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go wash your bowl

The word Zen is used all over the place. Just google it and you’ll get Zen florist, restaurant, motorcycle club, engineering, gardening, hardcore Zen, home cleaning, courier, office design, dentistry, dog training, and hundreds more. “I’m feeling zenny today” and “that’s, like, totally zen” are common exclamations. They imply an understanding, but of what?  

porridgeOccasionally I get annoyed by such “ignorance,” thus demonstrating my own. Each time I try to explain—something I’ve been warned to avoid—I make a fool of myself. As it says in the Tao te-ching, He who speaks, does not know. He who knows, does not speak.

So, back to seeing that which is right in front of me; everything else belongs to either past, future, or fantasy. “When washing rice,” Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) instructs, “wash rice. When walking, walk. When shitting, shit.” Here’s a story, a koan, with further clues:

A monk bows to Joshu: “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asks: “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”

The monk replies: “Yes, I have eaten.”

Joshu says: “Then go and wash your bowl.”

Googling for “What is Zen?” brings up little more than discussions on its history and literary meaning. Beyond that, says one commentator, “you’ll have to meditate on it: I can’t tell you or it wouldn’t be Zen.”

One response »

  1. My post makes it sound like some private club to which there is no membership secretary, no club house nor rules for admission. Yet thousands of people are “Zen students” and almost as many “Zen teachers.” What is this?

    One place to enter that exploration is by way of “not knowing mind.” By becoming curious about what happenes with this in-breath, and that exhale. By becoming aware of thougths, feelings, and sensations that arise with each moment.

    If I said any more, I’d be trying to define what Zen is :-).


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