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Truth & Satori

  • Truth = What is Real 

  • What is Zen

  • Why people no longer know that "truth = what is real"

  • To know that “truth=what is real," only satori is required

  • Correct Zazen for Satori

  • Exercises to know that truth=what is real

Truth = What is Real:  What does this mean? 

What is Truth?

Take ​★ for an example.

What is ​★ ?

​★ is not “a star”

★ is neither “big” nor “small”

​​★ is neither “always existing” nor “transient”

★ is not “an object that I’m perceiving”

“Star,” “big,” “small,” “always existing,” “transient,” and “an object that I’m perceiving” are all concepts, i.e. mental constructs (what you thought about ★).


However, ★ is not a concept.

★ is ★

★  (the real thing itself) = Truth.


Concepts (e.g. “★=Star”) are thought to be true.  However, ★ is not “a Star.”  The fact is ★ is ★.

There is only ★


There is only ★.  This is not the idea that I am here and only ★ exists over there. Really there is only ★. There is nothing other than ★ so it is Truth.

You may believe that “I" (as a subject) exist. However, “I” is a concept, and it has never existed in actual fact. Thus, “other” has also never existed, and there has never been distance or separation between “self” and “other.”


“I have awakened to ★” is also a concept. Someone might think this, but the fact is ★

There has never been an “I” to awaken. There is only ★

■What is Zen?

Zen is the real thing itself. The Chinese character for Zen ( 禅 ) is made up of the character “to point” and “simple.” It means, “pointing to simple truth.” This means ★ is ★. For this reason, there is no ideology, realm, or special mental state of Zen.


Why people no longer know that “truth=what is real”

The function of cognition is the reason people no longer know that truth=what is real. Cognition is the function that enables people to think that something exists. This is an important function in everyday life, but it also creates a sense of separation. With this sense of separation, people no longer know that what is real is truth itself. 


To make it easier to understand how cognition creates ignorance of truth, I will use the example of an infant. Please try to imagine. A newly born baby does not think that mother (other) is there, and I (me) am here. Newborns do not conceptualize that they exist.


From around 6 months, however, the cognitive function begins to develop, and there is a recognition of mother (someone other than self) and things (things other than self). This is a recognition of things existing. This is the beginning of a sense of self and other, which is a sense of separation. This is the beginning of not knowing truth. Then emerges the ability to think in myriad ways about the others that one thinks exists. One becomes able to conceptualize about the real thing itself. After this, one begin to think that it is the concept that is real, and not the real thing itself.  


This means that people believe that their concepts about ★ are the truth of ★.  This means that they do not see ★ as truth, but think that there is truth that exists somewhere other than ★. This leads people to try to understand or search for truth.  

In this way, most people believe that the truth of ★ is what they think about ★, so they think that they can find Truth by thinking. So when they are asked “what is ★?” they try to figure it out by thinking. They might think, “is it a star? Is it a symbol? Is it good or bad? What is it?”


However, ★ (the real thing=truth) can never be revealed through thinking. No concept will ever be ★ itself.

To know that "truth=what is real," only satori is required 


​Satori puts an end to the search for truth


Satori is not an understanding, realization, insight, condition, or feeling.


Satori is ★ (Truth=the real thing itself). Satori is not about thinking or believing that ★ is Truth. That is a concept. It is not ★ itself.


With satori, it becomes clear that there has only ever been ★ (this is not observation. It is really only ★. There is absolutely nothing else).


With satori, it also becomes clear that “I” as a subject and “others” as objects have never actually existed in fact. It also becomes clear that “star,” “big,” “small,” "there is only ★," “Truth,” “satori,” etc., are also concepts, and that they are not ★ itself. 


Satori is not a condition or sensation. For example, it is not the elimination, transformation, or realization of "I” or “self.” A self has never existed, so there is no self to eliminate, transform, or realize. Satori is not the expansion of a sense of self, and it is not an all-encompassing self, not the unification of self and other.  Why? Because self and other (subject and object, separation) have never existed. It is already ★ (only the real thing itself).


Also, please understand that there are no stages in satori and no levels (shallow or deep). There is no process to satori. Truth is either clear (satori), or not clear (delusion). It is one or the other.


When it is clear that ★ is ★, the search for truth ends. There is absolutely no more room for doubt. There is no deeper satori or knowing. There is no return to before satori. One does not think, “satori happened to me.”

■Correct Zazen for Satori


In order for ★ (the real thing=truth) to be clear (satori), it is necessary for cognition to completely cease temporarily. This means all recognition of something as existing and conceptualizing it ceases temporarily. Because it ceases completely, ★ is revealed as ★ itself, without any conceptualization.  ★ is revealed as it is. As a result of this, it will be clear that there was never such thing as “I” (subject) and “other” (object), and that they were just products of imagination.


It is not possible to turn off cognition. Any attempt to stop cognition will fail.


So then how can cognition cease?

★ is already ★, so it is completely unnecessary to intentionally try to do something based on your own way of thinking. Therefore, sit with eyes open, and that is all. This is correct zazen.  

When one continues correct zen practice, sooner or later cognition will temporarily cease of its own accord. This is how Truth is revealed (satori).

On the other hand, if one makes any type of mental effort to achieve satori (e.g. by trying to understand truth, trying to achieve what you believe to be a state of Zen, or trying to become something), cognition will not cease, and one is stuck in illusion (concepts).


★ is ★ (truth) for everyone in any situation, so satori is possible for anyone.

The reason for sitting is that it enables you to refrain from using intentional thinking. Lying down is not appropriate simply because you fall asleep.  

* * *

■Exercises to Understand that Truth = What is Real 


After reading the above once, try returning to the top and substituting other real things, such as the examples below. Repeating the exercise should make it more clear what is meant by the expression “what is real.” The real thing can only be indicated by the real thing itself, so please do give this a try.   

  • when you see ★, clap your hands. Replace the word "a star" with "a sound"

  • when you see ★, turn to the right and turn to the left. Replace the word "a star" with "view"

  • when you see ★, smell your hand. Replace the word "a star" with "smell"

  • when you see ★, take a sip of something. Replace the word "a star" with "taste"

  • when you see ★, hit your arm lightly. Replace the word "a star" with "pain"

  • when you see ★, think "ABC.”  Replace the word "a star" with "a thought"

An Introduction to Sitting Zen (VIDEO)

  On 27 December 2020, Jisho Matsumoto gave an introduction to zazen at the invitation of Astanga Yoga Mandir, a lovely yoga school in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was part of their one-month "Dhayana Discourse" program. English interpretation by Madoka. 

  Watch from 11:48 for an introduction to Astanga Yoga Mandir, and 14:00 for the introduction to zazen. Thank you Astanga Yoga Mandir for this opportunity!

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(All dates and times are Japan time. We find this time converter site easy to use.)

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