Direct Pointing & Sudden Awakening

Course Description

Though many people do not realize it, the majority of what is crucial in Zen practice is not found in texts: it is transmitted as kuden, oral instruction, from teacher to student. Included in this instruction are many practice methods and ways to understand and use practice forms that remain often unknown to outsiders. Meido Roshi here instructs 12 different practices of direct pointing – methods of using the senses, mind, breath, sound, and objects to help us recognize our basic capacity for clarity. This itself becomes the basis for entering and sustaining samadhi, meditative absorption, which is one of the pillars of the Zen path. And many of these methods could further, if the student is ripe, lead even to the awakening we call kensho: seeing your true nature. Taken as a whole, these methods are part of the incredibly rich and diverse treasure of practice methods transmitted in Rinzai Zen. Sharing them openly is not common, but Meido Roshi here does so for the benefit of all.

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Course Lessons

1. Introduction to Awakening

In this introductory lesson, Meido Roshi explains what is meant by sudden awakening and discusses its contrast – often misunderstood – with so-called gradual awakening. Explaining further what is meant by kensho, or seeing one’s nature, he clarifies how the methods taught in this course can be used to support the path of realizing intrinsic wisdom.

2. Introduction to Direct Pointing

Building on the first introductory talk, Meido Roshi provides an overview of the direct pointing methods. He explains the role and purpose of direct pointing methods and deep dives into their three main functions: recognizing and maintaining the mind’s natural clarity, generating the Samadhi condition, and seeing one’s true nature (kensho). As Meido explains, these methods can help practitioners develop a greater experience of clarity, less discursive chatter, less fixation on thoughts and emotions, less arising of negative or afflictive states and a lessened sense of seeing from a dualistic perspective.

3. Method 1: Spreading Out the Vision

In the next series of videos, 12 methods of direct pointing are taught in detail, making use of diverse means and objects to uncover one’s natural clarity and capacity for meditative stability. In this lesson, meido Roshi teaches the first method of direct pointing called Spreading Out the Vision. He talks about the effects and implications of using peripheral vision and focused vision. Meido provides detailed instructions on how to practice the Spreading Out the Vision method and complements the instructions with a demonstration and guidelines to practice on our own.

4. Method 2: Observing Tree

Building upon the first method of Spreading Out the Vision, Meido here provides detailed instructions and demonstration of the second method of direct pointing called Observing Tree. He provides an exercise for us to train and see the effect of leveraging focused vision and peripheral vision using a tree as an object. Through this exercise, we can experience the tree, “as is” without the usual added conceptual layers of the mind.

5. Method 3: Vision in a Busy Place

In this lesson, Meido Roshi teaches the third method of direct pointing called Using the Vision in a Busy Place. He provides detailed instructions on how to practice the method and complements the instructions with a demonstration and guidelines to practice on our own. He concludes the lesson by discussing the implications of using peripheral vision in a busy place to get an experiential sense of the fixating mind and train to develop a non-abiding state of mind as a foundation for the Samadhi condition.

6. Method 4: Pressing the Solar Plexus

In this lesson, Meido Roshi teaches the fourth method of direct pointing called Pressing the Solar Plexus. He provides detailed instructions on how to practice the technique and complements the instructions with a demonstration and guidelines to practice on our own to experience one’s natural clarity.

7. Method 5: When the Breath Stops

In this lesson, Meido teaches the fifth method of direct pointing called When the Breath Stops. He provides detailed instructions on how to practice the method and complements the instructions with a demonstration and guidelines to practice on our own to experience one’s natural clarity and enter the Samadhi condition.

8. Method 6: Bowing

In this lesson, Meido Roshi teaches the sixth method of direct pointing called Bowing. He starts with a topic of correct body usage while standing and bowing and concludes with instructions on how to bow in order to experience the state of natural clarity of the mind.

9. Method 7: Pressing Down the Toes

In this lesson, Meido teaches the seventh method of direct pointing called Pressing Down the Toes. He provides detailed instructions on how to practice the method and complements the instructions with a demonstration and guidelines to practice on our own to experience one’s natural clarity and enter the Samadhi condition. He concludes with additional thoughts on how we can practice this method in our daily life activities.

10. Method 8: Taku and Inkin

In this lesson, Meido Roshi teaches the eighth method of direct pointing called Using the Sounds of the Taku and Inkin. He starts with an overview of how the sounds of Taku and Inkin are being leveraged in Zen training and their role and purpose as methods of direct pointing. Meido concludes with detailed instructions, demonstrations, and guidelines on how to use the sounds of Taku and Inkin to practice the method.

11. Method 9: Silent A-UN Breathing

In this lesson, Meido teaches the ninth method of direct pointing called Silent A-UN Breathing. He starts with a brief explanation of the effects the mantric syllable A and Un have on us, including expansive clarity and openness, and provides both instructions and guided practice of the method of Silent A-UN Breathing.

12. Method 10: Using Bodily Functions

In this lesson, Meido teaches the tenth method of direct pointing called Using Bodily Functions and Pain. He explains how we can leverage our body and its functions to access the states of natural clarity and sustain it throughout our daily activities. He covers the activities such as going to the bathroom, sneezing, and moments of experiencing sharp pain and provides instructions on how we can use those instants to experience natural clarity and maintain it post activity.

13. Method 11: Sleep

In this lesson, Meido teaches the eleventh method of direct pointing called Working With the Moments Before and After Sleep. As Meido explains, in-between states of awakeness and sleep there is a moment of clarity that we can train to recognize and sustain to enter the Samadhi condition during sleep. The same clarity is available in a moment before we are fully awake after sleep. He provides instructions on how we can integrate the meditation working with sleep to train to recognize and leverage those moments to advance our practice.

14. Method 12: Being Under the Blade

In this lesson, Meido teaches the twelfth method of direct pointing called Being Under the Blade. Meido does not recommend practicing this method but shares it as a potential method for people with marshal art backgrounds curious to work with it. He provides instructions on how to practice the method using the sword blade and shorter blade and complements the instructions with a demonstration.

15. Guided 8-Breath A-UN Meditation

To complete the course, Meido Roshi instructs a visualization practice called 8-Breath A-UN. This practice is used to enter the samadhi in which divisions between one’s inner world and the outer universe are dropped; and then, dropping that dropping, to enter the realm of awakening. This practice can be completed in 8 breaths and uses the mantric syllables A-UN.

16. Guided Nanso no Ho Meditation

Meido finishes the course by teaching a practice handed down by the great Rinzai Zen master Hakuin for the dissolving of psycho-physical obstructions and the attainment of bodily wisdom: nanso no ho, the “soft butter” visualization.

17. Course Conclusion

In this final short session, Meido provides final thoughts about the methods of direct pointing and the importance of active practice.

Meido Moore

Meido Moore

Meido Moore is the abbot of Korinji, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monastery in Wisconsin, and the guiding teacher of the international Korinji Rinzai Zen Community. Meido Roshi began Zen practice in 1988 and trained under three teachers in the line of the great 20th century Rinzai master Omori Sogen Roshi. He has completed the koan curriculum of this lineage, and in 2008 received inka shomei: recognition as an 86th-generation Zen lineage holder empowered to transmit the full range of Rinzai Zen practices. Aside from Zen, Meido is also ordained in the Mt. Koshikidake tradition of Shugendo.

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