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The Daily Dharma – September 30, 2021

Woodcut from Fozu zhengzong daoying

There’s an old Zen story that I like very much: A monk comes to the monastery of the storied master Zhaozhou. Diligent and serious, the monk asks for instruction, hoping for some esoteric teaching, some deep Buddhist wisdom, or, at the very least, a colorful response that will spur him on in his practice. Instead the master asks him, “Have you had your breakfast?” The monk says that he has. “Then wash your bowls,” master replies. This is the only instruction he is willing to offer.

Although the Zen master’s response might seem gruff, odd, and cryptic, it actually makes a fundamental point. Zhaozhou wants to bring the monk back to the immediate present. “Don’t look for some profound Zen instruction here,” he seems to be saying. “Open your eyes. Just be present with the actual stuff of your ordinary, everyday life” – in this case, bowls.

Norman Fischer
from When you Greet Me I Bow

To be continued . . .