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Ordinary-mindedness is the Way

Collated by Paul Quek

In Buddhism there is no place for using effort. Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water, and when you're tired go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand.

            -- Lin-chi, the great T'ang master.

Zen -- The Art of Ordinary Living

Zen has been described as the art of living. ... life as art or living right requires that we pay full attention to whatever we are doing at the moment. Life can be lived only in the present ... The ideal life is one of 'perfect momentariness' in which we are fully involved in each moment.

Zen deals with the relationship of the self to the world, a part of which is the relationship of self to the task at hand. The perfect relationship is one in which there is no separation between the person and the task. There is no person and there is no task. There is only the doing of the task in the moment.

... some dancers describe perfect dancing as the dancer and the dance becoming one. There is no dancer doing a dance. At the point at which the dancer and the dance meet -- the present -- there is only dancing, the activity. The purpose of Zen is to create such moments in everyday life by focusing attention on the activity of the present.

The Zen prescription for living life to the fullest is to become absorbed in the task at hand.

Zen is commonly associated with mysticism. This is erroneous. The mystical label applied to Zen implies that Zen has nothing to do with everyday matters. Actually, Zen has everything to do with everyday events and activities, including the 'mundane' events and activities of brushing teeth, making lunch, and washing socks. Zen is these events and activities.

Zen is a very practical and rational approach to life and is anything but otherworldly. Zen is exclusively focused on this life. Its central concern is the quality of life as expressed in everyday events and activities.

      -- Adapted from J. J. Gibbs' book
         Dancing with Your Books: The Zen Way of Studying
          (New York: Plume/Penguin Books, 1990)

See also Ordinary-mindedness is the Way -- in cartoon form

See also Zhao-zhou -- "Wash Your Bowl"

Zen (Ch'an) Index

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