In my Hunt for zen, I found this little tale that has a little added note as to what the story means. (“Wash your bowl”) It reminded me of how zen is suppose to be simple. (Simple as eating rice!) The commentary was not signed but I’ll add a link to the source, author unknown.
I remember as a child, I would take forever to eat. I would literally sample each bite and swirl the food around in my mouth and contemplate the flavors like a master chef. Especially if it was a dessert. I would eat my ice cream or cake trying to make it last forever, engrossed in every spoon-full.
The other day at work, I was in such a rush that I inhaled my food and went back to my duties. A Co-worker asked, “How is the food in the O.D.R.?” (Officers Dining Room) I thought a moment, then realized, I did not even take the time to savor the flavors. I just filled the void in my belly and moved on. A reminder that we should always take life minute by minute, rather than fly through it.
Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail…
It is a simple task to rinse your bowl or plate after eating. If you do not and lay the plate or bowl down (after eating) and go about your way, the food then dries/ hardens and the task of washing your bowl or plate then becomes twice the work. The same is true about nearly all facets of life, what we put off in haste will still be there later and will probably be more work than if we were to follow the natural course of our daily lives. Keep it simple my Friend!
Wash your Bowl
There’s a famous Zen story that goes:
A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?
The monk replied, “I have eaten.”
Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.
I’m not going to try to explain that story, as I am far from enlightened enough to understand it. Instead, I’d like to focus the wonderful simplicity of that advice:
Have you eaten your rice porridge? Then you had better wash your bowl.
This is something I think of every time I eat, and in fact whenever I’m done doing something. “Done eating? Then wash your bowl.”
There is something profound and yet minimalist about this advice. It’s: don’t get your head caught up in all this thinking about the meaning of life … instead, just do. Just wash your bowl. And in the washing, you’ll find all you need.
I’ve found this to be true. I literally wash my bowl after eating, slowly and with mindfulness. It’s satisfying, and takes no money and little resources.
When I take a shower, I hand wash my dirty clothes (if they’re dirty), wring them out, hang them to dry. When I change, I carefully put away the clothes I’ve changed out of. When I prepare food, I wipe the counter and put away the ingredients. At least I try to – I don’t claim to be perfect.
Remembering to do these things when we’re done with the activity isn’t just about neatness. It’s about mindfulness, about completing what we started, about being present in all we do instead of rushing to the next activity.
Wash your bowl, with care and joy.
life is 90 percent maintenance, so get busy
may your day be a simple one