Before enlightenment chop wood carry water, after enlightenment chop wood carry water. – Zen proverb
The concept and the word Zen have transcended beyond just a sect of Buddhist philosophy becoming synonymous with simplicity, peace and love. I have written and spoken about finding the path within for many years and the most searched for phrase every day on my blog is the Zen proverb Chop Wood Carry Water. I have found this phrase is many places, it was used as a marketing slogan by the Edmonton Oiler hockey team, linked to time after time again in articles, and posted all over the Internet. This fascinates me as Zen kōans and proverbs are typically used to ignite inner thought with unanswerable questions. These thoughts or questions were to ponder while you searched for the personal meaning within oneself. Yet, I smile and understand everytime I see this quote as Chop Wood Carry Water is one of my favorites. I have used this in my life many times as a mantra to live from and inspire me to live along my path.
This concept of chopping wood and carrying water before enlightenment and after enlightenment I see in many areas of life. As human beings we think that in our journey there is a final destination to get to, and when we think we arrive we stop doing the things that got us there in the first place. This applies to anything in life be it a spiritual journey, personal relationships or your career. This quote is a reminder that we create the fundamentals for success on our journey, the framework of our path and we must continue doing the basics at all times. There is no mystical place of enlightenment or end destination that we finally get to hang up our robe and do whatever we please as our mind things we have finally made it. We create the intention of our path and the actions for us to attain checkpoints along with path and we do these fundamentals. For myself, this means eating healthy and right so I have the energy to work, to be a single dad and to train in martial arts and to follow my spiritual path. It also means getting to bed by a certain time so I can get up at 5 am and meditate for 2 hours. This is chop wood carry water. Doing the basics as the framework of my journey. There are many days I want to stray from this path, yet I know the path that I have intended to take I must follow these fundamentals. When I stray I am off track. The discipline to continue doing the basic fundamentals for the success of our path is the essence of this proverb. I love the fact the Edmonton Oiler hockey team used this phrase as there slogan as it means they were focused on the basics, the fundamentals to achieve success. It means they understood as a team no one was above another that they must all do the basics along the journey. No one was above this. I have seen many famous ball players, or even entertainers get the big contract and the hunger and actions they took to get on top disappeared because they had made it in their mind. They believe in their mindset that they are above the small things and no longer need to do this. This mindset is far from chop wood and carry water. As individuals, no matter the place on our journey we must create the framework for a successful journey, the basics and do this throughout our lives. We must stay hungry as if we have never arrived at our destination as in truth the journey is never about the destination, it is always about the path.
When I look deeper at Chop Wood Carry Water, I read into it as walking the walk. So often I see people speak words that are not in concert with their actions. When we Chop Wood Carry Water we walk the walk of our thoughts, and our actions. Mahatma Gandhi once said “happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” This is walking the walk. I see hypocrisy often in life. In truth all we have in this life is our word. Our word to others of course, but most importantly to ourselves. When we shift our thoughts, our intentions to spoken words out loud we have now created destinations along our journey for us to strive for. It is our responsibility to honor these words with action. Chop Wood Carry Water is a mantra to me to walk the walk. My mission in life is to inspire and teach people to look within to find peace and love. If I am not following a path of peace and love and looking within myself then I am not walking the walk. My two daughters find this frustrating at times as I do not drink, smoke or do drugs. I tell them that what I say I do. I create with them honoring their word and following a path where they can look in the mirror and know they did the best they could, authentically and with integrity. A Zen Warrior is one who looks within and walks the walk. They do what they say. They inspire through their actions.
On your journey, honor this way of being, continue to Chop Wood and Carry Water no matter where you are on the journey. Embrace the fundamentals and never stray from this path. Remember what got you to the place that you are and create the path you need to get you to where you are going. There is no end, only destinations along the journey and the basics of chopping wood and carrying water to reach them.
Thomas D. Craig
Zen Warrior – Igniting a Revolution of Love