The Varieties of Religious Experience-Zen

The first step is “a loosening of the body, without which” nothing can be properly done. This “physical loosening must … be continued in a mental and spiritual loosening, so as to make the mind not only agile, but free; agile because of its freedom, and free because of its original agility; and this original agility is essentially different from everything that is usually understood by mental agility.

Between the two states of a relaxed body and spiritual freedom “there is a difference of level…[reached] by withdrawing from all attachments [a] becoming utterly egoless: so that the soul, sunk within itself, stands in the plenitude of its nameless origin.”

To accomplish actionless activity instinctively “the soul needs an inner hold, and it wins it by concentrating on breathing. … The breathing in, like the breathing out, is practiced again and again… with utmost care. One does not have to wait long for results. The more one concentrates on breathing, the more the external stimuli fade into the background.” Soon we become detached from all stimuli. We only know and feel our breath. Our breathing slows to the point it also escapes our attention.

“This state, in which nothing definite is thought, planned, striven for, desired or expected, which aims in no particular direction and yet knows itself capable alike of the possible and the impossible, so unswerving is its power-this state, which is at the bottom purposeless and egoless …[is] truly spiritual.”

Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (1953).

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