‘Nothing happened until it did’: Kensho and positive samadhi

Nothing had happened, but then I hadn’t expected anything to happen anyway. We must have descended the long stairwell, feeling the polished wood of the handmade rail with soft fingers as we went. Then we would have stepped outside into the early afternoon sunlight and onto the sidewalk, possibly looking up at the bowing trees. We would have folded arm in arm first and then made our way to the 90th St. entrance to Central Park. Did we not always do this? This was all as it would have been with nothing actually happening.

Nothing happened until it did, a something extraordinary that unveiled our world unglossed and wordlessly splendid, as glorious as it must always be to those with eyes and lungs to see and breathe.


‘When you attain kensho,’ Katsuki Sekida writes in Zen Training,

on all sides of you, right, left, before, behind, above, and below, you find Buddhas making merry. And you yourself participate in this delightful party, which goes on, strange to say, in a voiceless serenity, with every scene and every individual shining and animated, yet silent, like scattered jewels. The bell tower, the rows of tiles on the roof, the trees in the garden, the stones, the flowers are all overflowing with joy, like happy children in the kindergarten playground. This is the world of children’s art, a highly intensified expression of existence. Everything is all right as it is. Is there anything else to be sought? what you had looked upon as merely contingent phenomena of the surrounding world are real and true.

But we had not attained kensho. Might it have been positive samadhi?


For this is how it was: going wordlessly along, walking through the park with eyes completely saturated with colors and looking about at nothing in particular, with minds so detached from valuing and comparing that each and all things were on par, and with lungs and hearts so full of air as to replenish without desire. Do not say a word, I urged with my eyes, and we didn’t.

I remember closing my eyes while we walked and having no desire to open them. I remember seeing pigeons and thinking nothing of them or about anything else. I remember voices being so distant as if they did not sound in this our world. For ours was a world of gentle laughter unheard, of eternal beautiful movement and stillness, a world awakened to itself and we to it, a place so utterly happy with itself and with us but also restful with whatever comes to be or goes away. Nothing needed to happen or not happen for reality to be what it was.

You wait at a stoplight and is content to close one’s eyes (I was, I did), and you do not care whether you are walking or standing, looking or not looking, holding your breathe or breathing. It’s all one thriving gorgeous happening. Blessedness call it. Or holiness. Only, a blessed, holy reality that is so truly ours that it seems risible to keep overlooking it, to forget or neglect it, to not to be one and quietly merry with it and its voiceless overflowing.


Afterward, you could, as I did, look down and count two, three hours having elapsed since. Since when? Since we had sat on a yoga mat and meditated for nearly the first time, then when we did not know what we were doing or why (or how) and when naturally nothing happened. Only after, as we plunged like naifs into the world, did it.

Will it, like some gift from out of itself, come again as kensho and this time last for days: a young girl playing–an endless, selfless dance–with air fragrant with desert fire?

Each morning we meditate.