Zen and the Liberating Power of Non-Duality

Hi Everyone!

The focus of this week’s newsletter is Zen meditation. Zen below you can find information on a workshop I will be doing this coming Wednesday evening 18th of January on “An Introduction to Meditation from the Perspective of Zen”. Beneath that I explore in an article the practice of non-duality as seen from the perspective of Zen meditation. I hope you enjoy it!

Last week’s meditation class entitled “How to Meditate on the Inner weather of the Mind” is now available as an MP3 recording, details can be found HERE.

Yours in the spirit of ever present enlightenment,


An Introduction to Meditation From the Perspective of Zen

The Zen School of Meditation arose from a combination of the teachings of the Buddha with the teachings of Taoism in China during the 6th century AD, where it became known as Chan meditation (‘Chan’ meaning ‘quietude’). Later it was adopted by the Japanese, and it is they that called it Zen.

Zen is a particularly appropriate form of meditation for today’s hyper busy and challenging world because:

  • Its approach is simple, direct and non-complex (the antithesis of our complex day to day habitual mind!)
  • The emphasis is on re-connecting to our ‘original mind’ or ‘beginners mind’, helping us to find relief from the information overload of our daily life, and the cynicism and world weariness that we can feel living in such challenging and world  changing times
  • It is metaphysics-light and can be practiced by people of all beliefs and backgrounds as the emphasis is upon experiential insight, method and process rather than belief
  • Rather than giving us a set of beliefs that we should ‘accept’ without question, Zen meditation offers us a set of practices that enable us to access and enhance our naturally occurring intelligence, wisdom and compassion!

In this two hour workshop we shall be examining the practical methods of meditation taught by Zen and how we can gain personal experience of inner peace and wellbeing by applying them.

Date and Time: Wednesday 18th January, 7.30-9.30pm

Venue:  Gallery Helios, 38 Petain Road, Singapore 208103 (click HERE for map)

Course fee:  Sing$50, all participants will be provided with a set of workshop notes and MP3 recording of the workshop for their own personal use.

To register or for further enquiries: Email info@tobyouvry.com or SMS 65-96750279

Article of the Week:

Zen Meditation and the Liberating Power of Non-Duality

What is the main aim of Zen meditation? You can word it in a few different ways, but one of the most fundamental is to say that Zen meditation aims to liberate us from the prison of “dualistic appearance” and enable us to live our life in a state of non-dual awareness.

Often when we think about non-dual awareness, or “one-ness awareness” the temptation can be to think of it as being a state of abstract meditation. We have our daily life on one side, and non-duality as a transcendent state of deep meditation on the other. It is true that non-duality transcends our usual day to day state of awareness, but it is a mistake to think that non-duality is something that can be found separate from our everyday, ordinary experience. What Zen seeks to point out is the presence of the non-dual in our everyday, ordinary experiences.

What are Duality and Non-Duality?
We can start to understand how non duality is a natural part of our everyday experience by first understanding what duality, or dualistic appearance is. Dualistic appearance is the appearance of an object to our mind together with our idea or conception of what that object is. Normally we assume that what we see with our eyes or hear is trustworthy, but in reality what happens is that immediately after we see an object our mind immediately projects an idea of that object upon it, based upon our memories and mental programming.
For example if a person we do not like comes into the room, we physically see that person, and then immediately our mind floods with memories of why we dislike that person, and we then mentally project upon them our own distorted image of who we think they are.
Likewise if we fall in love with someone and we then see them approaching us, their appearance triggers a whole series of ideas and emotions that we immediately then project upon them.
Zen meditation does not seek to destroy dualistic appearance, it simply seeks to help us to point it out and see though it, so that we are no longer fooled and confused by it. When we have dualistic appearance as our basic state of mind, our minds idea of reality continually fights with reality itself, which causes a lot of suffering, pain and discord.
When we are no longer fooled by dualistic appearance our mind no longer fights without reality, but moves in harmony with it, and the net result of this is that we suffer less and experience more natural joy, happiness and well being!

Non-duality means the union of our mind (the subject of our awareness) with its object. When we abide in a state of non-duality, this simply means that we accept things as they are without trying to manipulate them or warp them in order to fit into our preconceived idea of the way things should be. We stop imposing our idea of reality on what we are experiencing. Attaining nondual awareness means being able to drop our idea of reality and start paying attention instead to what is actually there in front of us.  This is why in Zen literature we find expressions such as:

  • Paying attention to what is (as opposed to what we think it is)
  • Staying with your “beginners mind”, free from preconceptions
  • Living beings are “enlightened already” there is nothing that they need to “do” to attain enlightenment.

What we need to do to attain enlightenment from the perspective of Zen is to “drop” our dualistic appearance. In this sense it is learning to stop something we are currently doing unconsciously, rather than doing anything new per se.

Looking closely
So, Zen we could say is the art of “looking closely” at our reality, letting go of our habitual assumptions and projections of mind and really paying close attention to what is actually going on around us and within us in the here and now.
If you are interested in finding more about the actual practices of Zen meditation, you can read more in my article Fundamental Zen Meditation Forms and/or see you at the workshop this coming Wednesday!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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