The Zen Master and the Sweeping Up
September 18, 2008 4:59 PM   Subscribe

I read a Zen story years ago at a meditation center library. Can't remember the book/author. (might have had a quirky title? perhaps written by a contemporary Zen master?). The part I remember was about how to sweep and the uses of all the swept-up "trash"...

Details: A novice is waiting a long time to gain admittance to the monastery. He is eventually let in and given a job sweeping (and/or kitchen work?). An older monk points out that he is doing it wrong! Actually there is no "trash". Every bit of the sweeping-up is useful. Twigs to kindle the fire, the compost, etc.

does anything strike the ol' bell?

many thanks, hivemind!
posted by tingting to Religion & Philosophy (1 answer total)
Kakuzo Okakura relays an anecdote similar to this in "The Book of Tea."

"Rikiu was watching his son Shoan as he swept and watered the garden path. 'Not clean enough,' said Rikiu, when Shoan had finished his task, and bade him try again. After a weary hour the son turned to Rikiu: 'Father, there is nothing more to be done. The steps have been washed for the third time, the stone lanterns and the trees are well sprinkled with water, moss and lichens are shining with a fresh verdure; not a twig, not a leaf have I left on the ground.' 'Young fool,' chided the tea-master, 'that is not the way a garden path should be swept.' Saying this, Rikiu stepped into the garden, shook a tree and scattered over the garden gold and crimson leaves, scraps of the brocade of autumn!

What Rikiu demanded was not cleanliness alone, but the beautiful and the natural also."
posted by pluckysparrow at 6:16 PM on September 18, 2008

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