Enlightenment everywhere, even in Düsseldorf

A flame, as soon as it is lit, illuminates a room that was dark before.

Now that I can see what it is, I can find my way around the room. I can move without constantly bumping into tables or benches. As soon as I have orientated myself, I can start to get to know the things that are in the room and then use them as I please.

Was I blind before, I am now seeing.

It’s like searching for a lost key. A question exists: “Where is the key?” I wander through the house and search. I know the key must be someplace. The question may be different for each of us. “Who am I?”, “What is the meaning of life?”, “What should I do?”, “Where is the key?”

For Siddharta Gautama, the future Buddha, the question was “How can I reduce or even end my own suffering and the suffering of all beings? For many years he searched and erred. At the age of 35 he sat – according to legend – under a tree by a river when he woke upThe term “awakening” (Bodhi) is often translated as “enlightenment”. However, the Sanskrit word Bodhi comes from the Sanskrit root budh, root which means “awaken, realize, discern, or understand”. In this light Siddharta Gautama was called a “Buddha” after this night:The Awakened One. to the answer to his life question. It is said to have been the first full moon night in April/May, in India in the year 528 BC near the village Uruvela (Bodhgaya).

We’ll never know the real story: The earliest written reports date back to the first century B.C., a few hundred years after Buddha’s lifetime. The Seeking time of the Siddharta Gotama and the Night of Awakening are described in the Pali Canon in the section of the “Middle Collection” (Majjhima Nikaja, there MN 26 and MN 36).

I discerned, as it was actually present, that "This is stress..." I discerned, as it was actually present, that "This is the origination of stress..." I discerned, as it was actually present, that "This is the cessation of stress..." I discerned, as it was actually present, that "This is the way leading to the cessation of stress..."
I discerned that "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world."

With these words he outlined the Four Noble Truths that are at the core of his knowledge and liberation. From that moment on he was called Buddha (the Awakened One) – and for him personally the quest for cure from suffering was over. For his teaching, this realization was only the beginning.

Graben nach Erleuchtung

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Turn every stone and dig deep…

Question, search and perseverance relate to each other like flint stones, which strike sparks in their friction. Master Dogen calls this inner direction “Bodaishin”, the Buddha-seeking mind. This spirit of question, search and perseverance is the prerequisite for the glow of the spark. In Zen there are different words for the moment of sparkle: Kensho, Satori and Dai Kensho.

All three terms refer to a look into one’s own “True Nature”. This term sounds so mysterious and is therefore confusing. t describes a pleasantly cheerful but also exciting experience that many of us already had as children: in the middle of playing the world is approaching us and we know without any doubt: “I am the world and the world is me…”. – For a moment we have become one with all phenomena: People, animals, plants, water, mountains, rocks, stones, pebbles, sand and dust. An ancient memory, older than ourselves, has revealed itself effortlessly.

Siddharta Gautama himself had such a childhood memory. Back then, when his father was plowing the field, Siddharta had been sitting in the shade of a rose-apple tree. Suddenly he entered a state without any tension or disturbance: This “deepening” shifted him into ecstasy and bliss, so he reportsIn the Mahasaccaka Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 36): “I thought: ‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered and remained in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?’ Then following on that memory came the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.” (MN 36) – and the realization came to him: “This is the path to enlightenment”.

Kensho, Satori and Dai Kensho blessed him along his path. Smaller insights, flashing insights and finally a great awakening that would give direction to his life: he became an unsurpassable teacher in guiding others to awakening – and to realizing an awakened life.


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In uneven and foggy terrain, Kensho and Satori are landmarks. Kensho and Satori flash up as a sudden idea: “Oh, I remember where I dropped the key…” and I sense where I’m taking my next steps. I haven’t arrived yet – and the memory will fade.

Kensho appears in contact: My toe hits a table leg; I hear the splash of a frog in the pond; an old woman hands me a rice cake…

Satori rather appears in zazen like a cloud that dissolves: for a moment the landscape and the path are clearly visible.

It may take many landmarks to get to the summit, but there is usually only one cross on the summit.

Dai Kensho (or Great Satori) – lasting insight – is the place of the summit cross. I know for sure that I have arrived. I have found the key and can use it to open the door.


Photo by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash

However, experience and history show that the work only begins here. The summit is life-threatening; staying in the Absolute leads to suffering. Every clinging to or staying in a certain state is unbearable, is „Dukkha“Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful. [e.g. Samyutta Nikaya: Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11)]. Dukkha is described as a wheel stuck in its axle. The car is useless.

Therefore I must descend from the summit again – this is called the manifestation and validation of unity Master Dogen tells that’s what this is about: …the bringing about of enlightenment by the opportunity provided by a finger, a banner, a needle, or a mallet; and the effecting of realization with the aid of a hossu, a fist, a staff, or a shout… [Dogen Zenji: Fukanzazengi]. Descending from the summit is the beginning of Buddhism. It is the manifestation and realization of enlightened life: after using the key, I put it back in its right place. I can reach him at any time as soon as I need him.
This free activity is called “Sukha”: A wheel that can move freely in its axis. The car can drive.

This infinite spiral from Dukkha to Sukha and back is what Master Dogen calls the study of the self:
„To learn the Buddha-Way is to learn ourselves.
To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves.
To forget ourselves is to be enlightened by the myriad dharmas.“

For ages, all Buddhas and Patriarchs have entrusted their lives to this map. The own treasure house will then open by itself, and we may use its contents as we please.

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