Did you say samu?

Practitioners of Zen are expected to perform simple daily tasks like preparing meals, washing dishes and cleaning. This is known as “samu”, a Japanese word used in Zen, and passed down to us by Master Deshimaru. We do samu with the same energy and concentration, in the same spirit of giving with which we practice Zen. (At least we try!). There are other samus that maybe seem more attractive, in which one makes something, which might be used in the temple, (or on this website). We practice samu during sesshins and the Summer Camp, in the dojo and during Sessions of Samu in the temple (for the really brave ones!).

This section of the site is open to all those who wish to recount their experience of samu.

It is sufficient to send a story, if possible with images or a video, to samu-story@zen-deshimaru.com. This section has three functions:

  1. So that those who take responsibility for a samu can learn from the experiences of others who have gone before them. For example: the dishwasher at Yujo Nyusanji is more than twenty five years old. To function properly it needs to be operated according to very specific and precise instructions. The majority of samus require a lot of special knowledge. Through the years this knowledge accumulates and becomes the experience of the Sangha; a learning, correct and efficient.
  2. Those who have been able to exploit their talents to “create” their own samu can talk about their experience and transmit their enthousiasm. The relaxed rhythm of the Summer Camp, above all during the preparations, is such that everyone has the time to invent the job that they think is the most useful or which best fits with their particular skills.
  3. We are also interested in stories about negative experiences, while nevertheless avoiding personal criticism. Communal living is not always easy; sometimes discontent can accumulate as the days pass during Summer Camp. It is useful to understand why a samu did not work well.

Based on your contributions, we will publish a short summary for each type of samu.

“Samu is the understanding and the experience of material as spirit. What use is it to live in this world if one doesn’t realize one’s thoughts through material? Work done in this spirit really becomes a panacea for the mind and is at the basis of spiritual power. All the great masters practiced samu diligently, this is why the majority of Zen stories take place in gardens, during building work or in the kitchens of temples”.

Master Kosen

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