Kensho is a wonderful milestone on the Zen path

Kensho is a wonderful milestone on your path, but it is easy to become attached to this experience. Attachment is a barrier to further progress and is a clear sign that you have stumbled past your realization.

With kensho you realize that you have been okay from the very beginning, that old age, sickness, and death have never had any real hold on you. What more could you hope to realize? Why should you continue to practice?

Learned audience, if you fail to continue with post-realization practice, you will allow your experience to stagnate and fade away. Without continued determination and cultivation, you will, at best, remain at the threshold of awakening. Not allowing yourselves to become stuck here, you should continue to move ever deeper. If you do persist in dedicated practice, enlightenment itself will eventually disappear along with its sister, delusion. Having uncovered the universal mirror prajna, you are no longer bound to simply trust in the teachings of others. You now have intimate wisdom and insight with which to work. You have gone beyond the words–“kensho,” “enlightenment,” and “true-nature”–to the reality that these terms indicate.

Good friends, if your initial insight is to be of any real and lasting value, you must learn to apply it. Although cultivation still requires you to make sustained effort, you will find that your experience has inspired you with deeper confidence and competence. With even the shallowest of kensho experiences, you will be amazed at your new ability to grasp teachings that have eluded you. By continuing to cultivate practice and enlightenment, you can deepen your realization endlessly.

~The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing

7 thoughts on “Kensho is a wonderful milestone on the Zen path”

  1. Hello Barry,

    Thanks for your comments.

    My experience accords with yours on this.

    Sometimes, though, I wonder how many people have actually experienced “kensho” or that “ah-ha” experience and simply dismissed it, or allowed it to fade out. It seems to me that the immediate sensation of obvious recognition (oh yeah! this is how it has always been…) of the experience indicates some kind of previous experience (perhaps too shallow to make a lasting impression, or simply forgotten in day to day life).

    I think this is part of the reasons for Zen’s traditional urging of seeking confirmation. In other words, I think confirmation serves not only as check for mistaken notions of altered states, etc., but as a kind of “sealing impression”–Yes! That’s it! Now don’t waste it, deepen, polish, and refine this endlessly…



  2. Hello Barry

    I am not at all sure that the measure of awakening is a “pretty clean ” life, free of relationship issues.

    The scriptures tell us that even Lord Buddha Sakyamuni’s awakening did not insulate him from problematic relationships. The best example being his cousin Devatatta’s attempt to assasinate him.

    Not to mention the many tales of various Mahasiddhis who were social outcasts, reviled by most.

    “Beyond concepts” seems to include beyond “normal” standards of socialisation and relationship.

    The doctrine of samsara and nirvana being one taste covers all this, don’t you think? Of course, many have a hankering to imagine that nirvana “solves” samara, in terms of samsara itself. Perhaps this is open to question?



  3. When I was at Cambridge Zen Center earlier in the week, I slept in the library. (What a burden!)

    Instead of sleeping, I picked up a magazine with an article by a favorite author, John Welwood, in which he wrote about the importance of both “realization” and “actualization.” I’ve known people who have some realization – kensho, insight, awakening – but whose lives remain pretty messy. Conversely, I’ve known people who without the “ah-ha” but whose lives are pretty clean, especially in their relationships with others.

    Of course, I can’t claim either realization or actualization, but I appreciate the deep intelligence in this passage and its echo of Chinul’s sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation.

  4. Hello Rachelle,

    Thank you for the kind and encouraging words…

    Yes, realization seems to contain an inherent quality of discovering (un-covering) what has always been true—and at the same time, making it real (real-ization).

    Thanks again.


  5. “The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing”, broadened my horizons, only to find out, it was there all along.

    Intruging book, looking forward to reading it again!


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