Weekly Teaching, July 13th, 2009
I would like to tell you a story from China. You may be familiar with the name of Joshu, who was a priest long ago. One day a monk asked him, "I am just a beginner in the practice of Zen. Please teach me how to do zazen." Joshu said, "Have you eaten breakfast?" "Yes," replied the monk, "I've had plenty for breakfast." Joshu said, "That's fine. Then wash your bowl and put it away." At that point the monk, who had resolved to seek the Dharma was just beginning the practice of zazen, said "I understand. Now I realize the direction of practice." So he went off happily.
There is an important point in the story for those of us who practice. We tend to think of our eating bowls as things that are outside of us. Yet Joshu said, "Wash your bowl and put it away." What does the bowl signify? You yourself. Each one of you must clean yourself thoroughly and then bring the matter of the ego-self to a conclusion. If Joshu's words are not understood in this way, a great mistake will arise.
We perceive Zen, the Dharma, and the Way to be outside of ourselves. But it is a serious error to create a distance between yourself and these things in this manner. If you make a separation between yourself and what you are looking for, no matter how much effort you make to lessen that distance, that effort will be in vain.
It is a mistake to look for something that is far off in the distance. The Dharma is something that is everywhere at any time.
- Sekkei Harada, The Essence of Zen (Wisdom Publications)