Ordinary Life

A monk went to Joshu and said “I have just entered your monastery, please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your porridge?”
The monk said, “Yes master, I have.”
Joshu replied, “Then wash your bowl.”

(Zen Koan)

It is a recurrent theme of mine that spiritual life is ordinary life, and that ordinary life is spiritual life. The distinction between the two is something that happens only in the mind. It is not now, and never was, the reality.
When we look at the Buddha, not as a religious teacher, but as a master of Dhamma, he does not tell us to bow to statues of him, to worship him or to burn incense before him, he tells
us only to live a life established in love and awareness.
The true spiritual life is not a religious life. The true spiritual life is a simple and beautiful life. In doing that which we need to do and moving on, never picking up something more to carry.
The Dhamma is not found in some special place. It is right before our very eyes, if only we know how to look. Once we let go of the idea of searching for something special, something outside our ordinary life, we meet the truth.
And this truth is not something remarkable, fantastic or exciting, it is only the truth of reality. It is nothing, but it is everything. Our freedom comes from harmonising with this truth and being one with it.
The moment we look for something special, we are lost because we have stepped off the pure dhamma path. We think that our ordinary lives are just not enough to take us to enlightenment, but enlightenment exists as much in washing the dishes as it does in sitting in meditation. The different of course, is awareness. When we look at the words of the Buddha he speaks about our ordinary life, as our path to liberation.

In reply to the question, ‘What is the best that people can possess, what brings them their truest happiness, what is the sweetest of the sweet and what is the pleasantest way to live?’ The Buddha answered, ‘Trust is the best thing that people can possess, following the way brings the truest happiness, truth is the sweetest of the sweet, and the practice of insight is the pleasantest way to live.’

(Sutta Nipata)

Here the Buddha speaks about the noble qualities of trust, honesty and awareness, but these noble qualities are not contained in some special place or in a religious practice, they are found always in our ordinary life.
What is it that truly has value in our life?
It is trust. To be a person who is worthy of trust and who will do what they say. A person who can be relied and depended upon.
It is honesty. To be a person who is noble and does not manipulate others for their own advantage. A person who is honest in their dealings with themselves and the world.
It is awareness. To know the reality of the moment, and not be caught up in the appearance of how things seem to be.
It is the incorruptible confidence in Dhamma. To recognise moment after moment the absolute importance of walking the pure path of love and awareness. Beyond religion. Beyond an idea of attaining something special. Beyond the mind.
These noble qualities are found in every aspect of our ordinary life, with our parents, with our children, with our partners, with our friends and in our work. And perhaps most importantly, with ourselves when we are alone.
The Dhamma is everywhere and it is for us to access this beautiful dhamma, not by doing something special, but by waking up and seeing the truth in our ordinary life.?
Nothing is missing. Nothing more is needed. You are not broken, you don't need to be fixed. You only need to wake up.

The disciple arrived at the monastery seeking enlightenment, seeking something special.
The master gave the best teaching he could.
‘Have you eaten your porridge?’
The disciple replied, ‘Yes master, I have.’
‘Then wash your bowl.’
He says, don't look for something special. There is nothing here for you to get, only that which you can realise. Once you understand that you already have everything you need, you are free. So don't look for some special practice, simply flow with your life. Do what you have to do, be aware, be loving and don't look for something extra.

This is how dhamma manifests when we are one with life. Not seeking something special, but just moving and flowing from moment to moment. Not carrying the past, and not being afraid of the future, but seeing your life like a flower. Something that does not strive to be beautiful, and yet silently and without effort, brings value to life.

May all beings be happy

Author's Bio: 

Former Buddhist monk Paññadipa, Michael is now an internationally acclaimed master presenting course throughout the world. He is the founder of Pure Dhamma, the Buddhist tradition beyond the limitations of religion. His training of forty years was in the traditions of Rinzai and Soto Zen and Theravada. He was a disciple under the late Sayadaw Rewata Dhamma.
For full biography and further details visit http://www.puredhamma.org