In Buddhism Cleaning is a Very Important Practice

Now the FIFA World Cup is over. Brazil was defeated in the semi-final and again missed the championship while hosting the games. As I’m Japanese, I was rooting for Japan. Unfortunately, however, in the first round Japan scored 2 losses, and 1 draw. But I’d like to mention one thing that I felt proud of. A news program reported that just after Japan lost to Côte d’Ivoire by 1 – 2 in the first game of the first round, the supporters of Japan picked up garbage from the spectators’ stand where they had been cheering for the team before they left the stadium.

The reporter seemed amazed by the decency the Japanese showed to the world in spite of their sunken spirit due to the loss of the game. I was highly proud of Japanese people at that moment. However, a few days later, I was surprised to read another news article. It read, “Picking up garbage in the spectators’ stand is a breach of manners.”

I started reading carefully. The point the article was making was that “if you pick up garbage and clean the spectators’ stand, you are in a sense depriving the hired janitors of their jobs. Depriving them of their jobs means robbing their livelihood from them. That is a very bad deed.”

I was reminded of Master Shinran’s words: “Concerning good and evil alike I know nothing at all.” But of course in Buddhism it is taught that cleaning is a very good deed. There were also many critical comments on the article, saying things like, “I wonder if some janitors lost their jobs because Japanese supporters picked up garbage.” Human evaluations fluctuate so much that it’s very difficult to rely on them.

I think what is really important is having such wisdom that makes us proceed straight on the path which we believe is right without derailing its course. We should not be swayed this way and that by other people’s criticism. We’d like to acquire such wisdom by listening to Buddhist truth. Now let’s learn how cleaning is important from chapter 74 of Unshakable Spirit.

One of Śākyamuni’s greatest disciples, Cūda‑panthaka, was dull by birth and unable to remember even his own name. One day Śākyamuni found him crying and asked him kindly, “Why are you so sad?”

Weeping bitterly, Cūda‑panthaka lamented, “Why was I born stupid?”

“Cheer up,” said Śākyamuni. “You are aware of your foolishness, but there are many fools who think themselves wise. Being aware of one’s stupidity is next to enlightenment.” He handed Cūda‑panthaka a broom and instructed him to say while he worked, “I sweep the dust away. I wash the dirt away.”

Cūda‑panthaka tried desperately to remember those sacred phrases from the Buddha, but whenever he remembered one, he forgot the other. Even so, he kept at this practice for twenty years.

Once during those twenty years, Śākyamuni complimented Cūda‑panthaka on his constant diligent effort. “No matter how many years you keep sweeping, you grow no better at it, and yet that does not cause you to give up. As important as making progress is, persevering in the same endeavor is even more important. It is an admirable trait—one that I do not see in my other disciples.”

In time Cūda‑panthaka realized that dust and dirt did not only accumulate where he thought they would, but in places he least expected. Surprised, he thought, “I knew I was stupid, but there’s no telling how much more of my stupidity exists in places I don’t even notice.”

In the end Cūda‑panthaka attained the enlightenment of an arhat, a stage at which one is worthy of receiving respect and offerings. Besides encountering a great teacher and the true teachings, it was his long years of effort and perseverance that crowned him with success.

(Unshakable Spirit, Perseverance Is Greater than Proficiency)

Nobu’s ViewPoint Buddhist teacher, Nobuaki Kondo

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #42 | 2014, In Buddhism Cleaning is a Very Important Practice

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