The Resting Dragon
A talk by Roshi Enkyo O’Hara
June 14, 2015
In the oldest Buddhist teachings we have what is called is the Eightfold Path: the path of freedom, the eight points in the life of the Dharma that are said to lead us to accomplishing the Buddha Way. These are Right Views, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. And Ive always felt that the eighth point, Right Concentration or samadhi, is the one that holds all the others together.
Of course, some of us who think of ourselves as rebels don’t like the word “Right.” It comes from samma in the Pali, which can also be translated as wise, skillful, or wholesome. So we can say wise concentration, skillful concentration, wholesome concentration.When we practice concentration, samadhi, we focus our energies. Taking a breath, you can feel the focus in your belly. It’s the habit of concentration, this wholesome samadhi, that holds you; it’s a together-making thing; it pulls all of you back to your complete true self.
Dogen, the 13th Century Zen master, says:
When you sit in the meditation posture, you realize samadhi in body and mind, and give rise to an awesome virtue that people respect. Like the sun illuminating and refreshing the world, this sitting removes obscurities from the mind and lightens the body so that exhaustion is set aside. Enlightenment becomes as natural as a dragon curled up at rest. A demon is frightened even by a picture of someone sitting in the meditation posture; how much more so by a living person who realizes the way sitting motionless and at ease.
I love the imagery here: the awesome virtue, the sun illuminating; suddenly what was obscure is clear! Even demons—our little demons—pull away when they see us sitting in this wonderful, illuminating quality of concentration and focus.
Samadhi is right here in your breath, in your body, now. It’s not a theoretical or abstract thing. Don’t make it so. Make it your own.
Dogen is saying that this practice gives rise to an “awesome virtue” that people respect. Consider that: your awesome virtue. Perhaps you don’t see it or notice that it arises when you sit. And you may not realize that you offer it to others as you walk out the door.
And, as Dogen says, “sitting removes obscurities from the mind and lightens the body so that exhaustion is set aside.”
“Obscurities from the mind” means seeing only one side: putting all my own history and my own conditioning onto “the other” and getting burned out. What he’s saying is that concentration gives us the strength to come back again with a fresh mind to look at what is happening in front of us in our world. The practice of samadhi, the practice of dropping away our opinions and our views and sitting in that wide open space—can give us wisdom to act in a more compassionate way.