There is a saying, ‘Serving and being served are folds in the same garment’. I think it might be Chinese but is , to me, of unknown origin. As I settle in to my new role here I’m finding it particularly pertinent. It seems to hinge around gratitude and humility.
For all of us the notion of charity can raise different issues. For example what is worthy of our time and money?. Or questioning whether in fact a blade of grass or a handful of sand can be seen as enough. Indeed Dogen in the Shushogi talks of building a bridge as an act of charity. He makes no distinction between making a profit or not, just that it benfits others. All sorts of weighing up take place and deeds are placed on the scales. Here I would like to focus on the koan of giving and receiving. If we do something freely and are thanked, how often do we find ourselves shunning the thanks because we feel that by doing so we are less likely to fall into the trap of pride. or perhaps more damagingly be seen as having pride. Due to our backgrounds this can fall anywhere along the spectrum causes and conditions make. We don’t need thanks for doing what seems good to do, do we? We don’t do it for that reason, do we? Well no probably not, but let’s see it from another angle. Is there not gratitude and giving in allowing anothers heartfelt offering to be accepted. The saying, ‘It is not about me yet I am involved’ comes to mind. Undeniably we as individuals give, we put ourselves out there, but what really gives and accepts? The life of a renunciate lay or monk sees that by giving up our own desires we can allow a free flowing exchange of gratitude. So when someone offers to do something for us the acceptance of that offering is indeed a fold in the same garment. What brings forth the wish to offer is not seperate to that which accepts. Surely by allowing ourselves to experience the joy of serving we open up to a world, a way of being, which fully encompasses a generosity of spirit which acknow;ledges anothers wish to give. Indeed to let go of our desire to be seen a certain way, i.e. one who displays no pride, is a stepping forth into the way of the buddhas and ancestors. The way of the ancients which has no time and is ever present. The same ever present which is truly who we and all things are.
The use of the term garment is also helpful in appreciating what I am trying to say here. A garment tends to enfold just as a kesa, and by natural extension a wagesa, which represents the buddhist precepts enfolding us. Each morning we wrap ourselves in the precepts which point us in the direction of perpetual practice. Each fold of the kesa expresses a generosity of spirit.
So as we sit, each day finding out what it is that is asked, we are both serving and being served, realising that both are happening simultaneously. However hard it is for us to receive help, by turning our backs we make it harder to give and receive. All things, all dharmas come forth unhindered. Everything teaches. Each moment arising is an opportunity to allow ourselves to hear. If ‘I’ receive, the point is missed and vice versa. When experienced from the seat of meditation what is good to do shows itself. There then is a following which can twist and turn as it plays out. All comes from the same root. All enfolded in the same garment.