Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday 15th January

Zen... does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes"
Alan Watts, teacher and writer.

This made me laugh yesterday in The Times, an old voice from the 60s making a statement.  Where did all that 'flower power' go?
Pat has brought up the subject of ironing, well I do very little, pressing knitted garments or patchworks is about the only time the ironing board comes out.
But it did bring up the subject of housework, which also I do not do much of.  Paul is the great cleaner, he enjoys it, tidying cupboards into another arrangment which will always make me cross as I go on another hunt for something.
Probably you would say housework or cleaning is a very Buddhist occupation, he loves the meditative sweeping of the paths outside when the leaves have fallen.  In many ways our natures clash, but love binds us, and whereas I love colour and flowers he likes the darker muted colours of the Japanese palette.  
He has never owned a dog till Lucy came into the house but he worships her, not her bad habits, especially her untidiness, sprinkling the newspapers around before we have read them, pulling things off the table, one could make a long list of her 'naughtiness' which has developed as she has got more assured with us.  Like Paul she loves this house, will always hurry back to the gate from a walk demanding to carry her lead for the last few yards before she wees on his lawn much to his disgust;)  This carrying of the lead is also done in pubs and restaurants as she shows off to the company as we are leaving that she is an independent old girl.
This train of thought was struck by an article in the Guardian last week, a Buddhist monk Shoukei Matsumoto explains here, I call it the arrival of a non-thinking non-egotistical mind which is arrived at by the repetitive physical action of the body. Different cultures, different minds.
The day now that it has dawned is miserably grey, more rain, wind and probably snow is foretold for this week.  But the milkman has left on the doorstep another bag of wild bird food, and the little robin's joyous greeting through the blackness of the kitchen windows earlier tells me that buying food for all of them is money well spent.

Edit after Paul read it! an email he sent, forgotten the tale of Trigger's old broom!....

This is my Zen hero Jittoku (Chinese: Shide), a kitchen helper at a Chinese mountain temple. He was befriended by Kanzan (Chinese: Hanshan) who was an eccentric poet of the Tang dynasty (618-906). They both lived on leftover food from the temple's kitchen. Kanzan is usually depicted holding a scroll, perhaps of his poetry or of Taoist wisdom; Jittoku holds a kitchen broom. Both have slightly unkempt appearances and carefree, laughing expressions.
Zen, a meditative school of Buddhism, originated in India and was transmitted to Japan through China in the late twelfth century. Kanzan and Jittoku were sometimes regarded among Zen practitioners as incarnations of the bodhisattvas Manjushri (Japanese: Monju) and Samantabadhra (Japanese: Fugen).

What they both portray is the belief that enlightenment can be achieved whether one is a scholar or ‘just’ a sweeper. Trigger’s Old Broomsays it all. Rolling on the floor laughing


  1. I immediately warmed to your quote at the top. Perhaps it belongs to the sixties, I don't know. But I absolutely believe in the importance of doing small things in a consciously accepting way. Not that I can inevitably achieve it. I remember having a horrid and boring job and trying to cope with it by trying to value each of its elements in their own right - but try as I would, I couldn't find any value in the work I was doing. I got stuck at 'Why on earth am I doing this? How did I land up here? I would have done better to brandish a potato peeler.)

    1. Hello Lucy, I see you have moved up to Yorkshire from the South a bit like us. My daughter lives with my grandchildren in Todmorden.
      Work can be boring, as is housework, so exploring the idea that you can do it from a spiritual viewpoint thereby making it a duty seems somewhat hard to me. Perhaps we should never question the whys of work;)

  2. I keep things reasonably clean and do sometimes tackle the rearrangement of a cupboard--satisfaction if I manage to finish, but not one of the things I wake up longing to do. My daughter enjoys keeping various spaces meticulously arranged and has a knack for doing it quickly and tidily. Not sure if these are inherent traits or studiously cultivated--obviously I have lacked in encouraging such.
    I do like the soothing repetition of kneading bread--pegging wash on the line is rather contemplative--sweeping a porch or path means being outdoors, which is good.
    Lucy has to be unique in some of her antics--a canine eccentric!

    1. That is of course the problem with work Sharon, it is not called the daily grind for nothing. I also enjoy bread making or cooking but neatness often escapes me!
      As for Lucy the dog yes she is eccentric, I think also trying to be dominant as well.

  3. I do agree about certain jobs being contemplative - it is just a matter of giving onself enought time to take time and think about things rather than rushing. Not always easy.

    1. That is a conundrum surely ;) Most things need not be done, it is only our minds that insist...

  4. I iron, but it is not my favorite thing to do. However, there is a feeling of satisfaction when a wrinkled mess comes out smooth and fine. A job well done gives me great satisfaction and a certain peace of mind.

  5. Probably you have provided your own answer, a state of well being...