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Thread: What makes samu samu?

  1. #1

    What makes samu samu?

    With Ango approaching I've been wondering about what makes samu samu? Is it always physical work, or is it anything one has to attend to regularly for life to keep ticking over?

    I have a work project I keep putting off. I'm so focussed on the end goal (i.e. finishing the damn thing) that I can barely bring my mind to settle on the present (i.e. actually doing the damn thing). A samu-like approach would probably help, I thought.

    So yes, that's my question: what makes samu samu? How does it differ from all the other stuff we have to do? Not rhetorical - I'm asking for answers

    Gassho,
    Libby
    ST

  2. #2
    Hey Libby,

    Samu is samu when one has samu in the heart ... like all things, if we see and experience them as they are from our heart, they are as they are. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
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    San Diego County, California
    Quote Originally Posted by Libby View Post
    With Ango approaching I've been wondering about what makes samu samu? Is it always physical work, or is it anything one has to attend to regularly for life to keep ticking over?

    I have a work project I keep putting off. I'm so focussed on the end goal (i.e. finishing the damn thing) that I can barely bring my mind to settle on the present (i.e. actually doing the damn thing). A samu-like approach would probably help, I thought.

    So yes, that's my question: what makes samu samu? How does it differ from all the other stuff we have to do? Not rhetorical - I'm asking for answers

    Gassho,
    Libby
    ST

    Samu, in my limited understanding, is when we approach work-- any kind of work, physical or mental-- with full absorption in the task; no thoughts of past or future, and without the mind wandering to whatever it thinks it would rather be doing or avoiding. Just doing it.

    So yes, it is an especially helpful mindset when gearing up for a task that must be done, but that you are really resisting. One time, I was having a bad day at work once and I realized that I was only having a bad day because I was allowing myself to think about something that was bothering me. I remember thinking, "I was fine before I started thinking about anything at all!" and it kind of stuck with me.

    Gassho

    Sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  4. #4
    Thank you for this topic. I will try this practice for my next two classes (Finance and Economics).

    Gassho
    Kim
    St lh

    Sent from my SM-G930U using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    From Jundo's "Rohatsu Retreat" Pointers:

    This ‘Mindful Work’ is to be done as if it is the only action
    to be done, or which can be done, in the world at that moment. The mind is to drop all
    resistance, likes or dislikes about the work. It is to be done ‘mindfully’, meaning that we
    think only about the work we are doing at that moment when doing the work at that
    moment. Try to drop thought of other matters before or after the work at hand.

    Which is basically what was already said :-) I also use this daily at work, in particular when I sit down at the end of the day and my mind begins whining that it doesn't want to do paperwork and phone calls. I try to approach each chart write up and phone conversation as the only thing I need to do in that moment, and to do it with right intention, right speech, and right effort.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  6. #6
    Yes, I would say that "Samu" (Work practice) is a form of Shikantaza in motion, activities done daily by monks in monasteries (such as cooking in the temple kitchen, cleaning the temple floors, nursing sick monks, balancing the temple books and getting the roof mended), but which can also be any of our activities (cooking in the family kitchen, cleaning the household floors, nursing sick kids, balancing the company books, getting the factory roof mended).

    As in Shikantaza, we should do it with thoughts of "nothing to attain, nothing to fix, nothing to accomplish" EVEN AS we work to attain the goal of the projects, fix what is broken, get the work accomplished. Strangely-wise as it sounds, in Zen Practice we approach all such things from both views ... dropping "clean vs, dirty, unbroken vs. broken" yet also cleaning the dirty dishes because they are yucky and unhealthy, and fixing the broken windows because they are broken and let in a draft.

    As well, we encounter all as "just what it is" .... thus "dirty is perfectly dirty, a shining jewel just as it is in its filthiness" and "broken is perfectly broken, nothing to repair in its brokenness" ... and yet, dirty is yucky so let's clean it up, and broken machines need to be fixed. We can come to experience life simultaneously from all such views (we say "views" and "viewless" views). Both judgments can be held in our hearts at once, as one ... yucky yet a shining jewel of yuck, broken and in need of fixing yet nothing in need of fixing.

    We see every action as sacred (it is so, in fact, whether we realize it or not). Thus, sweeping the floor, changing a baby's diaper or running a copy machine is as much a "sacred ritual" as lighting incense and ringing bells in some temple in the 13th century.

    We do drop time from heart, no before or after, nothing to attain, such that every single sweep of the broom handle or copy out of the copy machine has no quantity, no before vs. after, and hold all the time of the universe! And yet, let's get our asses in gear, because we have to finish the sweeping and get to the doctor's appointment, and the boss needs those copies 5 minutes ago!

    It is all in the heart, at once as one. This is Shikantaza in motion, Samu.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-03-2019 at 01:19 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    PS - The only work that really cannot be Samu is something like mafia hit man, harmful drug pusher, jewel thief and the like ... because of the anger, violence, hate, excess desire, harm to others and the like.

    Please see our discussions on Right Livelihood in this complex world ...

    Buddha-Basics (Part VIII) — Working Right
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...-Working-Right
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Member Anna's Avatar
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    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    For me what makes Samu Samu is intent.

    Gassho
    Anna

    Sat today/lent a hand
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.
    No Gods No Masters.

  9. #9
    Like Libby I'm also curious about samu. Work is such an important part of my life and I wondered how the samu perspective might touch on it.

    Good answers here.

    I've just started reading How to Cook Your Life and was struck by a few things. I'm not sure I'm properly understanding the relative import or context, they just resonated.

    Reinforcing a point Jundo resurfaced recently as part of the mindfulness discussion:
    "Do not be absent-minded in your activities, nor so absorbed in one aspect of a matter that you fail to see its other aspects".

    An emphasis on the community served by your work, the need to coordinate with others who have a stake in it. Team work, basically. Not working in a vacuum.

    Total integrity - applying diligence ("professionalism" say) even if you're the only one who will ever see it.

    Getting one's hands dirty, even with the jobs one might not like ("cleaning the vegetables").

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    Sat/Lah

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Virginia, USA
    I've always liked this old story:

    A student said to Master Ichu, "Please write for me something of great wisdom."
    Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: "Attention."
    The student said, "Is that all?"
    The master wrote, "Attention. Attention."
    The student became irritable. "That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me."
    In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, "Attention. Attention. Attention."
    In frustration, the student demanded, "What does this word 'attention' mean?"
    Master Ichu replied, "Attention means attention."

    > https://tricycle.org/magazine/attent...ans-attention/

    I think any task can be Samu if approached with a combination of intention ("I will wash these dishes as a Buddha washing the dishes!") and attention (each moment we meet fully is our life).

    How about this for "Samu in Two Easy Steps":

    1. Intention. Intention. Intention!
    2. Attention. Attention. Attention!

    Silly perhaps, but I do mean it.

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #sat
    sekishi
    石志

    As a novice priest-in-training, this is simply an expression of my opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt.

  11. #11
    Oh my, what great and thoughtful answers. Deep bows to you all. And Jundo, this “approaching things from both views” that we do in Zen is hands down one of the most useful things I’ve ever come across.
    With that in mind, and with this book project coincidentally due right at the end of Ango, I will be making the translation of it a large part of my samu commitment. A “stitch by stitch” approach to my rakusu, a “word by word” approach to the translation, dropping time and thoughts of accomplishment, EVEN AS I remember I am contractually obliged to deliver by mid-December :-D

    Thank you all
    Deep bows
    Libby
    ST

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Libby View Post
    ... A “stitch by stitch” approach to my rakusu, a “word by word” approach to the translation, dropping time and thoughts of accomplishment, EVEN AS I remember I am contractually obliged to deliver by mid-December :-D
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    I've just started reading How to Cook Your Life and was struck by a few things. I'm not sure I'm properly understanding the relative import or context, they just resonated.

    Reinforcing a point Jundo resurfaced recently as part of the mindfulness discussion:
    "Do not be absent-minded in your activities, nor so absorbed in one aspect of a matter that you fail to see its other aspects".

    An emphasis on the community served by your work, the need to coordinate with others who have a stake in it. Team work, basically. Not working in a vacuum.
    Hi Kevin

    How to Cook Your Life is a beautiful book and very much oriented around ideas of samu and mindful working.

    I think you have brought up important points. Although we approach samu with an attitude of 'just this', we do not get tunnel vision and blot out everything that is happening around us. It is just like shikantaza in which our awareness is relaxed and open.

    And, yes, that attitude of doing a job well and not being scared of getting your hands dirty are also important.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  14. #14
    Just a note on "How to Cook Your Life" ...

    The wonderful book by Uchiyama Roshi (sometimes available as "Refining Your Life"), highly recommended, one of the best Zen books l know, a commentary one Dogen's lnstructions to the Cook ...

    https://books.google.co.jp/books/abo...AJ&redir_esc=y

    and

    https://books.google.co.jp/books/abo...AJ&redir_esc=y

    ... is not to be confused with the book by the same name by Bernie Glassman Roshi (although a very nice memoir of his engaged activities) ...

    https://tricycle.org/magazine/instru...-life-matters/

    ... nor the film of the same name about friend of this Sangha Ed Brown, although also a fascinating fellow and very unique teacher.



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin M View Post
    Reinforcing a point Jundo resurfaced recently as part of the mindfulness discussion:
    "Do not be absent-minded in your activities, nor so absorbed in one aspect of a matter that you fail to see its other aspects".
    Just to make clear, those are Dogen's wonderful words from the Tenzo Kyokun, his above lnstructions for the Cook, not my words. No credit were not deserved.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  16. #16
    Hi all

    Thank you for the wonderful teachings here. I take samu to be what samu needs to be at that time, as well as purposefully directing myself to complete an activity with the mind of samu at times as well. However - and thank you Libby - I have a work project due by the end of November and it's tough to find the time in my reactive job to chip away at the big block. I work at it "stitch by stitch" in that sense, but my mind is not always engaged as it would be in samu. So now I will apply myself to this project with the mind of samu - maybe it will even help to meet that deadline early, even though "nothing to attain" lol

    Gassho, sattoday

    Tokan

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Anna View Post
    For me what makes Samu Samu is intent.

    Gassho
    Anna

    Sat today/lent a hand
    Hell yes!

    gassho

    risho
    -st

  18. #18

    What makes samu samu?

    Gassho all
    Great thread.
    I can’t remember when work became separate from the rest of life. I also can’t remember when it stopped being separate. But now it is just life it makes everything much simpler to manage, if not easier. Hard work is still hard work, difficult decisions are still difficult. Inertia is not apparent, but neither is judgementality (a colleague used that and was a hit!).
    Washing up, sitting under a tree in the back garden, writing reports, stopping when tired, starting when you have time, being on time, being late. All these things just happen. Samu, sitting, just living.
    Gassho
    Heisoku
    ST / LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Heisoku
    平 息

  19. #19
    I have a mini horse and she creates a lot of waste. Luckily, she likes to poop in one place within her yard. I find scooping up the poop into my wheelbarrow very relaxing! There is nothing else to think about except the task. I'm taking care of my horse and providing her with a clean space. Then I have to push my heavy, poopy wheelbarrow up a long driveway to the composting pile on the property and that is a lot of work but rewarding to have the task over with when I get to the top!

    Brushing her mane and picking poop and pebbles out of her hooves is another samu task that envolves focus and calm because I need to stand very close with her and hold her feet. A lot of trust has to happen and I also would like to not be kicked.

    Just sharing my samu.

    -Sara
    ST
    “Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.”

    ― Bruce Lee

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