by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

The Pearl

How comes this one pearl, so bright and warm?
It is as big as a pill and is golden yellow in color.

The Secret Place

We have the capacity to withdraw into a Secret Place deep within our own being. Storms may rage; shadows may arise and pass; beings may threaten, or carp and criticize: right in the midst of all of it there is a spiritual Place wherein is to be found true safety and boundless peace.

The world knows nothing of this Place. Yet beings find their way to It by groping in the dark. There are many shadow-refuges that promise what It alone can provide. The suffering that results from going down these sidetracks teaches us that there is something that does not work. So we keep looking for the one thing that does work.

Some of these sidetracks are vicious; some are virtuous. But there is only one true Way. This is not an "ism." It is pure meditation. People call it by different names. Names are only words: they point to something, but are not the thing to which they point. Therefore, the names do not matter. Some call it "meditation." Some call it "contemplative prayer" or the "prayer of silence." Probably there have been many words in many languages.

Beings do pure meditation without knowing they are doing it. But one day something happens that creates the illusion of loss of this Secret Place: "By accident someone set the wheel of karma rolling." Then commences the long, tortuous journey toward enlightenment. At some point in this journey, which spans lifetimes, beings rediscover meditation as a practice.

The practice of meditation must be combined with correct teaching. Practice and teaching are as the two hands in the gassho: they mutually complement and support one another. Correct teaching helps us realize that we do not have to settle for second best: there is the Perfection of Zen.

Because of this need for correct teaching, the master-disciple relationship exists. The master's job is to be a living reminder to the disciple that there is the Secret Place and that he--the disciple--has the capacity to take refuge in It in pure meditation.

In the Shadowy Hall

The Secret Place is sensed as centering in the hara--roughly, the upper and middle abdomen. Yet It cannot be limited to any physical location, for It is spiritual in nature.

In Plate XXVI (first edition, Plate XIV) of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, we see the paradigmatic transformation that happens in the course of correct spiritual training. This Plate is entitled "Appearance in the Hall of Shadows," and in it Rev. Master describes the spiritual embracing of a key knot of pain and confusion from her past-life inheritance, its subsequent vanishing, and then the appearance in its place of a teardrop-shaped pearl of golden light--which then transforms into the appearance of a tiny golden Buddha sitting within the shadowy hall of the hara.

What is happening here?--A knot of spiritual need that was formed when a being despaired, believing itself to be utterly cut-off from the Love of the Eternal, has rediscovered that Love through the vehicle of Rev. Master's faith, willingness and sympathy. The vanishing of the being that despaired signifies the final unraveling of the knot of confusion and pain--the dissolving of the spiritual block.

The manifesting of the golden pearl in the hara signifies the enlightening of ignorance. Yet the enlightening of ignorance would not be possible were it not for the purity of intention that lies at the heart of even the greatest knot of confusion and pain. Therefore, this bright pearl is our own innate purity of heart and that of all beings. It is by means of this innate purity of heart that the "sentient beings of the mind" liberate themselves.

The transformation of the pearl of purity of heart into the golden Buddha sitting within the shadowy hall signifies that innate purity of intention is rooted in the Buddha Nature Itself and that, in the mind and heart of the person within whom the causes of suffering have been truly converted, the Buddha Nature sits enthroned in its rightful place. If the Buddha Nature is what we truly are, and if we have awakened to this truth, why would we not seek Its guidance, listen to It and follow It?--Why would we not treasure and take refuge in our Secret Place?


Click here to go to Part XXIX, "Opening the Gates"


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