I first met Joshu Sasaki in the winter of 1970/71. Every day during Sesshin he would give a talk called Taisho. He was a little man, if you would see a photo of him now he's about middle chest high. He can't be 4'10" now.
But Roshi was a showman, understood perspective and the mind.
When we entered the Taiso Hall, also the Chanting Hall, he was already sitting in a beautifully decorated and elevated chair, maybe chest high, so his head was about 7 feet. It seemed he was about 3 ft. thick under his under and over robes. That is, he had a lot of padding which made him look bigger.
It was maybe the tenth Taisho when I heard him say, "Enlightenment can become boring."
Intuitively I knew that could be true. Already I was spending hours everyday without a body or mind, merged with the wind and sounds of birds, and the dancing trees.
Within five minutes of sitting I no longer had a body or mind; I was the universe. I became the jet flying overhead, or the sound of the wind and snow against the paper windows in the Zendo.
Which is real I thought? The state of ordinary mind, or this oneness I experienced every day for hours at a time. Is one state more real than the other, more permanent? Does either tell us more about who we truly are? Am I "really" this blissful state of inner emptiness that invited the world into "me," even though there was no me when it came in?
I didn't know. It was a question I would ponder for many years.
You see for some "enlightenment" is just the "realization of the emptiness of the subject and object distinction." There was no I, no world, just a living presence which was me more and more.
But for some, it was realization that all objects, including self or ego, arose out of emptiness in the morning and sank into emptiness in the evening, and all day long they paid attention to the inner space that the objects came out of and went into.
And watching this emptiness can be fascinating for a number of years. Itself it has properties of coolness, beauty, lucidity, and silence that was total peace.
This is the Nowness, Beingness, or even Self that many Advaitins and neo Advaitins talk about. This is Shiv. Pure space, spotless, self-illuminated, utterly peaceful.
For some, "enlightenment" was just understanding the doctrine that form and emptiness were interpenetrating and One, and that there was nothing to be done, just rest in the gaps that revealed nowness between thoughts. Their "realization" was an understanding, a grasping of non-dual perspective.
But Zen would never tolerate just an intellectual answer. You had to experience emptiness, nowness, and the loss of personal self and the body in order to enter the brilliantly shining clarity of merger into the world.
Now, I will tell you, this is the beginning and end of most teacher's understanding and experience. This is the beginning and end of Douglas Harding's teachings of having no head, and most current Facebook teachers.
But let me tell you, even the most refined state of merger into emptiness, oneness or the brilliant shining Now, can, like Sasaki said, BECOME VERY BORING!
This is why I teach the way of love. No two days are the same. No two hours are the same. There are ups and downs. One feels all human emotions such as unconditional love, romantic love, sexuality, joy, bliss, brilliant displays of internal energies, colors and internal flows of colored subtle substances.
Then there are times of dryness, mild depressions, major black moods, anger, jealousy, rage, feeling embarrassed,
helpless, etc., and all are recognized and accepted as me.
But most importantly comes the experience of Self, which is our usual looking self that sees Itself as "Self" after that hidden Self of grace and God are revealed to self. Then that small self becomes Self by identification and incorporation.
After that, everything is both the same and different.
Once again you are fully human newly emerging after years of regaining your emotionality, painfully and sometime slowly. You can be depressed, you can be angry, you can be blissful or feel the grace of God: it never stops. Every second is new. It is not just the unchanging brilliance of Nowness, Beingness, or emptiness, it is being God and human at the same time.
Inside you are different. Complete, total, utter, self-confidence, because not only are you the Self-of-All, the Atman, Turiya, the Fourth State of existence, knowledge of Self and who you are, but always have access to bliss in one form or another.
Even the rawness of new painful movements of Shakti inside your body and Subtle Body becomes more ecstatic than even the blissful states because you are becoming 100% totally accessed by the world through the tenderest vulnerability of the human Self to fear, anger, joy, and a piano concerto. All becomes so intense there is no space for boredom. You are 100% alive.
This comes about because of the transformative power of love. You have total access to silence, Nowness, and emptiness, but also the wild passion of a van Gough along with his eye for beauty.
Every moment the Self in you is giving birth to everything.