Monday, July 25, 2011

slobs of the world, unite!

In his later years, my Zen teacher once groused to me that his students did not clean the zendo and left the chores to him. He was getting on in years and the disciplines of his past might be fresh in his mind, but his body was no longer so fresh. As much as anything, I imagine, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi was pissed off at himself for having been party to the training of such irresponsible, loll-about students.

Nevertheless, he cleaned the New York zendo ... which, from my point of view, gave him the right to sound off. Not sounding off would have been too vain and too fatuous.

In India, I once heard, it is common for the senior monks at some ashrams to do the dirty chores. Newcomers get the easy stuff, but those with seniority, those more likely to become settled and serene, are the ones saddled with latrine duty, carrying water and whatever else qualifies as dirty work. It may not keep them alert, but it probably helps them to fend off some of the dullness.

I thought of all of this because yesterday in the zendo I realized I would have to stir my stumps. There are no students about whom to complain. Like a lot of other people, I imagine, I am chief cook and bottle wash -- the teacher and the student ... and which is which is hard to say. It was enough to notice that the spiders were gaining a foothold in the zendo, a reminder of how lazy I have been about doing the dirty work. I need to bring out the vacuum cleaner; break out the ammonia and water and wash the altar and statues; change the greenery; swab out the water bowl; clean the cushions; dust everywhere ... and generally clean up behind this loll-about student.

The good thing about being chief cook and bottle wash is that I can, reluctantly and with some aches and pains, do the work AND grouse about it too. On the one hand, "What a slob!" and on the other, "What a not-slob!"

Teacher and student in one tidy package ... I imagine it's that way for everyone.


  1. erm i can help u process ur excrements at this blog. they smell lovely this morning :)

  2. Wow!

    At every zendo I've ever visited or attended for long or short days, the students always seemed quite responsive to the zendo leaders, and seemed responsible and diligent in carrying out their assignments. While praise was never mentioned for doing work during the work period, I always found the each group bowed in silent gratitude. I wonder why Kyudo complained that his students were lazy.

  3. Opps!

    "long or short days"

    should be "long or short stays"