Zen, Makyo, and The Matrix

June 4, 2011

I've probably written about makyo before, but after reading part of The Three Pillars of Zen by Roshi Philip Kapleau last night, I thought I'd share some quotes from that book this morning.

The first quote describes makyo:

"Makyo are the phenomena -- visions, hallucinations, fantasies, revelations, illusory sensations -- which one practicing zazen is apt to experience at a particular stage in his sitting."

And then:

"the number of makyo which can appear are in fact unlimited ..."

Related to sesshins:

"If you attend a sesshin of from five to seven days' duration and apply yourself assiduously, on the third day you are likely to experience makyo of varying degrees of intensity."

Speaking from my own experience, I can say that is true. During a sesshin I once observed the floor moving around me, and later while sitting at the airport I heard an enormously large door slam, almost to the point that I thought there was an explosion. I jumped in my seat, but when I looked around everyone else was sitting still as though nothing had happened.

Skipping many paragraphs we find:

"Never be tempted into thinking that these phenomena are real or that the visions have meaning."

Oh, okay, I'll make a note of that. But then:

"Above all, do not be enticed by ... makyo involving prophecies which turn out to be true."

Huh? "No meaning", but "prophecies which turn out to be true"? How can an ordinary human not be enticed by prophecies which turn out to be true? To that, the author adds this statement:

"This is to squander your energies in the foolish pursuit of the inconsequential."

So, "prophecies which turn out to be true" are somehow inconsequential.

As a human, it's hard for me to reconcile those last few lines. I'd like to ask the author how he can say those things, but I believe he gives us the hint way back at the beginning of his makyo discussion:

"Broadly speaking, the entire life of the ordinary person is nothing but a makyo."

As a former co-worker used to say, "Boot to the head!" Ouch.

To put this in modern, easy to understand terms:

You're living in The Matrix. Even if you can predict the lottery numbers for tomorrow and win $100M, does it really matter? You're still living in The Matrix, and there's this enormous secret that makes everything that happens inside the Matrix irrelevant.



back to the Tequila/Monk front page