Osho-Zen: Fire - Intensity (The Knight of Fire)

Judith D

He is a true knight in the traditional sense - full of action, enthusiasm.

I see this card, with it's illusion of speed which is actually a focus on a point, and it makes me think of mindfulness in the buddhist way of thinking. Being here, now, right in this actual present moment, focusing on this, and this only, and letting the rest go by. Be with what is, experience what is - right now. This is the gap between the inbreath and outbreath - life as it is happening. Meditation in action. Focussed intensity.

I suppose I am a little biased here at present as I am engaged in a meditation course which is considering exactly this, and our meeting this week concentrated particularly on mindfulness and being in the moment so I suppose it it uppermost in thought. But the reminders are good and extremely helpful. I work in an extremely stressful environment at present and the reminder to be mindful instead of just letting my thoughts and energy scatter everywhere unproductively, at the beck and call of everyone else instead of completing what I need to do myself, is very timely and useful. I want my mind to be at that bright point where reality explodes into possibility.
Ooh - that's a bit profound!


My natural tendency is to mentally get way ahead of myself. If someone offered me a job possibility, I'd overthink it till I owned the company----or married the boss! :p Or if my check was late, I'd overthink it till I was out in the rain on a streetcorner with my kids starving to death.

Mindfulness saved me so many times from just giving up and drinking or doing something else stupid. When I had four kids, the rent was due, we had no food and I had no job-----boy, did I have to practice mindfulness!

This card is the adolescent of the suit. He's not totally good at practicing mindfulness but at least he's trying to be. I see him as moving into a time when it's easy to lose the mindful nature he was born with because adolescent impetuousness is taking hold. It's probably a struggle to keep himself under control and to keep his focus.

Alan Ross

This card actually brings to my mind the quality of concentration more than it does mindfulness. In Buddhist teachings, concentration is one of the seven factors of enlightenment and right concentration is a step in the eightfold path. Along with right effort and right mindfulness, right concentration forms the part of the eightfold path dealing with mental discipline and meditation.

Concentration is the ability of the mind to remain focused single-pointedly on an object. This is what the knight in the card seems to me to be doing. All his energy, all his intensity, is being focused to a single point. In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, including the Westernized Theravada-based Insight Meditation tradition, a distinction is made between samatha, concentration meditation, and vipassana, insight meditation. An example of a concentration meditation would be gazing with single-point attention at a candle flame. Another would be focusing attention exclusively on the breath. These meditation can lead to places of great calm and inner peace.

Vipassana takes these meditation a step further, combining concentration with mindfulness to produce deep insight into the nature of reality. This is typically done by first calming and concentrating the mind, then using this concentrated mind to mindfully and deeply investigate our moment-to-moment experience. Without concentration, mindfulness stays shallow. Think of a drill bit that wanders the surface of wooden board. It does not penetrate. By keeping the drill bit focused on a point, it penetrates right through the board.

An inability to maintain concentration is a real problem for many in our society. It is impossible to maintain mindfulness when the mind is allowed to wander. The world we experience becomes fragmentary; much of our experience is lost when our attention is allowed to drift. An inability to concentrate also makes it difficult to follow a complex train of thought, experience a deep appreciation for art and music, or deeply appreciate anything we experience. At its worst, an inability to concentrate can manifest as ADD or ADHD.

Okay, enough pontificating *sheepishly stepping down from the soapbox*. I just can't help myself sometime :). This is stuff I can get real passionate about. Anyway, I love this card. This is my "stay focused!" card. The Two of Rainbows is more my "be mindful!" card, although the two qualities work so closely together, it can be difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends.


osho zen Knight of Fire: Intensity

This card seems to be a saying it is admirable or well advised to be intense and focused. I think it can also be a reminder that when you are too focused and too intense, you can also be on a very solitary journey where some "may feel threatened or annoyed" (by you). I am thinking about a job I just finished in January, and the work environment was so "intense." The intensity of some of my co-workers actually took away from the overall enjoyment of the job. Or I think when I worked for stock brokers in London, U.K., almost 20 years ago now, and they were so full of intensity, so focused, so intent on the moment, and their greed driving all their actions, that I really wasn't comfortable. Maybe it is just my associations with the word, but intensity, unchecked, can be debilitating.

Maybe on another level, I am envious of a person with so much directed energy who could move toward a single focus with so much force. I am a bit scattered right now, finding an appropriate job, after I have done some years of international teaching, and am back here in freezing Canada, feeling a bit misplaced, and definitely unfocused. I am not empassioned or feeling intense about anything in particular right now - except discussing these cards, which is really becoming a great study group! An aside, someone mentioned a concern for how will we get through all 78 (79 with the master) cards? - no, we don't have to do the major arcana - it has been done; just go to all the major arcana links; we just have to focus on the minor., and I was away from my computer for a couple of days, and was delighted to see that these first three cards were discussed. Great!!!! Let's keep it going!

Back to the card, I don't like the image - a nubile ghostly white body turning into an all encompassing flame, as he is running - I think of the Knight of Fire as being much more regal than this. Anyway, I think I have to work more with this card to truly understand it's meaning, and look forward to hearing other responses.

Alan Ross

armonia said:
I am thinking about a job I just finished in January, and the work environment was so "intense." The intensity of some of my co-workers actually took away from the overall enjoyment of the job. Or I think when I worked for stock brokers in London, U.K., almost 20 years ago now, and they were so full of intensity, so focused, so intent on the moment, and their greed driving all their actions, that I really wasn't comfortable. Maybe it is just my associations with the word, but intensity, unchecked, can be debilitating.
I hadn't thought about this card that way, but I see what you mean. Being on the lazy, dreamy side, I've tended to see this card as a welcome kick in the butt (Focus, Alan! Focus!!!). But I can see that this kind of single-mindedness can have a dark side, too. This knight definitely looks too intent and too focused on his goal to smell the roses along the way. I can hear him saying "Outta my way! Comin' through!!" And there is nothing admirable in my mind to such single-minded devotion to greed as you describe. I'm sitting here looking at this knight as a pasty-faced stockbroker and it makes me want to giggle. I don't think I'll be able to look at this card quite the same way again.

Obliviousness to everything but the object of focus is a characteristic of concentration meditations. All attention is devoted to a single object with none left over for anything else. I can remember a couple of occasions when I had something on my mind and I was so intent on my thoughts that I literally ran into a telephone pole. (I've also done that while paying attention to certain other distractions, but I'm not going to get into that :D.)

In Buddhist mindfulness meditations, attention is broadened, not focused. In certain forms of vipassana, for example, one sits in open awareness noting the arising and falling of sensations, thoughts, feelings, etc. (more technically, the four foundations of mindfulness). Light concentration on the breath, not exclusive attention, is used to anchor the mind in the present moment, and when a sensation arises, it becomes the new object of attention. When the sensation passes away, attention is returned to the breath. In the Soto Zen tradition, the meditator simply sits in pure, open awareness (very, very difficult). The idea is to be fully present with everything that is experienced without latching on to anything. You are "just sitting." This is pure mindfulness.


OK, when I say "mindful", to me that means an intent and exclusive focus on what one is doing right now. Not floating off on a half a dozen other things mentally, but paying close, focussed attention to the task at hand. For instance, washing the hands or peeling potatoes or anything else that one happens to be doing. "Minding" what one is doing. How is that not focus?

And when I say the knight has lost the mindful nature of the child, I'm talking about the natural intent absorption of the child in whatever he is doing to the exclusion of anything else going on around him. How is that also not "mindfulness"?

I think you're taking about forms of meditation and I'm talking about something else. :)

Alan Ross

You're sitting at your table eating cereal and reading a newspaper. You're intently focused on an article you are reading. All your attention is on what you're reading. Are you being mindful? What about the cereal you are eating? Many dieticians point out that eating in front of the television is a bad idea, because people get so focused on what they are viewing, they aren't paying attention to how much food they are putting into their mouth. They are eating mindlessly.

When you are walking down the street intensly absorbed in and focused on thoughts about a work project, do you notice those puffy white clouds in the sky? A pretty flower that has forced its way through a crack in the concrete? Do you notice the grasshopper at your feet (I'm borrowing this example from the old TV series Kung Fu :))? I mentioned the example of being so intently absorbed in my thoughts, that I walked into a telephone pole. This is not what I would call being mindful. To me, Mindfulness is the present moment awareness of everything you are experiencing. It is not exclusionary. When you are intently focused on something to the point where you are oblivious to everything else, you are not being mindful, because you are essentially unaware of ninety percent or ninety nine percent of what is going on around you. Mindfulness, as I use the term, is also not the same as letting your thoughts drift from one thing to another. Rather, it is a state of open awareness.

Everything I'm explaining here is my personal view on mindfulness versus concentration. I'm not try to convince anyone that they are "wrong" and I am "right." I'm explaining this because there is, as I mentioned, another card in this deck, the Two of Rainbows, that more closely corresponds to my concept of mindfulness. It is a very different card from the intent and focused Knight of fire.

Alan Ross

I've been thinking the past couple days about the issue I raised, mindfulness vs concentration. Frankly, I found myself a little confused about it even while I was trying to explain what I saw as the difference. I think I finally found a way to clarify the difference that makes better sense to me than what I previously posted.

Think of a flashlight that has an adjustable beam. It can be adjusted so it floods an entire area, or it can be narrowed so it illuminates one particular object. Think of the light the flashlight produces as the light of awareness, which is mindfulness.

When our mental flashlight is set to flood, everything in a wide area is illuminated with awareness. We are mindful of everything that happens around us.

When we concentrate the beam of light, awareness becomes narrowly focused on one particular object. By concentrating the beam, it becomes brighter and makes it easier to see subtle details in the illuminated object. Awareness penetrates more deeply. However, the surrounding area is thrown into darkness, and we become oblivious to everything but the object.

The Osho Knight of Fire reflects this. He has increased 'intensity' by concentrating his awareness. He is intent and very mindful of his goal, but I see it as a very concentrated mindfulness that renders him oblivious to 'distractions' around him.

The problem I had with a definition of mindfulness as an "intent and exclusive focus on what one is doing right now" is that it just didn't seem to accord well with the advice I've read from many sources, especially Buddhist sources, that we should live our lives mindfully. I don't think it would be very practical to go around with our attention so narrowly focused. I think when spiritual teachers advise us to live our lives mindfully, what they are talking about is flipping the light switch so the entire room is illuminated. Many of us go around with weak batteries in our mental flashlights, so the total amount of light (awareness) produced is dim. The result is poor mindfulness.

I would define "intent and exclusive focus on what one is doing right now" as concentrated mindfulness, not mindfulness. I would define mindfulness as an "alert awareness of what one is experiencing." Mindfulness is the light, not the condition of being concentrated.


The figure in the card looks to be surfing.

Intensity doesnt mean necessarily that there is a lot of something, but what little there is is all the more noticeable, a quality versus quality thing.

The youth in this card is trying her hardest to attain, but the more she tries the more scattered the result --behind her.

I get the feeling that this card is about spinning one's wheels more than it about the intensity of thought. Fire is about action, which is not very zen-like. Isn't Zen supposed to be about simply "being," instead? Is the suit of wands counterproductive to this?

Judith D

If he is surfing, it is one heck of a wave! But you have made me look at it in a different way, and I see speedskating!
I agree Zen is about being, but don't you find that to BE is active? To really be what you are is about involving your senses, your focus, your attention, absolutely.
I like the image of the scattered results behind the figure, but I see that those scattered results have been gathered in and used - and fused - into that point of light.
I have been rereading the comments on mindfulness and trying to make more sense of it to myself. I still see mindfulness as active awareness - yes, there is a total focus but it is inclusive, because it includes all the things you are doing and thinking and seeing NOW. I can still see this view in the knight.