Calming and Contemplation part 2

by tendo zenji

Instructional Talks Downloads

November 12th, 2022
Cultivating Openness, Ocean Seal Samadhi: Instructional Talk
Ocean Seal Samadhi Guided Meditation: Guided Meditation


Align your mind

From a calm and focused mind we move into contemplation, the active work of the practice of engaging with what is actually happening. At this moment we are siting, calm and aware. In the contemplation that we are investigating here we are cultivating increasing openness, the active awareness that is the functional of reality as it is. This is development of the unified mind, that is empty of a sense of a separate self, but fully engage, fully aware.

Openness can’t be forced, you must ease into it naturally. We become increasingly open by cultivating the Still Pool and settling into awareness of our entire bodies. Then we can open up further by Listening, letting sounds in without discrimination, without placing attention on them. This brings our sense of awareness beyond ourselves.
Likewise the Gazing practices bring us to a place of greater and greater openness. Using the channels of eyes and ears and skillfully applying focus we become in tune with the landscape that is in our visual and auditory sensorium.
With practice we become increasingly open, open to sounds, sights, sensations, open to our bodies and surroundings, open to what is. By not chasing thoughts, by not naming or commenting upon what we see and hear, by not indulging in sensations, by not forcing everything into our story, we open even further and effortlessly remain open. Thoughts simply rise and fall uncommented upon and over time diminish. Our narrative fades and our sense of a separate self recedes. It is in this open condition, where we are mostly just a presence in landscape that are are in alignment with Empty Awareness. We find ourselves increasingly in tune with what is.

excerpt from Openness in Dewdrops on Stinging Nettles

Ocean Seal Samadhi 

The Ocean Seal Samadhi is a practice that was core to the Hua-yen school of Chinese Buddhism. Its orientation is toward totality viewed in a a holographic way of the complete interconnection and interpenetration of all phenomenon. This can be seen as complete openness.

The oceanic reflection concentration, or oceanic reflection of the interdependent origination of the universe, refers to the clear, mirror-like mind, like the placid ocean, reflecting everything at once. In this holistic awareness everything is part of everything else, so that when one is brought up all are included. The Ch’an master Matsu Daoyi likened this awareness to bathing in the ocean-at once using the waters of all tributa­ries. 

Entry into the Inconceivable p. 217

Ch’an Master Sheng Yen developed a visualization practice in an attempt to reconstruct the Ocean Seal Samadhi which is not described in practical terms in any Huayan texts. I had learned a variant of Sheng Yen’s method about a decade ago under the name ‘The Eye of the Tatagata.’ This name is apropos in that you are visualizing seeing as a Buddha sees, the totality of all things, which is the orientation of Hua-yen. This practice I further developed into a non visualization practice of ever increasing Openness, which is Non-Dwelling, practice that we will return to in Part 2 of this series.

I was reacquainted with the visualization practice, in it’s proper context via Guo Gu’s talk and practice on Hua-yen Buddhsim in his excellent 16 week class From Indian Buddhism to Chinese Ch’an. In his discussion of it he translated a more theoretical description of the practice from the primary Hua-yan patriarch Fazang. Guo Gu summazrizins the practice thusly: “The focus is on the interplay of the images on the surface of the ocean—the unobstructed interpenetration of each and every phenomenal reality, or shishi wuai.”

From Reflections on the Mind that Journeys throughout Huayan Dharmadhātu by Fazang 

It is like the reflection of the four divisions of a cakravartin’s troops on a vast ocean. Although the reflected images differ in kind, they suddenly appear simultaneously on [the surface of] the ocean in their proper order. Even though the appearances are many, the water [that reflects them] remains undisturbed. The images are indistinguishable from the water, and yet [the water] is calm and clear; the water is identical from the images, and yet [the images] are multifarious. Both are utterly clear without past and present, and it is difficult to fathom where one begins and the other ends. Abundant and profuse, [the images] are quiescent and formless—simultaneously and instantaneously manifesting. Appearing and disappearing—their forms are difficult to fathom; interfusing and mutually penetrating—they are without constraints. The images harmonize with each other where conceptualizations are extinguished. How can they be apprehended? According to the Avataṃsaka, “This is the inconceivable [realm of reality]; that which can be conceived of cannot be apprehended. To deeply enter the inconceivable is to contemplate the un-contemplatable quiescent extinction.”  

Fazang translated by Guo Gu

The above passage gets at the essentials of Hua-yan thought that you are visualizing in this It continues on to state: “The sūtra also discerns that it is called “ocean” because its various reflections multiply endlessly and their limit is impossible to fathom. To investigate one of them thoroughly is to pursue the infinite, for, in any one of them, all the rest vividly appear at the same time.” It is this, the investigation of the all in the one and one in the all that is the heart of the contemplation. Thus it extends the “Eye of the Tatagata” from one of completeness openness to totality, to the ramifications of this understanding of reality in which all phenomenon is embedded in all other phenonoment.,

For this reason, it is called, “ocean.” It is called “seal” because all the images appear simultaneously within it without distinction of past and present. The myriad diverse kinds [of images] penetrate each other without obstruction. The one and the many are reflected in one another without opposing each other.

Fazang translated by Guo Gu

The guided meditation above goes through the visualization technique of increasingly opening oneself up to totality. This technique takes a while to develop a feel for it and it is essential to develop that feel. For you want to be able to increasingly open up in this way without the need for the words to guide you and eventually without the visualization. An essential aspect of this, as with any of the openness techniques is to note the silence, the stillness that seems vibrant with energy. This is a living practice, engaging with the dynamic process of reality as it is.


Dewdrops on Stinging Nettles
A Companion for Practice
Dream Mountain Press 2020

Entry Into the Inconceivable
An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism
by Thomas Cleary
University of Hawaii Press· Honolulu, 1983
ISBN 0-8248-0824-X

How to Practice Zazen
Comments on the Zazengi
Mumon Yamada Roshi
Institute for Zen Studies; January 1, 1980