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A Reader Comments
2-06-09 - Nailing down the Gary Snyder quote about there being two jobs for a monk: sitting and sweeping the temple - as discussed here on cuke in the past - five years ago. Thanks to Andrew Main

Andrew writes:

Last October I read on Cuke about the New Yorker article on Gary Snyder and wanted a copy, so I watched the free magazine rack at the Library for a while, but didn't see one, and forgot about it. Today a friend brought me a copy; he didn't know I was looking for it, only that I was interested in Snyder.

I've noticed things happen that way a lot; if I want something it'll come to me if I just relax and wait long enough. Long term illness has slowed me down enough to experience this fairly regularly -- and to see that the pace nearly all of humanity lives at is so speeded up that most people, so accustomed to "pushing the river" and stressing and working and struggling to get everything they want, never get to experience this natural function of the universe, which I suspect might be widely recognized if the world would get off coffee (tea, coca, etc.) and "Daylight Saving Time" and other forms of compulsive speed. Not going to happen any time soon, I suppose.

I remember reading somewhere once that Bushmen in Africa "work" maybe 20 hours a week, then spend the rest of their time sitting around telling stories, etc. Progress, isn't it great?

Anyway, by a curious coincidence, today I also received in the mail, sent to me by another friend, a copy of the June 1977 East West Journal ($1.00, $1.20 Canada) with an interview of Snyder by Peter Barry Chowka. I was at Tassajara that year, and a subscriber to EWJ, and I remember reading this excellent interview with much interest. And here is probably the first place I ran across that quote we were trying to track down a while ago (pg. 38):

"I would take this all the way back down to what it means to get inside your belly and cross your legs and sit -- to sit down on the ground of your mind, of your original nature, your place, your people's history. Right Action, then, means sweeping the garden. To quote my teacher Oda Sesso: 'In Zen there are only two things: you sit, and you sweep the garden. It doesn't matter how big the garden is.' That is not a new discovery; it's what people have been trying to do for a long time."

I believe this interview was reprinted in a book sometime later.(I also see in this issue of EWJ an ad for a "5 day Intensive Training Session" at Karmê-Chöling with Ösel Tendzin, "the first American to be empowered as the embodiment of Tibetan buddhism." Been a while, I guess.)

Best wishes,

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