Some of my friends are skeptical about people who are deep into the internal discipline of meditation. “Look at those masters on the internet. They are more liked people stoned with drugs…and look at those gurus in the street of Mumbai, as seen on TV, with ordinary citizens offering life’s essentials to them and they mumble intelligible and incomprehensive phrases in a trance state. I don’t want to train myself into someone like them!” That is another extreme of the water-downed meditation of Mindfulness. Honestly speaking, the ultimate Zen experience according to Chinese tradition is an experience hardly recognizable in people that we meet. The experience itself does not necessarily come from (sound) meditative practice, though the sustaining of which depends on good practice.
The Zen master whipped the body of the young witty monk several times, and pressed the young monk with the question: “Do you feel pain or not?” Before the young monk could uttered a reply, the master said, “If you do not feel pain, you are as cold as a piece of stone and have no potential to be Zen-enlightened. And if you feel pain, you are just human and will harbor the feeling of hatred, and therefore have no potential to become Zen-enlightened.”
The Zen master was Sixth Zen Patriarch Hui Neng (惠能) and the young monk was one of his top students Shen Hui (神會). The master himself got enlightened first (just by hearing the Diamond Sutra) and then learned meditation from the Fifth Patriarch. Nothing was said about the learning experience of the young monk. The story was reported in the famous Platform Sutra. One thing for sure, these masters were neither stones/trance-like gurus nor corporate executives taking time out to relax at Mindfulness Classes periodically.
A contemporary master with an ultimate Zen-like experience is exemplified by his Holiness the Dalai Lama who doesn’t consider himself a Zen-master, nor a guru at all. “I am just an ordinary monk” said his Holiness. And he is probably right!