‘The first thing we learned about at Nisodo was water.
In the sleep-dazed morning rush, when people were scolding us about not covering our mouths when we brushed our teeth, there was also a teaching about water. We learned just how much water to pour into the washing basin to wash our face, and we learned how to press the nozzle of the faucet up against the lip of the basin as the water poured out, so it didn’t make a loud splashing sound. We learned how to rinse our toothbrush in a cup of water, to not waste, and we learned just how much water to use when washing the floor. We learned to pour used water onto plants outside. After paying attention to the quantity of water over and over again, we came to see that water is very precious, and that our seemingly tiny, everyday actions are actually very important. We came to see that there is no other place to practice than in this very moment, in this very action, with this drop of water and this cleaning rag.
And we also came to see how little human beings need to survive.’ (Bow First, Ask Questions Later)
When I read this passage, which speaks so much about Japanese zen training (at least from my second-hand knowledge of it), I thought of the Half-Dipper bridge, and then had to remember the context of that reference: Suzuki Roshi talked about the story of Dogen and the bridge, and that talk ended up in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. It also can be extrapolated to an inspirational story for environmental awareness, as Gesshin also points to.
And this story from Zen Speaks also came to mind. You can see that this care and attention to water has a long tradition.
(When I was tenzo at Zen Center, I used to gently chide one of my crew members for talking about ‘dumping’ pasta into a colander. In a zen kitchen, I tried to instil, we pour things carefully; we do not dump – I will put this one down as a translation glitch)