The Method of Dark Zen Meditation
by Tao-Hsüan (Dôgen)
Dark Zen Meditation (hereafter, DZM) is a method designed to enter
into communion with the superessential light of the Buddha.
For those of you who are of pure intent converging with this light
is tantamount to directly sensing the Buddha’s true teaching which
spontaneously emanates from his most mysterious supernal body.
Letting this light dwell within insures that you will eventually
reach the far shore of liberation.
1. Leave desires behind.
2. Visualize your sensory perceptions to be posterior
to the Buddha’s light. Accept that sensory perceptions are
empty of substantiality.
3. Sit with legs crossed and the spine erect.
4. Recollect that which is most antecedent to the in
breath and the out breath during your normal breathing rhythm.
5. Do not follow the breath or try to visualize a point
between the in breath and the out breath.
Explanation of the Guidelines
1. To leave your desires behind means to stop grasping
after conditioned things since they are finite and subject to endless
transformation (i.e., birth and death). If we enter into sympathy
with conditioned things we will surely suffer their fate and destiny.
2. What we perceive with our senses, calling such "the
world," is a product of finite causes and conditions. Such
perceptions are posterior to that which is their absolute source.
If we wish to commune with the source of all, then we must come
to see all things as coming after the first.
3. To sit with legs crossed and spine erect prepares
the body to be offered to the Buddha’s great light; for his light
enjoys an immovable posture and a mind without attachment, which
sitting with legs crossed and holding the spine erect symbolizes.
4. To recollect that which is most antecedent to the
in breath and out breath means that you must tune into that which
is prior to the entire breathing cycle itself. Just as the hand
which lifts a staff is not part of the staff, likewise the antecedent
recollection is not a part of your breathing. As a practical
illustration, you must recollect the antecedent as you breathe in
and breathe out. If the breathing is long or short, labored or otherwise,
you must focus on the antecedent so that breathing follows after
it. When you breathe, for example, your normal belief is,
"I am breathing." It never dawns on you to retract your attention
and look in the opposite direction so as to rise above breathing.
Not surprisingly, this is not an easy task (owing to force of habit,
all of us still attend to conditions which are always posterior).
5. Those who teach that one must follow the breath are
making their very minds breath dependent, thus falling into samsara.
On the other hand, if one applies antecedent recollection, they
will one day become free of all bodily functions.
Some Practical Points
1. The minimum time for this practice is 20 minutes.
Two periods are highly recommended each day. When you feel
that your mind is joyous and agile, then it is a good time to begin.
Generally, in the morning and in the evening our minds are in such
2. Use some kind of timing device which will not disrupt
your attempt to access the Buddha’s light.
3. If you gain access to the Buddha light by recollecting
the antecedent it will be present to you throughout your daily life
as both a friend and a guide. Hence it is not just limited
to formal sitting. Additionally, no kind of suffering can
diminish it; it is always present. Why is this? It is
because the object of recollection is not within the human body.
It exists prior to the body in the realm of Universal Mind.
4. Signs of access
a. Feeling a magnetic-like energy in the head or in
the chest region;
b. Feeling a sense of being disembodied when in the
presence of the energy;
c. Vitality arises as a result of sensing the energy;
d. Bliss is sensed in differing degrees.
Further comments on DZM
Meditation is never an end in itself. It is for the purpose
of gaining access to the Buddha’s mysterious light which discloses
the character of the immortal (i.e., the light’s true source).
Without access to it there is no possibility that you will comprehend
the true path and its true completion. You can only hope to
accrue good merit and be reborn in this world when Lord Maitreya
If you intend to practice DZM, be advised that it is not to
be used as a tranquilizer or for finite purposes. It is much
more than that. In one respect, it is the raft of Dharma
which takes us to the other shore of nirvana. By it, your
dangerous journey across the waters of samsara will not be one in
which you drown in the abyss of materialism.
Read more on Dark Zen Meditation