What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

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Desafinado
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What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by Desafinado »

In Katsuki Sekida's translation of The Blue Cliff Record he makes mention of the terms 'absolute samadhi' and 'positive samadhi' quite a few times, but by the time I got to the end of the book I was never fully clear on their meaning, and am interested in finding a more concise and clear definition.

My current interpretation of the two terms is this:

Absolute Samadhi - a meditative state that is not 'active', as in it's closer to sitting meditation, and one where we're able to lose ourselves fully. Essentially achieved when practicing Zazen.

Positive Samadhi - experienced in an 'active' state, when we embody a meditative state 'in the world', as we're actually doing things, speaking to people, making decisions.

Absolute Samadhi is also 'positive' in the sense that it brings us positive feeling, but Positive Samadhi is 'positive' in the sense that it's an engaged, active meditation.

Am I on the right track here?
reiun
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by reiun »

Desafinado wrote: Fri Jun 14, 2024 7:42 pm In Katsuki Sekida's translation of The Blue Cliff Record he makes mention of the terms 'absolute samadhi' and 'positive samadhi' quite a few times, but by the time I got to the end of the book I was never fully clear on their meaning, and am interested in finding a more concise and clear definition.

My current interpretation of the two terms is this:

Absolute Samadhi - a meditative state that is not 'active', as in it's closer to sitting meditation, and one where we're able to lose ourselves fully. Essentially achieved when practicing Zazen.

Positive Samadhi - experienced in an 'active' state, when we embody a meditative state 'in the world', as we're actually doing things, speaking to people, making decisions.

Absolute Samadhi is also 'positive' in the sense that it brings us positive feeling, but Positive Samadhi is 'positive' in the sense that it's an engaged, active meditation.

Am I on the right track here?

Katsuki Sekida's Four Types of Samadhi | #4 Neither Man nor Circumstances are Deprived
September 25, 2016 in Zen, Katsuki Sekida:

So far we've looked at three types of samadhi, or states of mind developed through Zen. Sekida's fourth type of samadhi is "neither man nor circumstances are deprived."

(1) Man is deprived; circumstances are not deprived.
(2) Circumstances are deprived; man is not deprived.
(3) Both man and circumstances are deprived.
(4) Neither man nor circumstances are deprived.

As we have seen, "man," as Sekida defines it, is "that certain self-ruling power (which) dominates the mind. This spiritual power is the ultimate thing we can reach in the innermost part of our existence." This "man" is what is developed through zazen meditation.

In the first form of samadhi, "man" is absent (although he is ready to make his appearance when needed), and one is wholly absorbed is outward events. This state of samadhi is the surgeon immersed in his operation, the basketball player immersed in the game, the pianist immersed in the performance. As far as I can tell, it is what Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi calls "flow."

In the second form of samadhi, experienced during zen meditation, "man" is present, but circumstances are not. The picture is of one completely absorbed in inward meditation as practiced in the zen tradition.

In the third form of samadhi, one enters into an even deeper state of meditation in which all self-reflective consciousness (i.e. "I know I'm meditating") ceases. This is a rare state according to Sekida, and seems to be simply an intensification of the second form of samadhi.

Finally, we come to Sekida's fourth form of samadhi, in which both man and circumstances are present. Here's how he speaks of this type samadhi:


"This category, 'neither man nor circumstances are deprived,' is the condition attained in the Zen student's maturity. He goes into the actual world of routine and lets his mind work with no hindrance, never losing the 'man' he has established in his absolute samadhi. If we accept that there is an object in Zen practice, then it is this freedom of mind in actual living.

To put it another way: when you are mature in practicing absolute samadhi, returning to ordinary daily life you spontaneously combine in yourself the first and third categories. You are active in positive samadhi and at the same time you are firmly rooted in jishu-zammai – the self-mastery of absolute samadhi. This is 'neither man nor circumstances are deprived,' the highest condition of Zen maturity. True positive samadhi achieved through Zen practice ultimately resolved into this fourth category.

A man may practice zazen and make certain progress in absolute samadhi and be successful in establishing the 'man' within himself. Then a new problem will arise, that of how he can exercise this man in his actual life in the busy world. When sitting on a cushion doing zazen he can attain samadhi and experience the man, and can realize that the man is really his absolute self. But when he comes out into his daily routine and eats, talks, and is active in his business, he often finds he has lost the inner man. He wonders how he can manage to maintain the man in himself in his daily life...

In short, the student who is puzzled how to retain the inner man in his daily life – who wonders how he can embody Mu in himself in his actual life – is striving for the condition in which both the inner man and the outward concerns – man and circumstances – are not deprived but are freely in action. In the first category man was inactive; in the fourth category man has returned to the front line. One who has attained maturity in Zen can behave freely and does not violate the sacred law: both man and circumstances are in vigorous activity and there is no hindrance. Only maturity in Zen will secure this condition – the ultimate aim of Zen practice."


This feeling that one is absorbed in the content of daily life, and is, at the same time, being directed by the "inner man" is, according to Sekida, the aim of Zen practice.

The way he describes this form of samadhi is very similar to the language of working with an "Inner Observer" or "doubled awareness" in other traditions. This reality has been described as being aware of the contents of consciousness and the field of consciousness at the same time. In Centering Prayer, it might be spoken of as being fully present to God and the present moment circumstance at the same time. Drawing parallels between traditions is sometimes dangerous and fails to respect the uniqueness of each tradition, but the parallel here jumps out at me. As I mentioned in the first post of this series, when describing types of samadhi, Sekida almost seems to be describing my own experience of Centering Prayer, just with different terminology.

. . . I highly recommend Sekida's Zen Training as an accessible introduction to Zen. It's important to note that it is an introduction from only one persons's perspective; and different authors from the Zen tradition often describe it in very different ways.
https://www.thecontemplativelife.org/bl ... t-deprived

Katsuki Sekida's Four Types of Samadhi | #2 Circumstances are Deprived; Man is Not Deprived
August 27, 2016 in Zen, Katsuki Sekida:

When we work on Mu or practice shikantaza, we concentrate inwardly and there develops a samadhi in which a certain self-ruling spiritual power dominates the mind. This spiritual power is the ultimate thing that we can reach in the innermost part of our existence. We do not introspect it, because subjectivity does not reflect itself, just as the eye does not see itself, but we are this ultimate thing itself. It contains in itself all sources of emotion and reasoning power, and it is a fact we directly realize in ourselves.

Rinzai Zenji calls this ultimate thing 'man.' When this 'man' rules within us in profound samadhi, circumstances are forgotten. No outward concern appears. This state of mind is 'Circumstances are deprived, man is not deprived.' It is an inward samadhi and it is what I have called absolute samadhi, because it forms the foundation of all zazen practice. It contrasts with the outwardly directed samadhi described in the first category, which I call positive samadhi. Positive samadhi is a samadhi in the world of conscious activity. Absolute samadhi is a samadhi that transcends consciousness. When we simply use the term samadhi by itself we generally refer to this absolute samadhi."
https://www.thecontemplativelife.org/bl ... cumstances.
Desafinado
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by Desafinado »

That's a fantastic explanation, thank you!
reiun
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by reiun »

You're welcome!
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Tao
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by Tao »

Arent this "Lin Ji four distinctions''??"

Sekida doesnt credit him?

At a nighttime meeting Linji told the assembly: Sometimes we take away the person but not the scene. Sometimes we take away the scene but not the person. Sometimes we take away both the person and the scene. Sometimes we don't take away the per­son or the scene.”

At the time there was a monk who asked: “What is taking away the person but not the scene?”

Linji said: “The warm sun comes out, covering the earth with glittering brocade. The infant’s hair hangs down as white as silk.”

“What is taking away the scene but not the person? ”

Linji said: “The royal command has already been put into prac­tice all over the world. There are no more upheavals for the generals outside the border defenses. ”

“What is taking away both the person and the scene?”

Linji said: “There’s no news from the rebel zones: they hold their areas on their own.”

“What is not taking away either the person or the scene?”

Linji said: “The king ascends into the jewel palace and the old peasants sing for joy.”
reiun
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by reiun »

Tao wrote: Sat Jun 15, 2024 7:31 am Arent this "Lin Ji four distinctions''??"

Sekida doesnt credit him?
In fact, Sekida in ZenTraining does credit him:
CHAPTER EIGHT
Samadhi
RINZAI ZENJI’S FOUR CATEGORIES are as follows:
(1) Man is deprived; circumstances are not deprived.
(2) Circumstances are deprived; man is not deprived.
(3) Both man and circumstances are deprived.
(4) Neither man nor circumstances are deprived.
Author Of the two quotes, Anthony Coleman, did not, AFAICT.
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Tao
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by Tao »

>In fact, Sekida in ZenTraining does credit him:

Nice, thank you.
reiun
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by reiun »

You're welcome, and sorry for the confusion.
tingdzin
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Re: What is 'absolute' and 'positive' samadhi?

Post by tingdzin »

The four categories are very old in Buddhism, although Rinzai's expression of them is his own. They have been compared to the four "wisdoms" (yeshe ) in Tibetan Buddhism, though people will have to decide for themselves whether the comparison is valid. I think Yael Bentor write a piece on this many years ago. I second the recommendation of Sekida's book, but perhaps it's more for people with a little experience already.
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