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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 39

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 39

    Case 38 never ends, yet now comes ...

    Case 39: Joshu's Bowl Washing

    http://books.google.co.jp/books?id=i...20wick&f=false

    Do you know that washing the dishes is a sacred act? So is cleaning the toilet, putting stamps on an envelope and picking up the kids from school.

    We sit Zazen as a sacred act, the only place to be and only action needed in that moment. But so is dish washing, toilet cleaning, envelope stuffing and all the rest when realized as such. Just doing what is to be done.

    In fact, each and all are so even when NOT realized as such ... like the sun is always present even when hidden by the clouds (our resistance, frustrations, desires for something else, divisive thoughts and the like are the clouds). Nonetheless, it is lovely when the sun peaks out and we realize such now and then.

    QUESTION: Can you change a light bulb or cook dinner like a sacred act? Does that mean you need to put on fancy robes, light incense and bow before changing a lightbulb? Or, can one realize lightbulb changing as a sacred ritual in another way?

    There are actually times when we might recite a little Gatha or the like to remind us of the sacred nature of the ordinary ... as this Gatha a friend wrote for making coffee ...

    Grinding fresh afternoon coffee
    I vow with all beings
    to inhale each moment
    dropping likes and dislikes.


    In monasteries, monks will bow and recite a short chant before entering the toilet or the bath. But "sacred" can be a matter of the heart at any time, even without formalities.

    I think the last two paragraphs of Shishin Wick's essay offer us good direction on this:

    "Then wash you bowls," Joshu tells us. It is to lead an ordinary life, just as it is, ordinary—and that is truly extraordinary. But we must not confuse a Zen life with a "Zen-like" life, a life that conforms to our ideas of what we think Zen should be, and a life in which we try to act like a "Zen Student" or, worse still, a "Zen master". In this koan, Joshu is telling us just to let our life express itself and naturally come out in all our activities.

    Do not let the word Zen delude you. Intimately realize that Zen is nothing other than what you do, and what you are, morning, noon and night. As long as you think it is something else, somewhere else, then you are trapped in a tomb with no way out.
    It is just not necessary to realize every single act in every moment as so (I don't. Usually I just change the bulb without thinking it is a "Buddha Bulb" or something). Still, it is sacred nonetheless.

    ASSIGNMENT: AT LEAST ONCE OR TWICE A DAY THIS WEEK, IN THE MIDST OF SOME MOST ORDINARY OR TEDIOUS TASK OF LIFE, PLEASE EXPERIENCE SUCH MOMENTARILY AS A KIND OF SACRED RITUAL AND RECALL HOW EXTRA-ORDINARY IT IS SIMPLY TO BE ALIVE TO BE PERFORMING THE 'ORDINARY' TASK AT ALL. IF YOU WISH, YOU CAN REPORT TO US HOW DOING SO CHANGED YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE TASK.

    Gassho, J

    PS - If you are interested in more Gathas for our "ordinary" tasks, here is a recent thread ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...atha-for-sleep
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-06-2014 at 02:16 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jundo, will do. Gassho
    迎 Geika

  3. #3
    Senior Member Nengyo's Avatar
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    ASSIGNMENT: AT LEAST ONCE OR TWICE A DAY THIS WEEK, IN THE MIDST OF SOME MOST ORDINARY OR TEDIOUS TASK OF LIFE, PLEASE EXPERIENCE SUCH MOMENTARILY AS A KIND OF SACRED RITUAL AND RECALL HOW EXTRA-ORDINARY IT IS SIMPLY TO BE ALIVE TO BE PERFORMING THE 'ORDINARY' TASK AT ALL. IF YOU WISH, YOU CAN REPORT TO US HOW DOING SO CHANGED YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE TASK.
    Given the abundant number of tedious task I need to perform this week, this should be easy work. I'll start with the paper I need to write tonight.

    _/\_
    Try not to be a jerk-- one of the Buddhas

  4. #4
    If Joshu calls himself an idiot then I must be a complete imbecile. But I still have hope and the energy blockages is just the way energy functions. Scientists even have a name for it - energy activation barriers. Its not me, its just experience and I actually enjoy cleaning toilets and working with the earth. I don't really think of what I do as a sacred ritual but sometimes there is a recognition of just doing.



    Kind regards. /\
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  5. #5
    This koan reminds me of something that happens on a Yong Maeng Jong Jin (a Korean zen retreat). At the end of the midday meal you pour tea into your bowl and wash it carefully with your finger, then drink the tea. Then you go up to have the bowl inspected. I always got sent back to clean my bowl again, sometimes twice. The teacher would just look at it, shake his head, and gesture to go back and do it again. It was frustrating because the bowl could be clean as a whistle, but I think it was more about how I cleaned the bowl, not how clean it was.

    QUESTION: Can you change a light bulb or cook dinner like a sacred act? Does that mean you need to put on fancy robes, light incense and bow before changing a lightbulb? Or, can one realize lightbulb changing as a sacred ritual in another way?
    Buy doing wholly , not in order to get it done, and enjoying the doing. Someone.. can't remember who, said you don't dance to get to the end of the song, you dance to dance. Why can't changing a lightbulb be the same? For me it is like that sometimes, but a lot of the time these activities are sandwiched between getting from here to there.

    Gassho Daizan
    大山

  6. #6
    The 3 pure precepts:
    Do not commmit evil.
    Do good.
    Do good for others (aka save all sentient beings)

    This is our practice. Saving all sentient beings.

    It seems to me that anything sacred would be something that supports this.

    Acting in accord with the 10 precepts is sacred because it supports this, supports life.... something true, bigger than ourselves, but also ourselves.

    Sewing the Rakusu is sacred... why? because Taigu-sensei said it is? It's just cutting up some cloth, doing the backstitch.

    Why? Because it's a new "flag" or "insignia" I can wear to make me feel special.

    Why? Because it is esoteric and something new for my ego to play with and keep it distracted?

    Maybe I light some incense while I sew or chant something like "I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha." Maybe that makes it sacred.

    Well then why not practice by playing a video game? I can light incense while I do that.

    The same thing with zazen. Why practice? Why not just screw in a lightbulb, or better yet, why not just simply screw off? Hell, I can put all my attention into drinking a glass of beer or whiskey or smoking something interesting.

    The why for me is that those things are distractions from reality. They lend themselves to a life that is closed off... this washing our bowl, screwing in a lightbulb, washing our hands is our life not because that's what we simply might be doing at the time... but because it is interconnected with everything else and supports everything; it doesn't suck the life out of things by being performed from a selfish perspective. It helps, even in the tiniest way.

    Washing my hands may prevent me from spreading disease such as staff or whatever else the flu of the year is. It impacts others. Washing my bowl prepares for the next meal even though that doesn't exist yet.. it prepares and readies for things.

    Zazen is washing our mind. It's never done.... again and again, like Taigu's teaching on sweeping the mind. We must come back and sit again and again.

    Why?

    To engage more and more with who we are. The more I practice, the greater the connection I feel with others.

    Kyonin mentioned it in a post months ago about how he plays less video games now. I too was an avid gamer, and I've sort of lost interest in them. I wondered what the hell was wrong with me, but as I shine this microscope on my life, I don't want to waste time.

    With the limited time I have on this planet, I want to be helpful however I can. I also notice how I've become restricted. I find excuses not to help, and I feel that pain in my mind as I have to exert effort to choose to help. It's definitely not a habit yet. The other habits are still too pervasive; hence the pain to choose the path of greater resistance.

    Now I'm not espousing some puritanical way of life. Entertainment has its purpose, but it is not the driving force of my life.

    So I wash my mind's bowl by doing zazen.

    But washing my bowl after dinner is the same. Fully wash it. I used it, I wash it; instead of passing the burden on, this is about shouldering the responsibility with and for all sentient beings.

    If I kill myself or get addicted to drugs, now I've increased a burden upon society. I'm not attacking drug addicts or anything or even minimizing addiction; I'm just using this as a vehicle for my expression. I used to be addicted to Nicotine and Caffeine (both very prevalent and legal drugs btw).

    I may think, oh if I've killed myself I won't have any more problems. But now I've created problems that I'm not even around to help out with!

    That may be a crappy example. lol

    But zazen and this practice is about taking care of our lives, even things that I may gloss over normally. Not only do I miss out on my life by doing that, but it does not support society. What I do, how I live is much more important than whatever I write here or give lip service too.

    I remember reading in "One Robe, One Bowl", Ryokan was a living sutra. He didn't go around yelling at people for not sitting zazen, but we still look to him as a role model years later because he lived a full and true life... taking care of his bowl. He was a living embodiment of the Dharma.

    Again these are my words and limited understanding at this point in my practice.

    Practice is practice; it cannot be replaced... so I understand it but, even so, like a blind person, I don't always do what I know is right. In some ways that is even worse than not doing due to ignorance; it's just laziness, letting habit takeover. That's a dead life, not an alive sacred life. So I have to practice again and again.

    Practice is a choice; living our lives as sacred or just same old routine, easy going is also a choice.

    How do I choose to live?
    What does practice mean to me?
    Why do I practice?
    How does my practice engender what I've learned?

    These are questions I ask myself all the time. If I don't know why I practice, then no one will know. I'm the only one who can do my practice, even if it's for all sentient beings, it is my bowl to wash. No can do this for me.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  7. #7
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Thank you, Risho.

    Gassho
    迎 Geika

  8. #8
    Lovely, lovely.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Wonderful Risho, thank you. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  10. #10
    Lovely, Risho. Thank you!

    This koan gets to something I often think about. Would my life be any less sacred without my shrine, dharma texts, gathas and sutras? If it would then I am too attached to the idea of being a Zen student and being seen as such. Surely better a simple life well lived than one with much pomp and little substance?

    For me it is easy to carry the idea of a Zen person doing the washing up and even more so when enacting the daily rituals of Zen practice. These are important to keeping an intention of living well but really if I cannot live a meaningful life without an artificial veneer of Zen then something is wrong. Washing up is washing up with or without sacred words and trying to carry Zenness into an activity is just projecting an image. Letting washing up express itself through me sets aside any idea of sacred of profane.

    Every activity is complete within and of itself and anything else I add is extra and seems to take away from the completeness in some way (although it doesn't really) including thinking of it as sacred or ordinary. My last teacher would say "Do not try and take your sitting practice into your life but make life itself your practice."
    Dogen Zenji said much the same thing in Genjokoan:

    To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.

    This single line of Dogen is a continuing koan for me. The blackbird seems to have no problem with it so why do I struggle so?

    Gassho
    Andy

  11. #11
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Thank you Risho, that was lovely.

    Gassho

    Sent from Tapatalk 2
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    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  12. #12
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Thank you, too, Andy.

    Gassho
    迎 Geika

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    What a wonderful thread!

    Gassho,


    Shugen
    As a priest in training, please take everything I say with a pinch of salt

    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  14. #14
    Hi.

    I always do the dishes this way.
    Treating each thing, each stroke, as sacred.
    And when i am done i continue with the next task.
    Even though the day is hard, this always brings a smile on my face.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen
    Treeleaf Unsui
    Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

  15. #15
    Hi all, just got the book, hope it's ok to wander in on number 39...

    Can I change a light bulb as a "sacred act"? Sure, you betcha: I can slow down, pay attention, feel fortunate that I can buy a lightbulb when I need one, marvel at the wonder of electricity and all that has gone into me having it in my home, be glad that I have hands that are able to screw the bulb in, eyes to see the beauty that the light may reveal, feel grateful that we will have light for reading, happy that I can do this service for the next person who comes along; wish for all sentient beings to live in the light and be illuminated... Then abandon thought and feel the kinetic joy of lightbulb changing, stepping up, reaching, twisting, hearing the sound of the bulb scratching into place, breathing in the moment. Yes, this moment can be as sacred and as meaningful as any ritual of practice.

    Can I perform "sacred acts" as though I were changing a light bulb? I'd like my practice to be just that mundane. When I change a lightbulb, I don't go around with a feeling that I've been "good", or that maybe I'm kind of special. I don't find a way to work into conversation the fact that I changed a lightbulb today. I don't feel that I belong to a special lightbulb-changing club. I don't compare my lightbulb-changing technique to other people's techniques and feel that my way is the true way to change a lightbulb. I don't need to be in a perfect lightbulb-changing mood in order to change the lightbulb. I don't obsess over the fine details of my stance and what I'm wearing and the exact angle of my eyelids while I change a lightbulb. I don't expect changing the lightbulb to mean I will always have light forever after. I don't hope and wish that my lightbulb will one day change into the sun. A lightbulb goes out and I change it and move on to the next thing.

    Change the lightbulb, wash your bowl, go sit for a while.

    Gassho,
    Lisa

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by raindrop View Post

    Can I perform "sacred acts" as though I were changing a light bulb? I'd like my practice to be just that mundane. When I change a lightbulb, I don't go around with a feeling that I've been "good", or that maybe I'm kind of special. I don't find a way to work into conversation the fact that I changed a lightbulb today. I don't feel that I belong to a special lightbulb-changing club. I don't compare my lightbulb-changing technique to other people's techniques and feel that my way is the true way to change a lightbulb. I don't need to be in a perfect lightbulb-changing mood in order to change the lightbulb. I don't obsess over the fine details of my stance and what I'm wearing and the exact angle of my eyelids while I change a lightbulb. I don't expect changing the lightbulb to mean I will always have light forever after. I don't hope and wish that my lightbulb will one day change into the sun. A lightbulb goes out and I change it and move on to the next thing.

    Change the lightbulb, wash your bowl, go sit for a while.

    Gassho,
    Lisa
    Oh! Wise cracking and Wise! Wonderful.

    10,000 Watt Illumination!

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by raindrop View Post
    Can I perform "sacred acts" as though I were changing a light bulb? I'd like my practice to be just that mundane. When I change a lightbulb, I don't go around with a feeling that I've been "good", or that maybe I'm kind of special. I don't find a way to work into conversation the fact that I changed a lightbulb today. I don't feel that I belong to a special lightbulb-changing club. I don't compare my lightbulb-changing technique to other people's techniques and feel that my way is the true way to change a lightbulb. I don't need to be in a perfect lightbulb-changing mood in order to change the lightbulb. I don't obsess over the fine details of my stance and what I'm wearing and the exact angle of my eyelids while I change a lightbulb. I don't expect changing the lightbulb to mean I will always have light forever after. I don't hope and wish that my lightbulb will one day change into the sun. A lightbulb goes out and I change it and move on to the next thing.
    Oh Lisa, thank you for this ... You made me laugh and smile at the same moment. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  18. #18
    That was awesome raindrop. Thank you.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  19. #19
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Just saw the exercise, will be doing gatha everyday for a week. at exactly noon, I will stop and see what I happen to be doing.

    I would like to think I could change a lightbulb as a sacred act. But I rarely do. How many Clark's does it take to change a lightbulb?

    #1 "Oh No.. I hope I have enough lightbulbs in my office, I better go get more"

    #2 "How come these lightbulbs keep going out, didn't I just replace it? I wonder if there is something wrong with the wiring of my house. I bet those builders screwed up and didn't do this right. Cost cutting expenses to make more money. typical.. Oh wait where was I?...

    #3 "My wife will be so happy that I am finally getting to these lightbulbs, that need changing. I hope that she will be more approving of me"

    #4 "I am going to light the candle on my Zen altar now.. there now things are much more sacred."

    Yes I would say it takes at least 4 Clark's to change a lightbulb. Not 4, not 1..

    Gassho
    C

  20. #20
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    Yesterday, I did the laundry with 'no dread.' I HATE to do the laundry. But yesterday, I re-read Case 39, and washed my bowl. I just washed, dried, sorted, folded, and put away. No dread. No thought. Just that.
    Gassho--
    Amy

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Amy Penne View Post
    Yesterday, I did the laundry with 'no dread.' I HATE to do the laundry. But yesterday, I re-read Case 39, and washed my bowl. I just washed, dried, sorted, folded, and put away. No dread. No thought. Just that.
    Gassho--
    Amy
    AND now you have clean underwear too!

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  22. #22
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    My little experiment, I found quite interesting. First when doing things in a "sacred" way, I found i was much more relaxed and focused. There was less mental chatter and judgement, less multitasking, and I found myself slowing down to do things completely. I also found this practice spilled into other times, not just when I intended.

    Gassho
    C

  23. #23
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Oh Jundo, I was so wanting to live my life like a Zen-master, and now you just went and burst-ed that bubble...or shall I say lightbulb
    I guess I'll go back to cleaning toilets

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  24. #24
    After letting this koan sit on the back burner for a while, a new aspect has come up for me. I was washing dishes and I thought, why do we wash our bowl? So we can be ready to use it at the next meal. If we leave schmutz in our bowl, we’ll have icky moldy old bits in our gruel next time we eat, and it will ruin the freshness of the meal and could even give us food poisoning. The monk comes in to the temple and straightaway, first thing, asks for instruction. But before he can “fill his bowl,” with new teaching or insight, he must first wash away the dregs of whatever came before. If he thinks he has learned anything before, he has to set that aside and meet the new teaching with a fresh and open mind. He has to start with a fresh bowl every time. This kind of reminds me of that old story about emptying your cup. It’s kind of about beginners mind, I guess.

    Gassho,
    Lisa

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by raindrop View Post
    After letting this koan sit on the back burner for a while, a new aspect has come up for me. I was washing dishes and I thought, why do we wash our bowl? So we can be ready to use it at the next meal. If we leave schmutz in our bowl, we’ll have icky moldy old bits in our gruel next time we eat, and it will ruin the freshness of the meal and could even give us food poisoning. The monk comes in to the temple and straightaway, first thing, asks for instruction. But before he can “fill his bowl,” with new teaching or insight, he must first wash away the dregs of whatever came before. If he thinks he has learned anything before, he has to set that aside and meet the new teaching with a fresh and open mind. He has to start with a fresh bowl every time. This kind of reminds me of that old story about emptying your cup. It’s kind of about beginners mind, I guess.

    Gassho,
    Lisa
    He also needs to learn that "clean vs. dirty" is just a human judgment ... and dirty is just what it is. Same for sickness and health, life and death. They do not truly exist as we think they do.

    Nonetheless, we clean our bowl! Why? Because it is dirty and if we don't, we could catch food poisoning, and even die!

    Is there a conflict there?

    If you think there is ... empty your bowl!

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Oh, where to begin…

    First thought: When I moved into m first apartment, my mom told me that after my grandmother died my grandfather lived with one set of dishes the he washed after every meal. A great story, very possibly true, but my grandfather by then was also a raging alcoholic about as far from a buddha (though of course he was a buddha, really!) as could be. Then again, maybe he was neat about things like this. Who knows?

    Second thought: I let my dishes pile up in the sink until it overflows and then I rinse them (unmindfully) and put them in the dishwasher that bothers me with its sound for over an hour, so I just turn up the TV. Worse than that, I will eat and then just leave my dish there on the table for hours because I would rather sit down before putting it in the sink to sit until the sink gets full.

    Third thought: Just how sacred do I have to be with the mundane in my life? Can I just be mindful of holding a lightbulb and turning it in the socket, or do I need to be as Raindrop describes? The middle way, of course! When we first begin to sit it is exhausting to do so for only a few minutes. To treat all our everyday acts as sacred as zazen can feel the same way. But as someone around here likes to say, "It's all practice," so why not treat it as such?
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

  27. #27
    I am trying to be more aware of doing the daily work with intention.Instead of being governed by restrictions ("it's been 45 minutes and there's a patient waiting outside"), I am trying to be present with a person rather than with a clock. It is not easy at all. I'm conditioned to think in terms of results. Most times I fail. But it puts a new spin to the work. I'm beginning, slowly, to see persons rather than patients, relationships rather than sessions. Baby steps.

    Gassho
    John

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