Boredom is important because boredom is anti-credential.
Credentials are entertaining, always bringing you something new, something lively, something fantastic, all kinds of solutions. When you take away the idea of credentials, then there is boredom…
…similarly, boredom is important in meditation practice; it increases the psychological sophistication of the practitioners. They begin to appreciate boredom and they develop their sophistication until the boredom begins to become cool boredom, like a mountain river. It flows and flows and flows, methodically and repetitiously, but it is very cooling, very refreshing. Mountains never get tired of being mountains and waterfalls never get tired of being waterfalls… It is a good feeling to be bored, constantly sitting and sitting. First gong, second gong, third gong, more gongs yet to come. Sit, sit, sit, sit. Cut through the artery until the boredom becomes extraordinarily powerful. We have to work hard at it. At this point, we cannot really study the vajrayana or, for that matter, even the mahayana. We are not up to it because we have not actually made a relationship with boredom yet. To begin with we have to relate with the hinayana. If we are to save ourselves from spiritual materialism and from buddha-dharma with credentials, if we are to become the dharma without credentials, the introduction of boredom and repetitiousness is extremely important. Without it, we have no hope. It is true — no hope.
There are definite styles of boredom. The Zen tradition in Japan creates a definite style of boredom in its monasteries. Sit, cook, eat. Sit zazen and do your walking meditation and so on. But to an American novice who goes to Japan or take part in tradtional Japanese practice in this country, the message of boredom is not communicated properly. Instead, if I may say so, it turns into a militant appreciation of rigidity, or an aesthetic appreciation of simplicity, rather than actually being bored, which is strange. Actually it was not designed to be that way. To the Japanese, Zen practice is an ordinary Japanese life-situation in which you just do your daily work and sit a lot of zazen. But Americans appreciate the little details — how you use your bowl and how you eat consciously in zazen posture. This is only supposed to create a feeling of boredom, but to American students it is a work of art. Cleaning your bowl, washing it out, folding your white napkin and so forth, becomes living theater. The black cushion is supposed to suggest no color, complete boredom. But for Americans it inspires a mentality of militant blackness, straightforwardness .
The tradition is trying to bring out boredom, which is a necessary aspect of the narrow path of discipline, but instead the practice turns out to be an archeological, sociological survey of interesting things to do, something you could tell your friends about: “Last year I spent the whole fal sitting in a Zen monastery for six months. I watched autumn turn into winter and I did my zazen practice and everything was so precise and beautiful. I learned how to sit and I even learned how to walk and eat. It was a wonderful experience and I did not get bored at all.” You tell your friends, “Go, it’s great fun,” and you collect another credential. The attempt to destroy credentials creates another credential.
The first point in destroying ego’s game is the strict discipline of sitting meditation practice. No intellectual speculation, no philosophizing. Just sit and do it. That is the first strategy in developing buddha-dharma without credentials.