Balancing Cessation and Observation Meditation

Learned audience, you should know that it is of the utmost importance to balance these two modes of meditation. The importance of balancing them, as well as specific instruction on how to do so, constitutes a generous amount of Zen and Buddhist literature. The Awakening of Faith affirms the necessity of this, and sums up the reason that balance is essential thus:

Whether walking, standing, sitting, lying, or rising, he should practice both ‘cessation’ and ‘clear observation’ side by side. That is to say, he is to meditate upon the fact that things are unborn in their essential nature; but at the same time he is to meditate upon the fact that good and evil karma. . . are neither lost nor destroyed… The practice of ‘cessation’ will enable ordinary men to cure themselves of their attachments to the world… The practice of ‘clear observation’ will cure . . . the fault of having narrow and inferior minds, which bring forth no great compassion, and will free ordinary men from their failure to cultivate the capacity for goodness. For these reasons, both ‘cessation’ and ‘clear observation’ are complementary and inseparable. (Hakeda, Yoshito, S, The Awakening of Faith, Attributed to Asvaghosha. (Columbia
University Press, 1967), 101-102

Good friends, cessation meditation aims at the realization of emptiness. To become attached to emptiness causes disengagement from the real world of everyday life. Observation meditation activates and refines the wisdom of differentiation. To become attached to differentiation causes one to live in turmoil, which blocks off clear perception of reality. Each ofthese modes of meditation serves to balance the other. Observation works as an antidote for attachment to emptiness. Cessation works as an antidote for attachment to differentiation.

~The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing

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