Simplicity & Contentment

2018: May You Grow In Simplicity & Contentment

In the New Year, may you enjoy the best possible health and great happiness. What’s more, for the sake of life on earth, may you know bliss as you grow in simplicity & contentment.

“But what will you do with the worn-out robes, Master Ananda?”

Zen practice aims to deepen our sense of connection with all things through meditation and right living. Right living means appreciating the preciousness and fragility of each thing just as it is. In Zen practice we’re mindfully open to the world. Simultaneously, we look for ways to ameliorate the affects of our unavoidable participation in the mindless destructiveness of our shared modern life. We aim to live simply, in ways that entail as much good and as little harm to others as possible.

I plan to take on a couple of concrete harm reduction projects in 2018. One involves dramatically reducing the amount of plastic in my life in the future. Here’s a link to a website called My Plastic Free Life where I plan to get valuable tips on making progress on my goal:

Isn’t it interesting that the world’s scripture based religions consistently challenge us to live in healthy and sustainable ways? They say, “Live simply, non-violently, peacefully, and harmlessly.” Yet the world is the way it is now. It seems we’ve built a wall in our lives between what’s “spiritual” and the way we live life.  This really can’t go on.  It’s unsustainable.

In Zen, simplicity is at the core of our approach. Simplicity guides us to look for and share down-to-earth and wholesome alternatives to the careless waste and violence that’s ruining our world. This approach is deeply engrained in Zen. It goes back to Zen’s Founder, the Buddha himself.

Simplicity & Contentment

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Long ago in far away Indian, the Buddha told a story[1] that went something like this:

One afternoon, King Udena and his harem were enjoying themselves in a royal park.  Then they heard that Venerable Ananda was sitting under a nearby tree. It may go without saying, but Ananda was the cousin and well-loved attendant to the Buddha and a great Dharma teacher in his own right.

Notably, when the king’s harem heard that Ananda was nearby, they approached the king and said, “Your majesty, our teacher the reverend Ananda is sitting nearby. We would like to see the reverend Ananda.” Thus reluctantly, one might even say jealously, the king said, “In that case, go see Ananda the contemplative.”

As the story goes, Ananda happily shared the teaching with his students. Consequently, they were delighted. So much so, in fact that they gave him 500 monks’ robes.

Zero Waste Living

However, when the harem returned and told King Udena about their gift, he was filled with a smoldering anger. He asked and spread questions about like, “How can that contemplative accept so many robes? Is he opening a cloth-business? Is he going to start selling robes?

Time passed and the still-upset king went to see Ananda. Upon arriving and then getting the normal social courtesies out of the way, King Udena asked, “Venerable Ananda, did my harem pay you a visit?” “Yes, great king,” said Ananda. “And did they give you anything?” “They gave me 500 monks robes, great king.” “And what on earth,” asked the king in a huff, “are you planning to do with 500 robes?”

“Well,” said Ananda, “we will share them with monks who have worn-out robs, great king.”
“But what will you do with the worn-out robes, Master Ananda?”
“We’ll make canopies, great king.”
“But what will you do with the old canopies, Master Ananda?”
“We’ll make mattress covers, great king.”
“And the worn-out covers, Master Ananda?”
“We’ll make floor coverings, great king.”
“And what will you do with the old floor coverings, Master Ananda?”
“We’ll make foot-wiping cloths, great king.”
“And the discarded clothes, Master Ananda?”
“We’ll make dust-rags with them, great king.”
“But what will you do with the old, worn-out dust-rags, Master Ananda?”
“Having kneaded them together with clay, we’ll use the mixture as plaster, great king.”

Then King Udena thought to himself, “These monks use everything well—they make no waste.” Consequently, the king gave Ananda another 500 monks robes.

It goes without saying, perhaps, but the resource conserving and sustainable way of life illuminated by the tale of the 500 robes was widespread on our globe before the “triumph” of mass consumer culture.  It’s a way of life we celebrate and aim to live in Zen practice.

Ancient Wisdom

Fortunately, there is a growing movement in America and around the world called “Zero Waste.” This is a hopeful trend indeed!  We can celebrate this movement as we explore ways to apply its ancient wisdom to modern living.  Here’s an interesting website that I hope we can learn from in 2018:

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Please visit a Sweeping Heart Zen event if and when the spirit moves you.  We’re in historic Gloucester on Boston’s North Shore.  Here’s a link to our calendar:

Happy New Year! I hope you have a wonderful week!

[1] The story is based on the Cullavagga as translated by Ajahn Thanissaro in his delightful anthology entitled The Buddha Smiles. You can download a free pdf at: