‘At the entrance of a Zen temple we often see the words kyakka shoko: “Watch your step!” What these words are telling us is to be aware of everything we do. We take off our footwear attentively and in such a way that later no one has to rearrange it correctly for us. We put our shoes at the side of the entranceway, not in the middle, so that other people may more easily slip out of their shoes. In this way, even to the way in which we take off our shoes, continual awareness is necessary.
The words kyakka shoko do not, of course, apply only to our feet and shoes. They remind us to remain attentive in our entire way of being. If we keep our room in order then our home is kept in order, and next our neighbourhood is kept in order, and next society is put in order. In this way, step by step, the nation, the natural environment, and finally the whole planet are put in order. The entire universe then comes into order. Thus, when we regulate our own mind, this circle extends to include the whole planet, and then the entire universe. To align your own mind, to put it in order, is to correct and put society in order.’ (The Path to Bodhidharma)
This is another book that I have not taken down from my shelf for quite a few years – I think I found it difficult when I first read it. As I got into it during my commutes this week, I appreciated the vitality of the words and instructions. Coming back into the city on a dismally wet evening on Thursday, I was delighted to come across this passage; it had resonated with me, but I could not remember where I had read it. For some reason I had thought it came from an Eido Shimano book, but I had searched in vain; in the meantime, I had paraphrased it many times in instruction, tending, I realise, to elide the distance between having your shoes in order and the universe in order, though I don’t think that doing so mischaracterises the point Harada Roshi is making. I have found it to be the perfect example of what residential and monastic zen training is asking us to do – moment after moment.
The Saturday morning public program at Zen Center is not a time that shoes get aligned.
I was charmed by this arrangement at the Tassajara bathhouse.