On my journey around the world, I have been reading Buddhist texts. Most recently, a book by Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki (1905-1971) called, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. It is a collection of informal talks given at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center near San Francisco (the first Zen monastery established outside of Asia). What follows is a talk called “The Waterfall” that I have replicated in its entirety:
If you go to Japan and visit Eiheiji monastery, just before you enter you will see a small bridge called Hanshaku-kyo, which means "half-dipper bridge." Whenever Dogen-zenji dipped water from the river, he used only half a dipperful, returning the rest to the river again, without throwing it away. That is why we call the bridge Hanshaku-kyo, "Half-Dipper Bridge." At Eiheiji when we wash our face, we fill the basin to just seventy percent of its capacity. And after we wash, we empty the water towards, rather than away from, our body. This expresses respect for the water. This kind of practice is not based on any idea of being economical. It may be difficult to understand why Dogen returned half of the water he dipped to the river. This kind of practice is beyond our thinking. When we feel the beauty of the river, when we are one with the water, we intuitively do it in Dogen's way. It is our true nature to do so. But if your true nature is covered by ideas of economy or efficiency, Dogen's way makes no sense.