine years I have not been allowed to know the truth.”
That very night he escaped from the house. And because he was bored and fed up, those who followed him after his enlightenment obviously thought that sex was dangerous because it keeps you attached to the world. Naturally those who followed Gautam Buddha became escapists. For Buddha it was right, it was not an escape; it was simply getting out of the prison. But for others, it was not getting out of the prison. They had not even lived in the prison, they did not know the prison, they had not explored the prison. It had not come to their consciousness that it was a bondage. They simply followed Gautam Buddha. For them, sex became repressive, pleasure became contaminated.
But fortunately, Bodhidharma took Gautam Buddha’s message to China. That was a different climate. Tao was the climate in China, and Tao is very life affirmative. So in China, a new development happened: the meeting of Bodhidharma and Tao, a totally new concept. Zen is not just Buddhism; in fact, the orthodox Buddhists don’t accept Zen even as Buddhism, and they are right. Zen is a crossbreed between Gautam Buddha’s insight and Lao Tzu’s realization, the meeting of Buddha’s approach, his meditation, and Tao’s naturalness.
In Tao, sex is not a taboo; Tao has its own Tantra. The energy of sex has not to be destroyed or repressed, it is not your enemy. It can be transformed, it can become a great help in the search of your ultimateness. So in Zen, the idea of celibacy was dropped. There was no insistence on it, it was your choice, because the question is meditation. If you can meditate and live your life in a natural way, it is acceptable to Tao.
And then another transformation happened: Zen reached from China to Japan, where Shinto, the native religion, was very natural. There it became absolutely affirmative; hence it is not even talked about. There is no need, it is not a question.
You are asking, “Apparently sex was used by some Zen masters – for example, Ikkyu – as a way to transform energy. However, in no translation to date does evidence of this appear.” That does not mean that sex was a taboo. It was so natural that there was no need to discuss it. You don’t discuss urination. That does not mean you have stopped urinating. You start discussing things only when you start going against nature. If you are natural, there is nothing to discuss.
Life is to live, not to discuss.
Live as deeply and intensely as possible.
Ikkyu is certainly known to have used Tantra as a way of transformation. The sexual energy is nothing but your very life energy, it is only the name. You can call it sex energy, but by it ‘sex’, it does not become different, it is life energy. And it is better to call it life energy, because that is a wider term, more inclusive, more comprehensive. When you are going deeper into your center, that experience can be explained in many ways. It can be explained the way Hindus have explained it: it is realization of the ultimate, brahmabodh. But Brahma is not a person. The word is dangerous; it gives an idea as if we are talking about a person.
Brahma is simply the whole energy of the existence.
Jainas will call it self-realization, atmabodh, but their self is not synonymous with the ego. It is synonymous with Brahma. You are no more – in your self-realization you are no more. Buddha and Mahavira were contemporaries, and Buddha insisted again and again, that if you are no more, then why do you call it self-realization? That gives a very distorted description. Call it no-self realization. But Mahavira has his own reasons not to call it no-self realization – people are afraid of no-self realization; if you are going to be nothing, then it is better to remain something. And Mahavira knew that it does not matter whether you call it self-realization or not, you are going to disappear. But keep a positive word which is more attractive.
I can see Mahavira’s compassion in it, but I also can see Buddha’s truthfulness. He says, “If it is really no-self realization, then call it what it is. Don’t deceive people.”
Tantra will call it samadhi.
The names are different, but it is exactly life, pure life without any contamination. Once you reach to your center you can think in different categories. You can use the yoga method, then you can say this is the very center of your being: sambodhi. You can use the Tantra method, then you can say this is the center of your sex energy. And sex energy in Tantra is equivalent to life energy. These words have unnecessarily kept people discussing and discussing.
The reality is one. It is better to experience it.
Zen masters don’t talk about it for the simple reason Zen is a very natural phenomenon. It is not anti-life; it is not escapist. But most of the Zen masters have left their household life. Tired, seeing no point in the marketplace, they moved to the mountains. It was not against the marketplace, it was simply that the mountains were more silent, more peaceful. They allowed you to be yourself without any interference.
Sex is not mentioned in the records, for the simple reason that there is no reason to record it, it is accepted. If one has lived it, and there comes a time when you have outgrown it, then there is no point to go on and on, tired and disgusted. While it is beautiful, enjoy, and when it becomes a tiring, disgusting phenomenon, then just leave it for others. But there is no reason to condemn it.
A natural person simply passes beyond stages without condemnation. He has lived life, he has known life, now he wants to know something more. He wants to know something of the eternal. He has reproduced children, now he wants to know who he is in his innermost core. He has lived the world of the outside, he has been a Zorba. Now a moment comes of turning in. The outside reality has been explored without any inhibition, then you will naturally one day turn inwards.
It is the inhibition, the repressive mentality, that goes on forcing you to think of sex, because you have never lived it. Your Christianity, your Jainism, did not allow it, or allowed it and then created guilt in you that you were doing something which should not be done. Then you are living halfheartedly.
And when a thing is lived halfheartedly you never transcend, you never go beyond it. Dance to the moment when you stop automatically.
Live everything in life so you can transcend joyfully without any guilt. That is difficult for people who have been programmed with taboos: sex should not even be mentioned; death should not be mentioned either.
Sex and death are the two points: one is the beginning, the other is the end. People are kept unaware of both. About sex, it is dirty; about death, it is dangerous and gloomy . . . don’t talk about it. It is always somebody else who dies, don’t be worried. But in reality, you are born out of sex, and you are going to die. That which is born out of sex is going to disappear in death. Sex and death are the two points of the same energy. That which appears in sex, disappears in death. And both have to be understood, because both are the most important points in your life, and both have to be accepted and lived.
But religions like Christianity and Jainism are very repressive. Their very repression makes people guilty, sinners. They cannot live their life with totality, intensity, and they cannot meditate, because meditation’s first condition is to be total, to be total in everything. Then everything becomes meditation. Even making love, if you are total, then it becomes a meditation.
My own understanding about meditation is that in the beginning it must have happened to someone while making love, because that seems to be the only thing in which you can come to such a totality that time stops, mind stops, and everything becomes absolutely silent.
But that silence can be created by meditation also. The secret is known through sex, that if there is no time and no mind, you have entered into the ultimate. Through sex you enter for a single moment, and you fall back into the temporary. Through meditation you can remain in the ultimate, twenty-four hours around the clock, in an orgasmic joy. Your every moment becomes a dance. Knowing that you are not, there is nothing to fear.
Knowing that you are the whole, there is nothing to lose.
Sex is not talked about by Zen masters, simply because it is taken for granted.
One of our sannyasins has been working with John Stevens, author of One Robe, One Bowl.
He claims to have found ancient manuscripts never before published, in which Zen masters speak of sex as a tool for transformation. He has compiled a book of this material, which he is calling Lust for Zen. He anticipates that he is going to “upset Buddhists everywhere” by publishing this material.
Do it quickly, because without upsetting, it is very difficult to bring people to come to a settling. First upset, only then can they settle down in a zazen.
But there is nothing upsetting to the real Zen masters; only Buddhists may be upset. The Buddhists of India will be upset, because they have borrowed the sex-repressive idea from Jainism, from Hinduism, and from Buddha’s own experience.
But you cannot afford Buddha’s experience, because he was first a Zorba. Even Zorba was not such a Zorba as Buddha. His father found as many beautiful girls as possible from his whole kingdom . . . and he became tired.
One night after much drinking and dancing, everybody had fallen asleep. He looked around – those beautiful faces… Foam was falling from their mouths, their makeup was upset, their hairdo was not in the right place . . . and it was disgusting. But that kind of experience is not available to everybody.
It should be available to everybody, then at the age of thirty everybody is going to escape from the world. But this escape will not be out of fear.
This escape needs a new name. It is inscape. One has lived outside, now one wants to live inside. One is bored of repetition, but because of the guilty, life-negative religions predominating over humanity, nobody ever comes to meditation through his love life. Nobody comes to an orgasmic experience where time stops, where mind stops, where suddenly a new sky opens its doors.
Tantra has used the method in India. And in China, Tao has used its own different technique of Tantra to bring people through sexual experience to a meditative state. But it is not a necessity that you should come to a meditative state through sexual experience. You can come by the direct route, by the immediate . . . this very moment, through meditation.
Sex is a long way. Nothing is wrong if somebody chooses the long way; if he enjoys the journey, there is no harm. But if somebody wants a shortcut, then meditation is available as a shortcut. It is really reaching to the same experience, but by a shortcut.
And as far as my sannyasins are concerned, there is no question of renouncing anything unless something renounces you. Many things will renounce you. By and by, you will start seeing – “Why go on playing these games . . . ?” Sooner or later, you will be sitting silently, doing nothing, rejoicing in the ultimate annihilation, disappearing into the ocean, losing all your boundaries.
A monk asked Daiten, a disciple of Sekito, “How is it when one meets the person-in-there?”
Daiten replied, “The person is not in there anymore.”
When you go in, you don’t meet any person, you simply meet the whole; you simply meet the impersonal existence. You are only on the surface; once you go deeper you disappear. The deeper you go, the less you are. And when you are not, then only have you touched the real depth.
You don’t meet any person, you simply meet the impersonal existence.
Daiten was right when he said, “The person is not in there anymore if you go in.” It is only when you don’t go in . . . it is a conception, an idea. If you remain in the mind, you remain a person. The moment you go beyond the mind, the person starts melting. There comes a point you are no more, everything is – you have become one with the whole.
The monk asked, “What is ‘in there’? If there is no person, then who is there?”
Mind cannot conceive of nothingness; it can only conceive of something limited. If the person is not there, then who is there? God is there?
Buddha is reported to have said, “If you meet me in you, immediately kill, immediately cut my head! Because you have loved me, when you meditate, the image of your master may come to you. It is just an image, don’t let that image prevent you from meeting the whole. Cut the head.”
The monk asked, “What is ‘in there’?”
Daiten said, “Don’t ask that question. That is the only question that cannot be answered. You better go in and see who is there.”
Daiten is a very clear master. Without much philosophy he simply says, “Don’t ask that question. Simply go in and see.”
The monk then asked, “In the ocean of misery, the waves are deep. With what can we make a boat?”
Daiten replied, “Make a boat with wood.”
The monk said, “If we do, can we go across the ocean?”
Daiten replied, “The blind are still blind, the dumb are still dumb.”
He is showing his frustration. This monk cannot understand. You don’t have to go to the other shore of the ocean, you have to melt in the ocean. You don’t need a boat for melting. The other shore will be just like this shore. You can change places, but that is not going to change your inner space.
Hence, he said, “Whatever the masters say, people still remain blind and still are dumb.” They don’t change. They go on listening. If it is a philosophy, they can understand it, but if it is an existential experiment, they simply remain blind, deaf and dumb.
Going in is not a philosophical question. Who is there inside you? What is the point of asking when the inside is yours? Go in and see who is there. You will not find any person. You will find a pure nothingness, an existential grace, a beauty, a song without sounds, a great drunkenness, a tremendous ecstasy. You will not find any person, just experiences, but those experiences are going to transform you. Those experiences are going to change your individuality, because you will now know there is absolute silence inside, no individuality.
Then, if somebody insults you, you will not feel insulted, because you don’t exist. He is throwing stones at nothing. Then even in your ordinary life you will function like a buddha – aware, alert, compassionate.
On another occasion a monk from Korea came to see Daiten. When the monk unrolled the sitting mat to make a bow, Daiten said, “Before you leave your country, get the single phrase!”
The monk had no answer. He could not understand what Daiten was saying to him. He is saying, “Before you leave your country, get the single phrase!” By “country” he does not mean Korea. By country he is meaning, before you go from your personality, the boundary that you have lived in, get one phrase. What is that phrase?
Rather than asking, the monk had no answer. He could not understand Daiten. That single phrase is zazen. Before you leave your personality and your individuality and your mind, remember to sit silently without asking any question, and without creating any hallucination, and without creating any dream.
Just get one thing: sitting silently.
In Japanese it is one word: zazen.
Daiten then came forward and said, “If you ask about the single phrase here,
I will answer with two phrases.”
He is saying that if you don’t go in by yourself, and somebody else has to show you the way, the oneness of inside becomes two, a duality of the mind. Anything said is dual; only the unsaid is non-dual.
You say day and it includes night; you say life and it includes death. You say man and it includes woman.
You say this – and it includes that.
You cannot say anything without implying its opposite. But inside, you can experience oneness without any duality – a pure silence not against sound, a beauty not against ugliness, a truth not against lies.
The function of the master is not to tell you what is in, but to lead you inwards, force you inwards. All that is said is in the service of that which cannot be said.
The wild heron
Have you seen a wild heron sleeping? Basho says, “undisturbed nobility.” That’s what you are when silence happens to you – an undisturbed nobility. Suddenly you become an emperor. The insight gives you the whole universe. It takes away all that is false, and it gives you all that is truth, all that is beauty, all that is grace, all that is sheer joy.
A man like Basho – a man of deep meditation – will start seeing it everywhere. Even in a heron sleeping, he will see an undisturbed nobility. In a wild bird on the wing, he will see immense freedom.
In the sky, he will see his own nothingness.
He will start having a new sight about everything – even a wildflower will become more beautiful.
Jesus says, “Look at the wild lilies in the field. They are more beautiful than even Solomon the emperor was in all his splendor.”
Solomon was an ancient Jewish king of great beauty, and of great understanding. In the whole of the Holy Bible, only his song, Solomon’s Song, has some truth; otherwise, everything is ordinary. But Jesus says, “These wild lilies are more beautiful even than the splendor of the great King Solomon.”
To the man of meditation, everything becomes totally new and fresh, young, alive. He radiates love and compassion and joy.
From The Zen Manifesto: Freedom from Oneself, Discourse #8
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