‘What is called the mind of the Way is not to abandon or scatter about the great Way of the buddha ancestors, but deeply to protect and esteem their great Way. Therefore having abandoned fame and gain and departed your homeland, consider gold as excrement and honor as spittle, and without obscuring the truth or obeying falsehoods, maintain the regulations of right and wrong and entrust everything to the guidelines for conduct. After all, not to sell cheaply or debase the worth of the ordinary tea and rice of the buddha ancestors’ house is exactly the mind of the Way.
Furthermore, reflecting that inhalation does not wait for exhalation also is the mind of the Way and is diligence. Contemplating the ancients enables the eye of the ancestors’ essence to observe intently and enables the ear of both past and present to listen vigilantly, so that we accept our bodies as hollowed out caverns of the whole empty sky, and just sit, piercing through all the skulls under heaven, opening wide our fists and staying with our own nostrils. This is carrying the clear, transparent sky to dye the white clouds and conveying the waters of autumn to wash the bright moon, and is the fulfillment of the practice of contemplating the ancients. If such an assembly has seven or eight monks it can be a great monastery. This is like being able to see all the buddhas in the ten directions when you see the single Buddha Shakyamuni. If the assembly is not like this, even with a million monks it is not a genuine monastery, and is not an assembly of the buddha way.’ (Eihei Shingi)

For some reason I had an urge to reread the Bendoho section of Dogen’s Pure Standards, and it plunged me back into the world of monastic life – there are distinct echoes of how he set out the expected conduct for his young monks at Eiheiji eight hundred years ago in the way we did things at Tassajara, even if some of the practices – like sleeping in the zendo – are not observed. I continued through to the section on standards for the temple administrators. Obviously, I have read and re-read the section for the tenzo many times, as it reworks the message of the Tenzokyokun, and I also remember referring to the sections for the director, from which this quote is taken, when I started that job. There are of course ways that I miss temple life, but after all, the ordinary tea and rice of the buddha ancestors’ house is not the exclusive property of the monastery.

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