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Beth Joshi Mulligan - There is an old Zen saying...

December 19, 2015 by Jokai

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

There is an old Zen saying (I think) “Before enlightenment: chop wood carry water, after enlightenment: chop wood carry water”. Or to quote the title of a great book by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.” All this is to say, it is well into week 3 post training period and Dharma Combat and life goes on, the same and not the same at all. Right after the ceremony we had, thankfully, lunch. I had a chance to visit with folks who had come to support me and then, they went home. I turned to Joaki Sensei and asked. “What should I do now?” And he said, let’s get the cushions and tables and instruments back to the Buddha hall. See if you can round some folks up.” So that is what we did. Back and forth between the two buildings we went. It felt good, actually to have something so simple and, well do-able to do. In the midst of this I returned the loaner zagu , the ceremonial fans were put away and the robe that once belonged to someone named Amanda that I borrowed and wore all fall, was put away too. There was that clean feeling we practice in Zen, “Without a trace.” Right up to thirty minutes before the ceremony I was working in the kitchen, and after? Back again to wash dishes. Then I broke it to Jokai and Susan, “I am unable to move out of my room at this time. Sorry just can’t do it. Not quite ready psychologically and too tired physically.” “No problem” they said. “See you soon”. “Very soon.” I replied.

Then I went home or should I say my other home and sat down for a few minutes, glanced through the mail, hung out with Hugh, appreciated the polished tile floors, before I had to go to a committee meeting in Palm Springs. And off I went. And that is pretty much how it has been. The fall leaves have left the sycamores and are all over the patio so I give them a sweep now and then and I’m back to the Mindful-Way business that Hugh and I run, full on too. Here’s a bit from the Koan I presented; “AS Ungan was sweeping the ground, Dogo said “You’re hard at it.” “Ungan replied,”You should know there is one who is not hard at it.” Dogo said, “So is there a second moon?” Holding up the broom Ungan asked,”Which moon is this?” Dogo desisted. Before training period –Joshi Hard at it.

After training period, not so much, though there is plenty of work to do, I don’t have to call it hard ,although I could certainly go there, I have a choice. I finally moved out of “my room” on my third trip back to Yokoji. But only because someone needed it. Which made it feel right. The koan continues: “Using what’s at hand, he finished up the yard. He could use it and know when to desist.” Time for Joshi to desist now. But I’ll see you soon, very soon.


  • Alex:

    19 Dec 2015 12:21:12

    I love this post, Joshi! Many thanks. :)

  • Brent:

    19 Dec 2015 15:40:27

    Congratulations Beth on the amazing training period! I wish I could have participated more up at Yokoji, but it sure was a pleasure practicing with you (and everyone else) while I was there. Hope to see you and the rest of the Sangha soon.

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