Satori is enlightenment. It is the breakthrough from this dualistic world to the non-dualistic realm of Reality. This is the goal of all mystics of all religions. When one is in that realm, there are signs and symptoms pertaining to that state. However, it is ineffable in that when one returns to dualism no words can describe that state. There are, however, mental, psychological, emotional and physical signs that do not come close to presenting the actual Ultimate State of Consciousness. The Ultimate State of Consciousness is superbly glorious with bliss, joy and happiness co-existent with calmness, serenity and tranquillity.

Firstly, there are physical signs of approaching satori, but not the real thing. Heat, vibrations up and down one’s spine, trembling all over the body, pain, sometimes excruciating, are some of the premonitory signs. Then the feeling of lightness, as if one is floating in the air. Makyo, in the form of hallucinations and visions are rather often, especially after prolonged and intensive meditation. Some truly go into psychotic states. Makyo must be recognized and stopped by the master or else the disciple is led up the garden path and indelible damage is done. This is because the student thinks he is being enlightened. Zen masters call them “devil’s realm.” Then the surest one is Light: all objects in the room and the room itself are lit up as if a search light is blasted on to everything in that room. If other people are present in that room sometimes some of them can also see the light. Students also experience different colored lights and all modes of sound and music. Visions of Kuan Yin, Buddhist saints and Buddha himself are not uncommon, leading to this advice: “If you see the Buddha, kill him!” All these devil’s realms must be apprehended by the master, who will lead the practitioners back to the path. Also pain is not an infrequent symptom. Sharp, piercing pain like being stuck with needles up and down the spine is also a common symptom. When satori breaks through there is a great sense of joy and happiness. They laugh out without any control. They also cry for happiness. They dance and they sing on top of their voices. There is a freedom that is equivalent to being let out of prison after decades of incarceration.  Of course the liberation is much more exhilarating than a breakout from prison.

Cosmic consciousness The nearest comparison to satori is a glimpse of cosmic consciousness. Here in the Zen context, the most frequent exclamation is “nothingness.” Every thought, every vision, every master, every concept is transformed into nothingness. Before this breakthrough there is high tension. There maybe lights or maybe total darkness. Then abruptly the infinite space turns into nothingness. Or ‘I and the universe are one’ is a common comment. This breakthrough may be precipitated by a sound caused by a pebble striking a bamboo or a striking of a clock or a shout by the roshi. After the enlightening episode, the practitioner is a bit confused and absent-minded. He needs some time to adjust, to shout or cry it all out. Of course he also needs to have confirmation by the master.

These satoris may start with a weak one at first. Then they are repeated again and again, each one stronger than the previous one. These mini-satoris gather strength as they practice into full fledge satoris. The final one is the maha-satori. From thence onwards, there is no more doubt and not the slightest chance of retracement. He is now established in that state of enlightenment but he has to continue to practice. This enlightening practice of Zazen has to continue until death. However, he is now endowed with Buddha’s Eight aspects of Enlightenment, which lead to Nirvana. These eight aspects are: 1) Freedom from greed 2) Satisfaction with whatever he has 3) Quiet and solitary life.  4) Diligence. 5) Right mindfulness. 6) Samadhi: to remain undisturbed. 7) Wisdom for self-reflection. He has now the power to see the Truth with his naked eyes.  8) Freedom from random discussions and thoughts.