The subject came up in our Treeleaf Sangha Forum of tooth-brushing... the Zen Way. As with many daily activities, the simple and ordinary habit of brushing the teeth is just Zen Practice in life. (Think of it as Zazen... with fluoride).
In fact, Master Dogen left richly detailed instructions for dental hygiene right in his most famous work, Shobogenzo.
[Click through for more, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]
Dogen said to treat tooth brushing as a sacred act. (But, then again, what isn't sacred?) Picking up the brush, we should recite a portion of a Sutra: Taking the brush in hand, may all living beings maintain the right Dharma in mind, and be naturally pure and clean... with conquering teeth, to chew up troubles.
Dr. Dogen, DDS, then offers several pages of "trancen-dental" stories, such as:
[...] to meet the [toothbrush] is to meet the Buddhist Ancestors... The buddhas and ancestors of the past, present and future, without exception... have received and retained the [toothbrush] in the past, present and future.
But, as in all our bodily attentions,
We should not see ourselves as pure and clean only after we have brought water and washed... We practice washing... even though we are already wholly pure and clean."(Senmen)
In other words, we should brush brush brush our dirty teeth... dropping all thought of "clean" vs. "dirty." Dirty teeth are perfectly just what they are too, pure in their dirtiness... yet, brush brush brush we must! Life is neither pure nor impure, beautiful or ugly... even the truly impure and ugly parts. And realizing that truth, and seeing beyond mind created opposites, is Pure and Beautiful! Thus, brushing the teeth helps make us pure... yet all is already, from the outset, Purity itself.
There is a life lesson here on how we should move forward in life, doing the work that needs to be done, fixing what needs to be fixed... all while simultaneously realizing that there is nothing whatsoever to achieve, nothing that needs to be changed or fixed. We are never "flawed"... not a thing in this universe is lacking or must be added to this universe -- nothing is missing from Buddha's smile -- and, that being said, we can and should do so much to fix our very real flaws.
Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.