One day, at the Guanyin Temple, in the midst of breakfast, a monk came to the
abbot Zhaozhou ( Japanese: Joshu; also, romanized as "Chaochou" ) and said: "I
have recently become your disciple in this Temple. Please guide me with your
Zhaozhou asked the monk: "Have you eaten your porridge?"
The monk replied: "Yes, I have eaten."
Zhaozhou then said: "Then go wash your bowl."
What did Zhaozhou meant by his answer?
The practice of Zen, perception, everyday actions -- these are the same. Thus,
to be absolutely alert is to practise Zen.
What Zhaozhou was telling the monk was that the flavor of Zen was one with the
flavor of the porridge.
There is nothing special about Zen.
Zen is about ordinariness.
Zen is about everyday things.
But the monk fell into the trap that many had done, which was to think that
there was some esoteric "secret" to Zen that was hidden to all but the Zen
masters. Yet Zhaozhou was hiding nothing from the monk. Zhaozhou's reply put the monk back to ordinary daily life.
There is no special effort required in Zen practice.