Work Practice (Samu)

As many of you know, practice is not intended to be tethered to the seat or cushion. The hope is that all the way along, through our training, we are learning to live out whatever lessons we learn on the seat, in our daily living. This isn’t a further, later step in practice, to be delayed until some remote time when we’re ready. It applies all the way along. Whatever we discover about our emotional or cognitive habit patterns, the next step, right away, is learning to live freer of them as we go through the day acting and interacting with others.

This is why “work practice” has been so central to the Zen tradition for millennia. Way back, fifteen hundred years ago or earlier, Ch’an Buddhism already differentiated itself from other traditions by insisting that monastics work. Rather than being reliant on donations from the lay benefactors, monasteries and convents should be self-supporting. They became communities that grew and processed their own food, and all stages of agriculture, grain preparation, cooking and eating fell within the remit of practice. Practice isn’t supposed to exclude anything.

What is Buddha? a student asked Tozan (Dongshan). Three pounds of hemp! he snapped back.

What is Buddha? a student asked Unmon (Yunmen). Dried shit-stick! he responded.

The broom, the shovel, the chisel, saw, hoe and twine: all are “buddha” – integral parts of one awakened reality.

This is all a lengthy preamble by way of saying: please let’s not neglect our samu! Work practice is integral to meditation training. Whether you’re a student, a member, or neither, or both, please consider consecrating a few hours a month to tending our beautiful and beloved center and community at Mountain Cloud. Anything done for the Dharma is never wasted!

You might consider taking on a “pet project” at the zendo – perhaps using some special skill or interest you may have. If you see something we may need, don’t hesitate to let the Operations Team know about it. You could pursue the project whenever works for you, at your own pace and schedule.




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