‘I remember being deeply touched and impressed by Nyoho [ “in accord with” (nyo) the Dharma (ho)] practice when I first encountered Zen at Dharma Rain Zen Center in the mid 90’s. Even though many things there were a bit on the scruffy side in terms of beauty or monetary value, everything – each rug, dishrag, book, candle – was treated and used as if it were a precious resource. People took off their shoes when they came in the door, and lined them up side by side in neat rows on the floor or on shelves. Water was never wasted; non-soapy grey water from vases and wash basins was carried outside and poured on plants. We ate oatmeal for breakfast in reverent silence. Wilted or partially rotten vegetables weren’t thrown away, but were carefully processed in order to salvage what was edible. When an infestation of mice in the larder necessitated kill traps, my teacher dressed in her robes to take dead mice into the garden and bury them respectfully after a short funeral designed just for animals.
Before I got into Zen practice, I was in the habit – as most people are in the modern world – of performing a quick, self-centered calculation before deciding how I was going to treat something, or how much care and attention I was going to devote to a task. Was the thing I was dealing with expensive or valuable? Was it going to bring me pleasure or do something for me? Was the task important in terms of its impact or my reputation? Was it a special activity, or just a mundane job like cleaning? Was I going to enjoy the activity, or was it actually a drag?
Suddenly I was faced with a community of Zen practitioners who made a point of scrupulously brushing off and plumping up their meditation cushions every time they got up from sitting. They diligently stacked clean tea cups as if arranging crystal for a fancy dinner. They aspired not to groan when they were given the job of cleaning the bathrooms, but to instead tried to look on it as an honor and an opportunity to selflessly and energetically serve.
This was a very different way of approaching life! I was deeply moved; Nyoho conveyed the message that everything mattered.’ (from the Zen Studies Podcast)
There were times during my years of practice when I wished Zen Center were a little more fulsomely like this (from the shoes onwards), but I know that when you first come to the temple, you do see it so.