Everything Has Its Place
When I was running the kitchen at Zen Center, almost ten years ago now, I put up a little sign by the dishwashing area: 'everything has its place, and it is not here'. There was a little corner by the shelves where all the plates and bowls lived, where people on the dishwashing crewleft things that had been run through the sanitiser and that they didn't take the time to put back where they were meant to go. 

It might seem a little OCD to insist on such a thing, but to me it seemed like an integral part of our residential zen training, to be taking care of objects, no matter how large or small (Dogen makes this practice explicit in the Tenzokyokun, his instructions to the temple cook, and Suzuki Roshi likewise in Not Always So ). There is also this wonderful passage from Shodo Harada Roshi, which sums this all up better than I could:

‘At the entrance of a Zen temple we often see the words kyakka shoko: “Watch your step!” What these words are telling us is to be aware of everything we do. We take off our footwear attentively and in such a way that later no one has to rearrange it correctly for us. We put our shoes at the side of the entranceway, not in the middle, so that other people may more easily slip out of their shoes. In this way, even to the way in which we take off our shoes, continual awareness is necessary.
The words kyakka shoko do not, of course, apply only to our feet and shoes. They remind us to remain attentive in our entire way of being. If we keep our room in order then our home is kept in order, and next our neighbourhood is kept in order, and next society is put in order. In this way, step by step, the nation, the natural environment, and finally the whole planet are put in order. The entire universe then comes into order. Thus, when we regulate our own mind, this circle extends to include the whole planet, and then the entire universe. To align your own mind, to put it in order, is to correct and put society in order.’  (The Path to Bodhidharma)

At this time of year, it is traditional to clean the temple from top to bottom - indeed, if you want to go to Zen Center and help with that on the 31st, you would be very welcome. I am spending this week, since I do not have to work, taking care of various tasks I have been putting off, organising and putting things away, and getting rid of a few unwanted items. It might not seem that I am putting the entire universe in order, but then again....

I was very taken with this arrangement of shoes at the Tassajara bathhouse some years ago...

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