Jakusho Kwong

‘In a Zen temple or monastery collecting garbage is one of the most important jobs. When we pick up papers or garbage, we have to understand that we are also picking up the garbage inside our own minds. The words outside and inside are two ways of describing one thing. Since our thoughts and dualistic understanding are a kind of littering in our mind, when we pick one up, we pick both up in the same way. Do you understand?’ (No Beginning, No End)

As shuso at Tassajara, sorting the rubbish and recycling was one of my responsibilities, along with maintaining the compost and cleaning the zendo toilets. My benji and I took great pride in doing those things as best we could, as part of our practice, and to encourage the other monks to do their best in their activities. Down at Allison’s recent ceremony, it was clear that a running theme during the practice period had been to “sort the recycling according to the instructions” – I assumed that a number of announcements had been made over the course of the three months reminding the monks to be mindful even of how they sorted items into recycling. Similarly, when I was work leader there, I would sometimes despair at the number of clothes pegs I would find on the ground under the washing lines, and make announcements to that effect. Paying attention to the least object is paying attention to everything, inside and out; I always think of this thought by Shodo Harada, and of course the famous piece by Suzuki Roshi, that I brought up with my students the other week.


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