‘A rough translation of ‘intoku’ is, “good done in secret”. It epitomizes the Buddhist ideal that we should do good works without expectation of reward. This is empowering because a sad fact of life is that doing the right thing is no guarantee of a good outcome. When this happens it can be easy to think, “Why did this happen to me?” or “I don’t deserve this.”
But intoku teaches us that we don’t do good deeds in the hopes of a reward. Instead we do them because the deed itself is the reward. The feeling that comes from helping someone in need is priceless. More importantly, it’s very easy to do.
We can listen intently while someone talks about their day, compliment a friend on their outfit, or simply refill the coffee pot at work when it’s empty. This practice isn’t about doing something big and flashy. Instead, it’s about constantly being on the look out for small things we can do to make life nicer for both ourselves and the people around us. In this way, we make the world warmer, and more welcoming for everyone.’ (from The Same Old Zen)
This is a very sweet article that I have shared with my student group; it also talks about menmitsu (careful attention to detail) and shojin (variously translated as zeal, diligence or joyful effort). I remember reading stories of monks who would get up before everyone else in the monastery (which is very early indeed) to clean the toilets. But you don’t need to go that far. A more practical example from my time at Zen Center was changing the toilet paper roll when it was finished so that the next person didn’t have to – definitely not big or flashy.