The term mysticism, although not quite a taboo subject for Westerners is not well received in some Buddhist circles including some Zen circles, even though, arguably, Buddhism falls under the category of mysticism along with Zen. According to Zen Buddhist historian, Heinrich Dumoulin, “The mystical element is an essential part of Buddhism.” The realization of this ‘mystical element’ is not without the means of dhyâna which in Chinese is Ch’an and in Japanese, Zen. Dhyâna is what enabled Siddhartha to attain Buddhhahood, who saw this profound mystical element after he gave up his ascetic practices, finding them inadequate.
“The dharma obtained by me is profound, of deep splendor, difficult to see, difficult to understand, incomprehensible, having the incomprehensible as its scope, fine, subtle, the sense of which can only be understood by the wise” (Catusparisat Sûtra).
Why the lingering problem with accepting that Zen Buddhism is straightforward mysticism, is that a number of Western Buddhists have not been sufficiently weaned off of materialism. They still follow the sulphuric light of materialism which dominates modernity. This materialism has a subtle dehumanizing effect upon the modern person including their spiritual sensibilities. Man, it is assumed, is only the sum of his anatomical parts being something akin to a biological machine. He is not greater than this sum. Hence, any mystical experience, if anything, is a form of autosuggestion! According to modern thought, the mystic Plotinus surely was deluded when he said:
"This is the soul's true end, to touch that Light and set It by Itself, not by another , by itself, Which gives it sight as well. It must see That Light by which it is enlightened; for we do not see the sun by another light than his own. How then can this happen? Take away everything!"
However, the great mystic Plotinus is not far from Buddhism which speaks of the radiant Mind and clear light Mind, etc. A beautiful example of such a description appears in the Dashabhumika Sutra.
“Again, O son of a good family, thou hast now one light, it is the light that sees into the real nature of all things as unborn and beyond discrimination. But the light of truth possessed by the Tathagatas is as regards its infinite mobility, activity, and manifestation, beyond all measurement, calculation, comparison, and proportion. Thou shouldest rise thy intention towards it in order to realise it.”
Believe it or not, there are Buddhists who have not only experienced such a light but have taken everything away in order to realize it—everything conditioned, that is, where everything is finally seen as a configuration of this marvelous, eternal light. But while materialism has taken hold of the modern soul, skepticism has taken a hold of modern reasoning which is skeptical of any claim of transcendence—perhaps the most important part of mysticism.