Meditation: The Art of Ecstasy

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Question: What is the difference in experience between Satori – in Zen, a glimpse of Enlightenment – and Samadhi, Cosmic Consciousness?

“Samadhi begins as a gap, but it never ends. A gap always begins and ends – it has boundaries: a beginning and an end – but samadhi begins as a gap and then is everlasting. There is no end to it. So if the happening comes as a gap and there is no end, it is samadhi.

But if it is a complete gap – with a beginning and an end – then it is Satori, and that is different. If it is just a glimpse, just a gap, and the gap is again lost, if something is bracketed and the bracket is complete – you peep into it and come back, you jump into it and come back – if something happens and it is again lost, it is Satori. It is a glimpse, a glimpse of samadhi, but not samadhi.

Samadhi means the beginning of knowing, without any end. In India we have no word that corresponds to Satori, so sometimes, when the gap is great, one can misunderstand Satori as samadhi. But it never is; it is just a glimpse. You have come to the cosmic and looked into it, and then everything is gone again. Of course, you will not be the same; now you will never be the same again. Something has penetrated into you, something has been added to you, you can never be the same again.

Samadhi is not a glimpse, samadhi is a death. But Satori is a glimpse, not a death.

And Satori is possible through so many ways. An aesthetic experience can be a possible source for Satori; Music can be a possible source for Satori; Love can be a possible source for Satori. In any intense moment in which the past becomes meaningless, in any intense moment when you are existing in the present – a moment of either love or music or poetic feeling, or of any aesthetic phenomenon in which the past doesn’t interfere, in which there is no desire for the future – Satori becomes possible.

But this is just a glimpse. This glimpse is meaningful, because through Satori you can feel for the first time what samadhi can mean. The first taste, or the first distinct perfume of samadhi, comes through Satori. So Satori is helpful; but anything that is helpful can be a hindrance if you cling to it and you feel that it is everything.

A single, momentary glimpse is something that can never be known by any other means. No one can explain it; no words, no communication, can even be a hint to it. Satori is meaningful, but just as a glimpse, as a breakthrough, as a single, momentary breakthrough into the existence, into the abyss. Just a click of the camera – a click, and everything is lost. Then a hankering will be created; you will risk everything for that moment.

But do not long for it, do not desire it; let it sleep in the memory. Do not make a problem out of it; just forget it. If you can forget it and do not cling to it, these moments will come to you more and more, the glimpses will be coming to you more and more.

It always comes when you are not aware of it, when you are not looking for it – when you are relaxed, when you are not even thinking about it, when you are not even meditating. Even when you are meditating the glimpse becomes impossible, but when you are not meditating, when you are just in a moment of let-go – not even doing anything, not even waiting for anything – in that relaxed moment, Satori happens. It will begin to happen more and more, but do not think about it; do not long for it. And never mistake it for samadhi.”