Before Enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water;
After Enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water

August 25, 1980

There is an old Zen saying ...

There is a prevailing thought that permeates our society. The idea that activity, work, productivity is a waste of time. People say; "Putting that fence up is such a waste of time. The dogs are just going to ruin the patio instead of the lawn, and why do you want to keep the lawn anyway? The lawn is going to die sooner or later, and the dogs are going to get old and die anyway. Why do anything? There is no purpose to do anything. Why not just sit around and observe this whole thing of life going on, why take any effort in life? It is all in vain."

But if the whole world adopted that idea, there would be no existence. Everything would just stop moving, developing, growing, evolving. Everything literally would just stop. There has to be some kind of action. The argument most people say is "We need to meditate on ourselves in order to get enlightened, and gain this great knowledge and then rest within ourselves and just do nothing. Just sit there. We are supposed to sit around on our dead ass and drink beer and do nothing. This is what is meant by nirvana. This is enlightenment."

But the fact of the matter is, you have to perform the actions of life. You can do all of the actions of life and still rest within Creation, the trick is to learn to not be attached to those actions in life. Be in the consciousness of it not affecting you. Perform all the actions that need to be done. It is really interesting, it does not make any difference if you get enlightened or not, you still have work to do. The reason you have to work is that it is the right thing to do. There is an old Zen saying that goes something like this: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. You do not just sit on your ass the rest of your life and say "I'm enlightened and everything around is beautiful." But, you will find a lot of people that will argue with that idea, they will protest by saying "Nothing really matters, it is all going to end anyway." They will give a whole commentary and why they do not have to do any work, why they have no need for action. It is funny how a lot of people want to get caught up in doing nothing, and find some kind of excuse to go on saying that there is nothing to do and no reason to do it.

You have to have action if you really are enlightened. All of the sages that really existed performed a lot of action. If there were no action, Creation itself would go out of existence.

People in our society, even most people on this planet are tuned into youth, young people, young ideas, the whole society is focused on youth. But everybody gets old. We tend to forget that in life. If you balance your life out, paying attention to both ends of the spectrum, the young and the old, the action and the inaction, going through life and death will be much smoother. The greatest value in your life happens when you are old.