For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 5 December 2014

Satori

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm very interested in Buddhism — Zen Buddhism in particular. This is not the place to go into the fascinating and complex history of Buddhism in India, China and Japan; nor is it the place to explain how DT Suzuki brought his interpretation of Zen to a spiritually-bereft Western world. Suffice to say that, simply put, there are two modes of Zen thought and practice — not mutually exclusive, but interwoven and complementary: one involves study, contemplation, meditation and discipline; the other is the spontaneous, immediate, less intellectual, more intuitive experience of koan and satori. Reflecting back on my recent Camino along the Via Francigena, it occurs to me that my illuminative moments on the banks of the Rhône were an unexpected, unpremeditated satori. Here's my account of it:

It was near to here, on a flower-strewn bank overlooking the river, that I had my picnic lunch: a superb garlic sausage, doux Fontal cheese and pain complet from the Migros supermarket in Aigle, plus a small 20 cl bottle of Aigle les Murailles white wine bought in the castle shop. It was an idyllic place, and, after the meal, I experienced one of those sublime, mystical moments I treasure so much. You never forget such rare, spontaneous events, and they cannot be manufactured or predicted. Suddenly I had a strong conviction that everything was coming together in an almost magical way: my mind, body and soul felt at one with the life I was leading out there on the road — and at one with the universe itself. My practical skills for what they were worth — knife or route-finding or backpacking skills for instance — seemed to merge effortlessly with any emotional and spiritual intelligence I might have; it was an overwhelming, deeply satisfying sense of harmony, control and insight. I have explained it as best I can, but really the experience was beyond words. This intense state lasted for perhaps five minutes, then, when I had packed up and left, the feeling was still there, but more diluted. Here I was, living cheaply and well, each day in the open air and in the heart of nature, like some vagabond or holy tramp, in good health, in good spirits, and as free as a bird . . . Indeed, I was truly fortunate.

12 comments:

Nick said...

Never, ever, underestimate the power of a small bottle of Aigle les Murailles!

The Solitary Walker said...

It's the magic elixir, Nick :)

Amanda Summer said...

This is gorgeous. One of the reasons I love travel, is because in that transitory state one can capture those fleeting gaps between thoughts and see through the veil.

Holy tramp. I will remember that.

Loren said...

Sounds a little like a Wordsworthian moment, too.

am said...

O yes! It's not a theory or a belief. It is an experience, Thanks for this reminder today (-:

The Weaver of Grass said...

I agree with you Robert. That sort of moment is rare indeed.

Sabine said...

You did find the right words.
I remember similar tiny moments, almost like a physical wave washing over me when setting out on my bicycle on a frosty sunny morning along a small river. The sun just breaking through the mist and this sense of being complete, two wheels, a light load of essentials, warm gloves. Anything and everything. Now and on the road ahead.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ah, yes, Amanda, that's one of the rewards of travelling — encountering the 'thin' places.

The Solitary Walker said...

Wordsworthian certainly, Loren...

... and an experience, not a theory or belief, Am...

... and rare indeed, Pat...

The Solitary Walker said...

And Sabine — thanks so much for sharing your own 'peak experience'...

George said...

A beautifully written account of your mystical experience, Robert. Such experiences are fleeting and ineffable, but they offer a comforting reassurance that stays with us forever. They also remind us of how important it is to remain open to the mysterious unfolding of life, even when it contradicts our conditioned, cynical minds.

The Solitary Walker said...

'... how important it is to remain open to the mysterious unfolding of life, even when it contradicts our conditioned, cynical minds.' Oh so true, George.