Zen Meditation Guides
Guides are individuals who have at least ten or more years of Zen meditation experience.
Founding Guide: Tom Amatt
1. The Way it All Started
It must have been when I was five years old that one of these things happened you never forget. It was on a sunny afternoon and I had just returned from playing in the woods and was on my way home down a side road leading onto the main road along which it was another half a mile to go back. All of a sudden I hear one of these huge earth removers roaring down the road and – for whatever crazy reason – vividly imagine that the monster is after me; I start dashing down the remainder of the sideway as fast as I can and on across the main road just in front of a driving up VW-Beatle: the emergency brakes shriek loudly and the car misses me about a meter or less while I rush up to the other side. A furious driver jumps out of the car screaming and hitting me with a resounding slap on the cheek. – I felt dumbfolded as I looked at him and the passing ‘monster’ at the same time. Then my immense stupidity hit me like a flash. – That was a dangerous way to wake up.
A few years later, when I already was going to middle school down town by bus, but we were still living in the same tiny apartment, so I must have been something like eleven, something very different occurred at exactly the same spot: I am standing in the driving bus but realize that there is absolutely no difference between the I standing in the bus and the I which would be opening the door to the apartment some minutes later: ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE, space and time being outmaneuvered. – That was a much softer awakening.
From then onwards I became keenly interested into philosophical questions. Two years later, we just had moved to a beautiful house on another outskirt of town, I am sitting in the forest with Fichte’s tractatus philosophicus about the I in hands. (Which for Fichte is the same what Non-I and Non-Atman is in the Vedas). It is the first time, that I’m loosing myself, the I of normal, in meditation. – And I came out of the woods in an absolutely hilarious mood. This was complementary to that slap I had received some eight years earlier….
2. Thought, Philosophy, Religion and Beyond
The following years until the end of school I immersed myself into the philosophical classics, fascinated by the power of thought. Plato’s concept of truth and its grounding in the reality of reality beyond ‘the cave’ struck a cord inside as well as the dry observation of pre-Socratic thinkers, that “the majority of the human breed is bad”. Kant’s mind-boggling wound sentences with the goal to pin down the thing in itself, of itself within the embrace of pure reason were more convincing than his famous moral imperative(“Always act in a manner that the maxim of your action could be made a general law.”) Any purely moral order was not fitting the standard of the revolutionary seeking always and only the absolute…. His (Kant’s) statement about the unique impressiveness of the nightly firmament as a symbol of eternal reality was, then, a bit more convincing. But, how to come close to it? This question pulled me into the grip of the medieval mystics and thus the orbit of the religious seekers, – but with religion purely as a reported link to the gate of ultimate insight; never as something to do with dogma or any ideology of whatever faith. This in mind, the spirituality of a Jesus, Laotse or Buddha became ingrained into my own attitude towards life.
I was and am deeply aversive towards any apodictic proclamation of what the truth be. This has to do with the fact that the holocaust was a lived through reality in part of my family and my highly intellectual father has infused the deepest disgust of any form of totalitarianism into my venes. By the time I was seventeen and about to leave home I had added the positive existentialism of Albert Camus, L’homme Revolté to my armor (‘Absolutism and ideology have been proven wrong once and for all and the time to hunt for an existential recognition of the human state has come.’ “The arrow trembles ready on the bow.”) and had but only one question on my mind: How to do it? How to reach out towards a true life? – But, I didn’t know!
The following is the story of an Odyssey, perhaps to be told another time. Only so much here: some 40 years later with over 30 years of regular Zazen practice in daily life since I have started it systematically under Enomiya Lassalle during a weeklong session in his retreat center in the Japanese Alps, 1983, I felt the time has come to form my own circle of Zazen no Tomodachi, Friends of Zazen. It was one of the mysterious, factual serendipities in life, that just then I met Louis Cosco de Cordier with his Bibliotheca del Sol project, up in the Alpujarra mountains of the Spanish Sierra Nevada, who was immediately enthusiastic about the idea to merge it with a base for the Friends of Zazen. Thus, the idea of the Refugio Sulayr (Sulayr=Sun Mountain, the Moorish name for the peak of the Sierra Nevada) was born. It will be an effort to make it a reality. An effort which I am to love.
March 2019, t.a.