50/56 Senmen



Washing the Face

Sen means to wash, and men means the face. Idealistic religions generally revere only the spiritual side of the world; everyday activities such as eating meals, getting dressed, washing the face, and taking a bath are not considered to be religious practices. Buddhism, however, is a religion based on the real world; these everyday activities are important religious practices without which there can be no Buddhist life. This is why, when a Chinese Buddhist master was asked by his disciple, “What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?” the master answered “Wearing clothes and eating meals.” Master Dogen put the greatest value on the practice of washing the face. In this chapter he explains the Buddhist meaning in the daily activities of taking a bath and washing the face.