(Zazen music plays in the background.)
Hi there! This is Zen Master Rama. For the next 45 minutes, I'll be talking with you about concentration and meditation - zazen.
(Zazen music ends.)
There is a wonderful continuity to life, isn't there? Continuity comes in different forms. There is the continuity of being - a sense of self, awareness of this world, of your life, the elements in your life, things that you think and feel, things that you desire and want to have or to experience, things that you'd like to avoid, unpleasant things - pain, frustration, depression. The continuous awareness of self, a sense of yourself continuing in time and space, is continuity - continuity of awareness.
One of the funny things about awareness, within that framework, is that it never assumes it will end. And in a way it does, and in a way it doesn't. When we're alive, we never picture ourselves dying, yet someday each of us dies. Someday in a room somewhere, perhaps a hospital room, in an automobile, perhaps outdoors, you will leave this world. You won't be here anymore and everything that you've known will fade from your view, and it will happen at the darndest time. You will be quite convinced that it couldn't be happening then, and yet you'll be powerless to stop it. Then another kind of continuity occurs, and that's the continuity that is beyond death.
Death is a doorway, but it's a very small, thin doorway, and only a portion of our being can walk through that doorway. The rest stays behind and is lost or transformed into something else. At the time of death, we walk through a doorway and our spirit, which is very thin, slides through into another world, another existence, another experience.
Zen - which means meditation, stopping thought - is about going beyond ideas to direct and immediate experiences.
But for now, we are here. We are in this world. And in this world, there are limitations - and no one likes to be limited. We all want freedom. We all want to be limitless. Limitations exist in the mind. Freedom exists in the mind. Heaven exists in the mind. Hell exists in the mind. There are objective circumstances and situations. You can be in jail. You can be free. You can live in a country with restrictions on travel. You can live in a country where they don't restrict your travel. But happiness, awareness, consciousness has little or nothing to do with physical restrictions.
There are ten thousand states of mind, ten thousand planes of awareness. Most people spend their entire lives confined to a few of these states of mind. Let's imagine them in a scale going from the left to the right. Let's say that number one is all the way over on the left, and let's say that number ten thousand is way over on the right. Number one is very dark; it has almost no light in it at all; it's hard to distinguish it from complete darkness. Number ten thousand is bright light. It is hard to distinguish it from light, yet there's a subtle difference. And there are gradations in between - 9,999 to be exact. Now naturally, since there are ten thousand, there's something more, beyond ten thousand. But the ten thousand states of mind are the place, the arena of experience, where you spend your time and your life.