Katsuki Sekida's Four Types of Samadhi: #2 Circumstances are Deprived; Man is Not Deprived


Continuing the Samadhi series, Katsuki Sekida's second form of samadhi is "Circumstances are deprived; man is not deprived."

(1) Man is deprived; circumstances are not deprived.
(2) Circumstances are deprived; man is not deprived.
(3) Both man and circumstances are deprived.
(4) Neither man nor circumstances are deprived.

In Sekida's first form of samadhi, one is totally absorbed in outward circumstances.  In Sekida's second form of samadhi, the situation is reversed.  Outward circumstances disappear and one becomes absorbed in the "inner man."

"The second category ... denotes inward attention.  When we work on Mu or practice shikantaza, we concentrate inwardly and there develops a samadhi in which a certain self-ruling spiritual power dominates the mind.  This spiritual power is the ultimate thing that we can reach in the innermost part of our existence.  We do not introspect it, because subjectivity does not reflect itself, just as the eye does not see itself, but we are this ultimate thing itself.  It contains in itself all sources of emotion and reasoning power, and it is a fact we directly realize in ourselves.

Rinzai Zenji calls this ultimate thing 'man.'  When this 'man' rules within us in profound samadhi, circumstances are forgotten.  No outward concern appears.  This state of mind is 'Circumstances are deprived, man is not deprived.'  It is an inward samadhi and it is what I have called absolute samadhi, because it forms the foundation of all zazen practice.  It contrasts with the outwardly directed samadhi described in the first category, which I call positive samadhi.  Positive samadhi is a samadhi in the world of conscious activity.  Absolute samadhi is a samadhi that transcends consciousness.  When we simply use the term samadhi by itself we generally refer to this absolute samadhi."


As a practitioner of Centering Prayer, the similarities here are obvious.  When Sekida says things like "a self-ruling spiritual power dominates the mind," that it is "the ultimate thing that we can reach in the innermost part of our existence," and "it contains in itself all sources of emotion and reasoning power," he is essentially describing the Centering Prayer experience without using the word God.  The major difference is that in Sekida's description, this self-ruling power, what he calls "man," is you ("we are this ultimate thing itself").  Most who practice Centering Prayer would conceptualize this differently, interpreting this power as something outside of themselves, although even this gets hazy as the experience is often described as "the presence of God at the deepest level of your being."

Sekida's description of the second form of samadhi is the closest I have found to describing the experience of Centering Prayer, but from the perspective of a different religious tradition.  In his discussion here, we're almost speaking the same language.