SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Fat Man Trims Bushes

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Our topic today is 'Samu' ... Work Practice ...

... which is just Zazen working ...

While Zazen is at the heart of our Way, other aspects of traditional Zen Practice also should be introduced and encouraged. I have been meaning to do so more and more around Treeleaf. One of the most vital is the non-doing of 'Samu' (traditional work practice) ...

Samu is well described in this excerpt ...


Samu is manual work done with the same concentration as zazen. All masters of transmission, especially Master Hyakujo (720-814), have insisted on this. Even in his old age, Master Hyakujo worked every day in the field with his students. One day, they hid his tools, thinking that their master should spare himself. Hyakujo declared: “A day without working, a day without eating.” And he stopped eating until his disciples gave him back his tools.

In zen, work has great value, because it allows us to practise the Way in action. In the dojo and during retreats (sesshins), zazen is followed by samu, which is when we do the chores to ensure the smooth functioning of communal life. Samu also means putting our efforts at the service of the community, without expecting anything in return. French version of the texts from Zen, by Bovay, Kaltenbach and De Smedt, Albin Michel Publishing, 1993

Yes, Samu is just Zazen in action. It may not look like seated meditation, but it is to be done from the same state of mental balance. Couple this with an attitude of goalless, non-striving, 'just doing', also a hallmark of Zazen. As well, work is to be performed mindfully, as the only action in and of the whole universe : One engaged in Samu should devote to it all care and attention, never wishing for or thinking of anything else.

The result is a job performed diligently and patiently and with certain goals, but with no thought of anything to achieve (of course, not a contradiction in Zen). It may be a continuing job that just needs to be done without end, but we do it with all care moment by moment by moment for the time we have.

I encourage those Treeleaf folks with the time to give a few hours each week to volunteer activities in their community (please consult with me, if you wish, about an appropriate choice of work). However, those with heavy family or employment duties can make that part of that their 'Samu', approaching it with the mindset described above.


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