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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Satori

The enlightenment experience in ZEN BUDDHISM, which leads to “a new viewpoint of looking at life and things generally” (D. T. SUZUKI). It is equivalent to wu in Chinese, and sambodhi in Sanskrit. It is also called kensho, or to see essence or nature.

Satori, according to one of its leading exponents, Dr. D. T. Suzuki, is “an intuitive looking into the nature of things in contradistinction to the analytical or logical understanding. . . . Its opposites and contradictions are united and harmonized into a consistent organic whole. . . . It is the sudden flashing of a new truth hitherto altogether undreamed of” (The Essentials of Zen Buddhism, p. 154). It has a noetic element, meaning, it confers a kind of knowledge, and is not simply a state of emotional exhilaration. In fact it has an impersonal quality, a sense of the beyond or the transcendent. It has a finality and authoritativeness to it such that “no logical argument can refute it.”

Satori constitutes the essence of Zen, and Zen teachers emphasize that there is no Zen without satori. Thus all the preparation and discipline in Zen is designed towards the occurrence of satori. Since its nature transcends the logical mind, the experience is ineffable. Its methods of transmission often involve paradoxes that will frustrate the intellect.

See ZEN BUDDHISM.

V.H.C.

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