Today is splendiferously bright and sunny, with blue sky from horizon to horizon. Today, I have promised myself to clean the zendo. I am delaying that effort by writing this blog entry ... fucking off, to put it bluntly.
My Zen teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, once complained that his students in New York did not clean the zendo and that he had to do it.
I think -- and mind you this is just what I think -- Kyudo had something else in mind as well with his complaints about inattentive and lazy students.
Coming to a zendo from the outside can have the feel of going to a movie or a baseball game ... visitors are visiting; they come for the enjoyment or awe or spiritual fireworks or wise gurus or whatever other out-there fulfillment ... and management is responsible for upkeep of the arena because, what the hell, that's the lifestyle they chose! There will always be a stable boy to muck out the stall so that missy can ride a well-groomed mare.
But I don't think Kyudo's irritation was entirely based on the inattentive laziness of the students who left him holding the bag. I think his disappointment may have been as much with himself -- that he had not managed to instill the understanding that the zendo belonged to those students, that the zendo had no meaning without their presence, and that to take care of the zendo was literally a way of taking care of and being responsible for themselves ... a cornerstone of Zen practice. How is Zen practice ever to bear fruit if you can't wash the floor?! Zen practice is not some Vatican positing a glistening and free-standing "Mother Church."
True, lazy and arrogant Zen instructors might take advantage of good-natured students, but still...
This point of view is not something one man can tell another. People learn it or they don't. But I can imagine that Kyudo, as a man who had chosen the stable-boy pastime of Zen instructor, might still feel as if he had somehow failed.
And as an adjunct benefit, he was stuck with the cleaning.
OK, OK ... I'll get off the computer now. Since the aches and pains and weakness of age will assert themselves in any event, I might as well put them to some use.
Make a promise, keep a promise.
You gotta die of something.