"Satori is your uncovering of you, a direct and real illumination that cannot be described, only experienced"
WHAT IS SATORI?
By Kira Kay
The word Satori originated in Japan and describes that moment of illumination that can only be described as a direct experience of profound truth that accompanied certain Zen practices. The experience of Satori can vary from person to person but the essence of the state is similar – a profound feeling of peace, a knowing, without doubt – truth. For some people the experience may only be a momentary glimpse, for others it may be an extended period – a common aspect, however, is that the knowledge of the experience is lasting. Once a person experiences a Satori it can often mean that their life fundamentally changes. Their outward aspects may remain the same (e.g. the same job, relationship, house, country) but their experience of life and interactions with other people may deeply evolve. Often there is the experience of empowerment, a foundation within them creating a more relaxed outlook on life and choices. Many people after experiencing a Satori see the futility of the ‘seeking’ yet they often also realise that without the seeking they would never have come to the state of Satori.
HOW DOES A PERSON ATTAIN A SATORI?
In the Eastern Meditation tradition, a Satori usually came after many years of meditation, contemplating a question which Zen in the East called a Koan. A Koan is an unanswerable question, unanswerable in the sense that you cannot present an intellectual idea. The most classical Koan is ‘Who Am I?’. In the Eastern tradition, the master would give the student a Koan and instructions on how to contemplate the question. Most often the Koan was contemplated in silence - even to the extreme of some monks who would wall themselves into caves to have complete and utter solitude contemplating the question.
After a period of time, the student would ask to have an audience with the master in order to express to the master her/his experience. The master then would determine whether or not the student had in fact had a Satori or whether they were still intellectualising the answer. If the master determined the former, then the student would be given another question to deepen his meditation and experience. If the latter, then the student would return to silent contemplation. In our general Western living it’s not always very practical to go wall oneself up in a cave for 12 years or even 1 year to contemplate a question.
It is however possible to deeply contemplate a question and have a Satori experience. If your quest is to find out ‘Who am I?’, ‘What is Life’ ‘What is my purpose?’ and you delve into self–enquiry with all your passion, then you may indeed experience a Satori. The questions are the key, leading you to an experience, not an intellectual answer. The questioning opens the person to directly experience the answer beyond all words, thoughts and dualities. On your quest for the answer you experience ‘you’. This is not an intellectual exercise. It is totally experiential, and involves your whole being. It does not depend on any belief, thought, feeling or context.
Ultimately, whatever it is that you experience is entirely and absolutely yours, no concept or theory. As an example to try to simplify this we could say that one can explain all aspects about an apple: how it looks, the history of it, even try to explain how it tastes, but the only way to TRULY experience an apple is by biting into it and chewing it, feeling the juice on your tongue – thoroughly tasting it directly yourself - and thus it is with Satori.
WHAT BENEFIT DO I GAIN BY HAVING A SATORI?
A Satori allows you to experience your whole self, and that is inclusive of your humanness, your spirit – you. For many the experienced depth of acceptance is profoundly freeing. With the acceptance comes the ability to watch the process of the mind without becoming involved, without believing it - giving you back the sense of power and the realisation that YOU can, and do, have conscious choice in each situation, and that you are not a victim of circumstance but the creator of your life. The more you see the natural flow of life the clearer it is to see your interaction in the relationships in your life from a more neutral perspective. This can support you to participate more deeply from less reaction, understanding your day-to-day interrelationships.
Once you have experienced the freedom of Satori it also gives you the possibility to experience a life without tension or at the very least to realise that when you are in a state of tension being gentle and caring with yourself relieves this tension. While the focus of attaining Satori is to have a peak experience, the journey involved frequently provides a microcosmic look at your basic attitudes towards life. It lets you see your behaviors, the way you think, what you think, how your mind works - many of the aspects to which you may have been previously blind to.
WHAT CAN BE THE ONGOING BENEFIT FOR ME?
The depth of understanding and direct experience of Truth that you attain with a Satori continues with you into the rest of your life. As it is your experience and not a concept you have learned, it becomes a real tool and support for how you choose to live your daily life. Greater understanding of yourself and your basic behaviours naturally opens choices and options. What you do with this is entirely up to you and will depend on your actual life circumstances prior to having a Satori.
WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY AFTER A SATORI?
"So far so GOOD. Thank you for being a part of my life, and for guiding me back to my own simple, honest and beautiful truth, it is all I have ever wanted. I can honestly say I have never felt so complete or seen with such clarity in my whole life as I do right NOW. I am still coming to terms with the enormity of what has happened and what has continued to happen ever since my Satori, I truly feel so blessed. Outwardly things are changing around me and I am very happy to just be taking one step at a time." Mr G
I"nitially, day one and part of day two, my feelings were mostly around 'this is a crock and I do not want to be here'. The thought of sitting for several days with Who am I? seemed to hold the potential for rapid insanity. Anyway, I decided to hang in as I could see that I was getting into stuff that had value for me. Then, I 'got' who I am, and was so excited that I couldn't sit still. It was truly wonderful. I could have left at that point feeling overjoyed… We live on a planet of indescribable beauty in a universe that I feel I have glimpsed. I feel so privileged. Awed. I have sat for long hours just staring. As if I have not seen the planet, other people, before. " Mrs L
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
If this article has inspired you – wonderful! Then you are already on your way! Follow you own inner guidance for the next steps. Be kind to yourself and start to take life and your own contemplation one step at a time. Begin to explore your questions, Who am I? What is my true purpose? What is my true nature? And allow yourself the possibility that in your day-to-day life you can experience your whole self. This may lead you to different teachers, workshops retreats, books, talks – all can be a support and catalysts – but ultimately, only YOU can have the Satori!
Satori truly is possible for you if you commit to yourself, if you are willing to invest the time and energy to uncover YOUR full potential. Begin to experiment, to explore and to be the pioneer to find yourself - to determine your own Truth. How much do you want it? Freedom is our natural birthright; a Satori illuminates this Truth clearly within you. To be a human being is truly a gift. We often do not realize or appreciate the opportunity that we have right here, right now.