In the Lankavatara Sutra we read:
"The dhyāna [J., zen-na] practised, dhyāna itself, and the subject of dhyāna, the abandonment, the seeing of the truth,—all this is discrimination; he who understands is released."
We also read:
"When all these are abandoned and he is in the state of no-shadows, all the Buddhas will come together from their lands and with their shining hands anoint the head of the blessed with unguents; his [mental] state is in full conformity with suchness (tathatā).
Sound confusing? As far back as the Pali Nikayas, dhyāna (P., jhāna) only takes us to the threshold of awakening. It is not awakening, itself, that is, the direct communion with the absolute which is completely unconditioned. From the perspective of the unconditioned, all practices carry more or less a trace of the conditioned—even the "cessation of thought," according to the Lankavatara Sutra.
When the Buddhas with their shining hands anoint us, insofar as we are in complete conformity with suchness; as indescribable as it is, the unconditioned is the only reality; everything else is like an organized torsion wave of this essence for want of a better illustration. And after this mystery, while one sees the world as the fullest expression of this unconditioned reality, looking back it is only by means of dhyāna that we came to the threshold, that is, the checkpoint (關) of the gateless. From that point, one step more and we entered. This is the Tathagata's dhyāna.
Still, there are some if not many who believe that the path with its practices does not lead to the threshold—just accept practice. For, indeed, there is no need to seek the unconditioned because there is really nothing to be attained as such! When I first began my study of Zen, I believed such nonsense. But this idiotic opinion soon died since the default was my conditioned individuality which was not free from suffering. I wanted to transcend this temporal heap of suffering. I wanted to see the place beyond suffering. I came to believe in a reality that transcended the conditioned reality of my birth. After I had discovered the Lankavatara Sutra in 1965 I was convinced it was on the right track. I had that much faith. But few these days have the faith I had. The are espoused to false dogmas and I dare say they will not change.