My first encounter with one-pointedness of Mind (the first actual epiphany in Buddhism) which transports the adept out of the realm of thinking about Buddhism into the proper place to begin Buddhism, began when I was reading an Avengers comic book! But now let me back up a little and fill you in on the details.
For a number of years I had been struggling in Zen trying to make heads or tails of it. My Zen teacher, I regret to say this, was little more than a product of Japan. By this I mean that his Zen was sufficient to do funerals. It was all quite formal and yes, shallow.
As luck would have it, some years later I happened to attend a lecture at San Jose State College conducted by Bishop Nippo Shaku (1910–1991), of the Nichiren tradition. When I first saw him, he looked liked a bespectacled Sumo wrestler in his black robes. However, when he began his lecture, one immediately got the impression that he knew what he was talking about. He certainly knew more than my teacher who smoked too many cigarettes and drank too many bottles of beer.
One lecture I remember in particular was a lecture about the ordinary mind. He began the lecture by showing us this crazy, poster size ink brush painting he had made with black ink. It looked liked something Jackson Pollock might have done if he had been born and raised in Japan.
Bishop Nippo went on for a long time talking about the ordinary mind represented by the heavy, wild black lines. Then with a grin, looking at the class he said, “And here is your pure Mind” pointing to the white paper. Right then and there, it suddenly dawned on me that there is a real insight I must have. I have to look into my own mind (yes, my ordinary Jackson Pollock mind) and try to see this pure Mind.
I need not bore you with all the details that led up to the time before I understood one-pointedness. Suffice it to say, that after getting no place by working feverishly to see pure Mind, even living alone in seclusion, I eventually became resigned to the fact that I was too dumb to grasp the essence of Buddhism. I wept bitterly and decided I could only help others—that was all I could really manage. So I stopped reading my dozen or so Buddhist books. I gave up, in other words.
The next day, I got up as usual and did all the things I normally might do except for studying Buddhism. That evening, just before I hit the sack, I decided to read a comic book. I picked up an Avengers comic book I had and began reading it. It was easy. It was nothing like trying to read the Lankavatara Sutra! As I was about halfway through the comic, I came to this one frame where the background sky was yellow. I looked at it—then instantly I saw That! In one second I saw the pure Mind Bishop Nippo was pointing to. I was overjoyed to say the least. Then about five or ten minutes later, my body became strangely energized. It stayed this way all through the night and into the morning. Of this one-pointedness it remained even though the energy eventually subsided. And from that one-pointedness, seven years later, I would become transformed again, only more so, and more profoundly.
I can say that when Mind apperceives itself, directly; not through its thoughts or imagination, this is one-pointedness samadhi. Looking back, Bishop Nippo gave this idiot the clue he was looking for. I had realized after his lecture that to get anyplace in Buddhism, the adept must have a real time spiritual epiphany of Mind seeing Mind. You can’t cheat yourself, either. You either do it or you have to resign yourself to a life of doing good works with every fiber of your being.