“In Zen, if you buy into the content of 'makyo' experiences (power phenomena), it’s going to shunt you away from the direct path to liberation.
However, my take on it is informed by that, but also it’s a little broader. These power phenomena are basically the wish list for new age spirituality: encountering entities, gods, ghosts, ancestors, angels, remembering former lives. And they map onto a lot of shamanic experience culturally around the world. But the good news is that if those phenomena are happening, then that’s an indication that you’ve dropped into a deep level of consciousness, so that’s a good thing. It’s actually a kind of feedback to tell you that you’re going deep.
So in Native cultures, this would be called the Spirit World, and of course it’s very real to those cultures – so there are the Spirits let’s say. And then there’s what we might refer to as the Great Spirit or the Source, which in Buddhism would be called the Dharmakaya. And I would take that as that primordial perfection, that formless doing that molds ordinary and extraordinary experience, moment by moment.
So if you’re encountering spirits, it means that you’re getting close to the Great Spirit. That’s good. But the Great Spirit is formless, so by paying attention to the energy flow that envelops the manifestation of those unusual phenomena, you’re keeping yourself pointed towards the formless Source that is the Great Spirit. And so in terms of traditional Buddhist vocabulary, by observing the impermanence of the power realm experiences, that’s pointing you to the force that molds them. We can draw a metaphor from physics: force is proportional to acceleration. So as you’re watching how these things sort of vibrate and undulate, you can get a sense that there is a formless activity of consciousness that is molding these spirits. That’s the same thing that molds the ordinary so-called physical world. And by doing that, you ride the spirit world directly down to the Great Spirit.
But if you get either frightened or enchanted by the contents of the spirit realm, then you could go off in a horizontal direction and not realize it, and so you stop going deep – you just go out into the power realms.
Our remote ancestors practiced shamanism. And the spectrum of classical shamanism around the world is a spectrum of angles. One angle is you go out into the power realms and you don’t go any deeper into purification or get closer to the formless. Those people become one kind of shaman that’s sometimes called a Witch or a Sourceror or a Power person. Then at the other extreme are the people that just deconstruct, deconstruct, deconstruct, until they find the no-self, true self, formless Source of it all. And that extreme is sometimes traditionally called a Holy Person. And then there are an infinity of oblique angles, where your growth has a component of interest in the content of power realms, but also a component of movement towards the formless.
And so that spectrum is the real old time religion of this planet. It’s what most people did for their spirituality for most of human history. So it’s something to be honored from that point of view, but it’s also something to be understood.”
Shinzen Young Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview #2: https://batgap.com/shinzen-young-2/