Satori – Does It Just Happen?

Article by Jeremy Sadler 18.05.16

An old proverb says “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”


Sounds pretty easy on the face of it but there is a lot more involved. To teach someone how to fish they have to be willing, coachable and capable. Also there are several steps to go through before that person can fish and actually catch something.

First of all what kind of fishing is to be taught – fly, net, deep sea? And what about the different kinds of bait or flies to be used? Then there’s how to cast effectively, where to cast – location, location, location – not to mention the patience and possible boredom to contend with. What will happen if they don’t catch anything? Determination and resolve have to be covered along with handling disappointment. They have to be taught that success is built on failure, practice improves results and so forth.

All this takes time, effort and lots of practice and along the way your fishing student may also have to learn to deal with ridicule from so-called friends –

“Why go fishing when you can buy ready prepped in the supermarket?” 

“What a waste of time and effort which you should be spending with your friends and family.” 

They might even have to deal with rejection as well as their ‘ol’ friends’ stop calling round or inviting them to BBQs and the like.

Now I realise what I’ve just described is maybe a bit extreme, but the point I’m making is this: You don’t learn to fish overnight.

Now what about Satori moments? They are often described as happening just like that, out of the blue, as a light bulb moment or an AHA! moment, a revelation, an enlightenment and so forth. But are they really?

Let’s take Thomas Edison’s literal Light Bulb Moment as an example. Did Thomas have instant success with his invention? Did he suddenly, in an inspired moment, pass electric current through a filament and Hey Presto! the light bulb was invented? No, he didn’t. In actual fact it took Thomas Edison at least 10,000 attempts to get that desired effect.

That means he failed 10,000 times before he found success, before he had his Light Bulb Moment. However there’s something else. He also took the action and developed the habits and behaviours which led up to that Moment. He first had the idea, which came from pondering on how to find an easier and less dangerous way to provide lighting in homes, then he brainstormed, planned, experimented with different kinds of electrical conductors and filaments and eventually achieved his goal.

Another example is Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki. He wanted to find a way of using Energy without having to use his own personal reserves. He was familiar with Qi Gong masters who would have to replenish their personal Energy stores after treating several patients and, quite often, this could take days.

Mikao wanted to find a simpler, easier way which would also benefit the Energy user and so he meditated on this whilst on Mt. Kurama. 21 days later he had his Satori Moment and started to develop the system which he called ‘Method to achieve Personal Perfection’ with the aim that all those studying the system would achieve Satori, to find their spiritual path, to heal themselves. This later became to be called Reiki and, since it came to the West, is today a far cry from that Satori achieving path.

Satori therefore is not just an instant happening, a flash of inspiration, a light bulb moment. It is more. It is a series of habits, behaviours, practices which lead to a result and then some.

Just like in the not too distant past where we journeyed by coach and horses and stopped off at Inns and Coach Houses along the way, Satori is the journey to an Insight, after which the journey continues to the next Insight. The final Insight will probably be the one you have shortly before you stop breathing.

There is an ancient saying, that could possibly be attributed to Buddha, that goes:

If you think you are enlightened, you’re not.

Satori is the start of the journey, not the destination.