The Map Is Not the Territory

Encounters with the tenzo, from Dogen

He carried a bamboo stick but had no hat on his head. The sun’s rays beat down so harshly that the tiles along the walked burned one’s feet. He worked hard and was covered with sweat. I could not help but feel the work was too much of a strain for him. His back was a bow drawn taut, his long eyebrows were crane white.

I approached and asked his age. He replied that he was sixty-eight years old. Then I went on to ask him why he never used any attendants.

He answered: “Other people are not me.”

“You are right,” I said. “I can see thatyour work is the activity of the Budha-dharma, but why are you working so hard in the scorching sun?”

He replied: “If I don’t do it now, when else can I do it?”

There was nothing else for me to say. As I walked on along that passageway, I began to sense inwardly the true significance of the tenzo.