Do you want anything other than this?
How deeply have you progressed in zazen practice? How much? How highly developed? Do you have such a special measure, or no measure?
Recently, I had a sort of shock from one of my European friends, who has practised for more then 25 years. He confessed "I haven't progressed in Zen meditation at all", he complained about and confessed such an unhappiness.
Because of such a fixed idea about progress , you lose now what you have built in all your practice, and all the effort you have made is lost. Is this good or bad? It 's good if you can lose whatever you have built because then you can sit anew every time.
Such a fixed idea of progress prevents you accepting, to perceive, THIS moment of real peace. When we keep such a fixed idea, we cannot mindfully accept, meet or harvest THIS one moment of peace. Do you want anything other than THIS? Do you want anything else?
"Progression"- to where? Progress implies toward a certain fixed direction, but if you don 't have such a fixed direction there cannot be any progress. Whenever you miss THIS , this one encounter of peace, all the 'progress ' you have done, suddenly disappears. One hundred years of progress is in vain already in this here now,in this moment. Outside of this encounter, this peace, is it possible to find any progress,or direction, or any enlightenment even?
When you really understand this, you can eliminate such complaints and unhappiness about 'no progress '. This is true even for beginners. Please be freed from any fixed ideas so that you can, at any time, be back home. We need to be mindful of this.
Do you still have the fixed idea of progress or not? Or did I succeed to erase such an idea in you? Such unhappiness or complaint about zen practice or meditation practise comes from misunderstanding or ignorance about life.
Where is it - life? In your body? In your box? Where? What is it - real life? - not merely an idea of life. Real life is actually this present encounter.
And yet some concept or fixed idea about time can still easily creep in because of our invisible, formless habits. In fact, I have many friends in Japan, Europe, in Australia, and almost 90% of them still have such an idea to get somewhere else, to become something else , to get 'better '- but can you become better? What is 'better '? The real substance of that - isn't it to be back home in this one moment life encounter?
Ignorance is whenever you ignore this encounter of HERE NOW. That is it. That is the only ignorance. Because whenever we settle for, or grab, any assumptional ideas, we already slip from this encounter of here now. This is nothing other than ignorance.
We usually make lots of assumptions, like: "if this happens I will be happy," or "if that happens I will be miserable". But what is your reality NOW? When you have such an assumptional viewpoint or concept, you are not HERE NOW. You are somewhere else, millions of miles away from THIS. When you have so many assumptional ideas, with endless questions, at that time you don 't meet with THIS real life. In this way, we are ceaselessly escaping and wandering off, so that we miss this one moment of deep peace. This one moment of deep peace is the very arrival at the very end, and at the same time, the real starting point of new life. But we miss it.
You asked about making plans. That is nothing more than building pumpkins. During sesshin please stop any kind of future planning. Such ideas tempt you to escape from HERE, always. You have enough pumpkins already , you don 't need any more. What you need is to cut them off. If you can do this, during sesshin, (if you can give up all your thoughts of future planning or any other ideas, for example) then you can really work or function Here Now wherever you go or wherever you are at any time. If you don't have any fixed abode to live in, wherever you are, Here Now is your real home.
Mostly we are wandering off and escaping from THIS. Whenever we escape, this sitting room is not our home but becomes our prison . When we make this home our prison, we want to escape constantly (habitually). But in fact this is not prison, but real home. So it is your choice- ARE YOU MAKING THIS YOUR PRISON OR YOUR REAL HOME? WHICH ARE YOU CHOOSING? Which would you like to do?
Q: Can you describe this here now encounter? What it is to be in the here now encounter? Is there any word you can use to describe it?
Hogen: Ah yes, shall I give it to you? (Hogen strikes the bell ... ) This is it!
This one encounter, just one encounter in eternity. You cannot repeat . Each moment, each encounter is like this. To describe with our concepts even with one thousand words, cannot describe THIS. But one encounter, one real encounter, can do it. Daily. Can you find anything which is not a real miracle? Ceaselessly we neglect and ignore this because of our fixed idea of progress.
So don't have such a fixed measure or scale. Why do you need to or want to be better? "Better" and "progress" imply a certain direction. But to where? In just one direction we get better , a certain direction to go in . To where? To HERE, NOW. Einstein told us "this starting point is the ultimate final goal". So, where do you need to go? Do you need to have somewhere to go? If you still have a direction that is nothing but escapism. Therefore you get pain. But if you are at home, and you don 't need to go anywhere else, you can sit without pain. In such a moment even physical pain suddenly disappears.
So now, are you freed from your prison, your 'measure'? Do you still 'want ' to go back home?
You don 't need to go anywhere, you don 't need to escape to anywhere, because THIS (Now) is the final realisation and final home (to arrive in and start from). Just THIS (Now). JUST THIS. Original realisation. Original realisation of cosmos itself. Life itself. No need to add any extra tail or any legs on a snake.
What we need is such an awakening. Therefore, please don 't want to become 'better '. Don 't 'progress '. Just be at home. Just be aware of THIS. Just this awareness, only.
So, now, on this sesshin, we are getting more focussed on here now, being at home. Yesterday and the day before, not so focussed, more scattered. And then tomorrow, no words. Our chattering is getting less and less. But I know, often you have so many pumpkins, or extra tails, if so, please have dokusan, or you can confess during this dharma talk (teisho).
What if we sat here and nobody expressed anything, and me neither, during this teisho period.... This is the most successful teisho (powerful thunder). The substance of this silence is full of life, not boring at all. If you have any fixed idea of progress you will easily become bored.
Even just staying and doing nothing, just being and doing nothing, that is already arrival at home. That is full of life. You don 't need to add any extra chattering, or any explanation. You don 't need to do anything in such a fulfilled state of life.
So, if you, I, do nothing , only this peaceful, deep silence, full of life...