We receive our life from the universe. We give our life to the universe. Traditionally, monks do takuhatsu. In their bowl, they receive their subsistence from lay people. In exchange, lay people receive their spiritual food, Buddha’s teaching, from the monks. The way we receive, the way we give, the way we exchange, is fundamental.
One day, a disciple asked Master Joshu: “I finished my meal, what do I do now?” Master Joshu answered: “Go and wash your bowl!” The monk’s bowl is an image, it is where we receive and give… We receive our life.
The bowl is called the monk’s head. Washing our bowl means cleaning our mind. It’s our practice: to have a mind that is always available, open to the others.
In temples, cleaning is the main activity. How do I receive the other? Do I receive him with conceit? Do I receive him with condescension? With resentment? With irritation?
– Go and wash your bowl!
Some people ask: “Why is my mind defiled?” That’s not important. It’s normal. Every situation, if not lived fully, leaves traces. What’s important is to wash those traces away. It’s a very intimate practice, that no one can see.
Receiving what we’re given without bearing judgment, such as: “What we’re given is not good, it’s not enough…” Cleaning our mind of all judgments, all accusations, all points of view, and upholding and offering to the universe a beautiful, lenient face.
If traces are left in the bowl, that’s all you see in the food you’re given…
Accepting, with our lenient face. Accepting what we’re given, what befalls us, the tasks to be carried out. Accepting our vocation to become Buddha.
If we don’t accept with an open mind, cleansed of all feelings, all judgments, all accusations, we cannot, in turn, give, express… We cannot fulfill our responsibility.
A lay person receives Buddha’s teaching, a monk receives earthly food. Each one gives in turn. Why don’t you want to wash your bowl, instead of asking yourselves the wrong questions, instead of wasting your time, of pretending?
At the beginning, the strength of the others, the help of the group are important; but in the end, we alone can see our dysfunctionings and let them go. What is critical is not to figure out why our bowl is dirty, but to wash it. That’s the essence of generosity.
Please, clarify Buddha’s teaching, clarify your mind, clean it. Ceaselessly.
Kodo Sawaki says: “The sharpness of the pine trees’ shadows depends on the brightness of the moon.”
The way we clean our mind, the way we see our dysfunctionings, depend on the brightness of the moon, on the vigor of the practice, on the tonus of the posture, on the authenticity of Awakening.
(Taiun JP Faure.)