Zen & the Art of Enjoying Everyday Life : Zen Moments #2

A small zen garden in the Japanese Tea Garden,...

Image via Wikipedia

A very famous saying/quote in Zen goes thus:

Before Enlightenment chopping wood & carrying water

After Enlightenment chopping wood & carrying water

Zen does not have any God or prayers. It just encourages us to discover our true selves & then be a lamp unto ourselves. When we practice Zen every moment becomes a Happy moment, a Zen moment.

The above quote is very significant. Though after enlightenment we continue to do the things we did before, the quality of these tasks changes dramatically. Before enlightenment chopping wood & carrying water (or cooking & doing dishes) is a chore, a burden, something that is done reluctantly, we’d rather be enjoying ourselves, having a high life, going to expensive restaurants in our big glitzy cars & such. There is an anger that we have to do these boring tasks. Our mind is pre-occupied with thoughts of past n future while we hate every second of our present moment. When we practice Zen though we continue to do the same things our feelings about these tasks is hugely transformed. We actually enjoy doing these tasks, we do these chores with devotion & dedication, with mindfulness & realize that there is tremendous beauty in doing them.  We realize there is nowhere else to go. We start to enjoy simple pleasures as a clean room & good food rather than exotic holidays & expensive clothes!! When we do things mindfully & with a happy heart, the quality of that thing changes.

Consider this Koan from ‘The Gateless Gate’:

A monk told Joshu, “I have entered your monastery, now please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”

The monk replied: “Yes I’ve eaten.”

Joshu said, “Then better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened!!

After reading Zen books & learning about the basic concepts of Zen for last few days, I’ve been finally motivated to actually practice the practical aspects of Zen. Zen is more of doing rather than empty philosophizing. Zen is very experiential. Zen encourages simplicity. I’ve been spending my last few days in a Zen state. Finally I was motivated to clean my perpetually scattered closet, which was in nothing short of a nightmarish chaos. I always took the excuse that the closet was very small & did not have adequate space for my clothes & things. But when I finally decided to take the bulls by horns, it was surprising how discarding a few useless items can create space for the rest of our stuff. Earlier I was planning to buy an expensive wardrobe to accommodate my ever increasing collection of dresses, foot wear, accessories, Bags, Knick-nacks & what not. But then I applied Zen thinking to my problem, I came up with innovative & inexpensive solutions. I could do with a few inexpensive racks for my books & collapsible foldable shelves for my clothes & shoes. Now I’ve achieved a somewhat uncluttered & better room which I’m sure will turn into a beautiful sanctuary in next few days. I want to make many changes to the way we are used to doing things. I want to enjoy simple beauty & as I’m very fond of my cups of tea, I guess I’ll start with a beautiful tea set & tray to go with it & enjoy a beautiful Tea ceremony every day.

Thich Nhat Hanh says this about drinking tea mindfully (yup with Zen even tea drinking can become our meditation)

“When you drink tea in mindfulness, your body and your mind are perfectly united. You are real, and the tea you drink also becomes real. When you sit in a café, with a lot of music in the background and a lot of projects in your head, you’re not really drinking your coffee or your tea. You’re drinking your projects, you’re drinking your worries. You are not real, and the coffee is not real either. Your tea or your coffee can only reveal itself to you as a reality when you go back to yourself, and produce your true presence, freeing yourself from the past, the future, and from your worries. When you are real, the tea also becomes real and the encounter between you and the tea is real. This is genuine tea drinking. You can organize a tea meditation to provide an opportunity for your friends to practice being truly present in order to enjoy a cup of tea and each other’s presence. Tea meditation is a practice. It is a practice to help us be free. If you are still bound and haunted by the past, if you are still afraid of the future, if you are carried away by your projects, your fear, your anxiety, and your anger, you are not a free person. You are not fully present in the here and the now, so life is not really available to you. The tea, the other person, the blue sky, the flower, is not available to you. In order to be really alive, in order to touch life deeply, you have to become a free person. Cultivating mindfulness can help you to be free.”

We can enjoy such beautifully simple pleasures everyday in life. We don’t have to wait for any special occasion to celebrate life, with Zen every moment is beautiful, every moment is a celebration, yes even when we are chopping wood & carrying water, when we are doing dishes, sweeping the floor, dusting the furniture, with Zen all these things are labors of our love, our love for life itself.


January 29, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Happiness, My lifestyle, My Values, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom, Zen.


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