What is Silent Illumination Meditation (or Shikintaza)?

May 6, 2024 | by Awakening Dharma

Silent illumination meditation is a practice that became established in China as Buddhism geographically migrated from India and Nepal to China. Silent illumination meditation is mostly associated with the Chinese Chan Buddhist or Japanese Zen Buddhist traditions. It is suitable for both pre- and post-Awakening practitioners.

Effectively, the silent illumination practice involves orienting our awareness to a more unconditioned awareness.

In reality these awarenesses are not two. We separate our personal awareness from unconditioned awareness through the application of conceptual convictions. The benefit of silent illumination meditation is that it assists us in softening the concepts of identification, distinction, and separation.

Pre-Awakening, silent illumination meditation supports our slow releasing of concepts of identification, separation, and division.

That is, this practice begins to gently challenge our beliefs that we are exclusively a separate self whose life success is entirely dependent for survival upon each of our individual actions.

If you’d like to journey deeper into this practice, Stephen Mugen Snyder, Sensei is co-hosting a daylong online retreat on June 15th, A Day of Shikintaza: Opening to the Absolute with Mark Sando Mininberg, Roshi. Sign up here.

You can learn more about silent illumination, and many other awakening meditation practices, in Stephen’s book Demystifying Awakening: A Buddhist Path of Realization, Embodiment, and Freedom.