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My Experience with Roshi Philip Kapleau



I was in my second year of college at University of Michigan, having obtained advanced placement and virtually completed the coursework for the *graduate* physics program. Roshi Philip Kapleau of the Rochester Zen Center had visited U of M several times before, lecturing each time at the so-called UGLI (undergraduate library). Previously, I had asked him a question about Albert Einstein, to which he had no significant response. But this time, the atmosphere was charged as he strode into the room, exchanging knowing glances with his close disciples, who accompanied him. As he began to talk, I felt an extremely powerful spiritual energy in my hara center (two inches below the navel). The experience then moved up to the heart center, where it was much weaker, and then to the head center, where I began to experience a very effulgent spiritual Light. As I gazed in the direction of Kapleau, the Light grew more and more intense. The Roshi was talking about "one hand clapping" as I was entering the Light, thus leaving my body, or so it seemed. I entered into a state of pure self-existent and unconditioned consciousness aware only of itself, with absolutely no bodily or sensory awareness, except that I could apparently hear sounds in the room relegated to the background and speeded up as though on fast-forward. I remained in that state for the duration of the lecture, at which point I gently reawakened in normal consciousness. I heard a single word, of multi-faceted meaning in Buddhism, spoken in my heart center by the still small voice of the heart, which it is said that Elijah also heard.

I later read in a book by John Lilly that the Gurdjieff system of meditation employed these four centers: Hara, Heart, Head, and Heaven (out-of-body). The system takes its name, Fourth Way, from the fourth out-of-body center, which is said to be the way of the clever man or, I would presume, the superior man of Lao-Tzu. Currently, many people are trying to understand how consciousness relates to science, and this experience of mine may provide some unique insight into that question. It was later revealed to me that the four centers correspond to the four neurotransmitters, Dopamine, Acetylcholine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine, in that order. Presumably, the *coherent* excitation of the circuits of each neurotransmitter activates the corresponding spiritual center. However, the experience itself involves a transcendence of the body and brain and constitutes the real meaning of the phenomenological reduction of Descartes and Husserl. This experience has everything to do with the primordial relations of Energy to Light to Space and Consciousness. The Buddhist scriptures refer to the cosmic depths within the fourth center as infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and neither being nor non-being.



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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