The best illustration about meditation ever

by Bob Schwartz

The above is my favorite illustration about meditation ever. Drawn by Zen master Kōshō Uchiyama, it is included in his book Opening the Hand of Thought. If you practice any type of meditation, not just Zen, or if you are interested in meditation but don’t know much about it, this illustration tells you so much.

About Kōshō Uchiyama:

Kōshō Uchiyama was born in Tokyo in 1912. He received a master’s degree in Western philosophy at Waseda University in 1937 and became a Zen priest three years later under Kōdō Sawaki Roshi. Upon Sawaki’s death in 1965, he became abbot of Antaiji, a temple and monastery then located on the outskirts of Kyoto. Uchiyama Roshi developed the practice at Antaiji and traveled extensively throughout Japan, lecturing and leading sesshins. He retired from Antaiji in 1975 and lived with his wife at Noke-in, a small temple outside Kyoto, where he continued to write, publish, and meet with the many people who found their way to his door, until his death in 1999. He wrote over twenty books on Zen, including translations of Dōgen Zenji in modern Japanese with commentaries, a few of which are available in English, as are various shorter essays. He was an origami master as well as a Zen master and published several books on origami.

The text accompanying the illustration:

Actually, zazen is not just being somehow glued to line ZZ’. Doing zazen is a continuation of this kind of returning up from sleepiness and down from chasing after thoughts. That is, the posture of waking up and returning to ZZ’ at any time is itself zazen. This is one of the most vital points regarding zazen. When we are doing zazen line ZZ‘, or just doing zazen, represents our reality, so it is essential to maintain that line. Actually, ZZ’ represents the reality of the posture of zazen, but the reality of our life is not just ZZ’. If it were only ZZ’, we would be as unchanging and lifeless as a rock! Although we aim at the line ZZ’, we can never actually adhere to it, because it (ZZ’) does not exist by itself. Nevertheless, we keep aiming at ZZ‘, because it is through clinging to thoughts that we keep veering away from it. The very power to wake up to ZZ’ and return to it is the reality of the life of zazen.

That is all you may need to know. Really.