Objectless Meditation – Silent Illumination!

Another common form of sitting meditation is called “Silent illumination” This practice was traditionally promoted by the Caodong school of Chinese Chan and is associated with HongzhiZhengjue (1091—1157) who wrote various works on the practice. This method derives from the Indian Buddhist practice of the union of śamatha and vipaśyanā.

In Hongzhi’s practice of “nondual objectless meditation” the mediator strives to be aware of the totality of phenomena instead of focusing on a single object, without any interference, conceptualizing, grasping, goal seeking, or subject-object duality.

This practice is also popular in the major schools of Japanese Zen, but especially Sōtō, where it is more widely known as Shikantaza (Ch. zhǐguǎn dǎzuò, “Just sitting”). Considerable textual, philosophical, and phenomenological justification of the practice can be found throughout the work of the Japanese Sōtō Zen thinker Dōgen, especially in his Shōbōgenzō, for example in the “Principles of Zazen” and the “Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen”. While the Japanese and the Chinese forms are similar, they are distinct approaches.