Wash your bowl: A modern take

There’s a famous Zen story about a monk and Joshu (I don’t know who Joshu is, but that’s irrelevant here).

The monk tells Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asks, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?
The monk replies, “I have eaten.”
Joshu says, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.

I like the simplicity of the story. For me, it goes beyond enlightenment. It’s about the basics. It’s about how you expect to be treated by others and how you treat others.

I was having lunch at Subway yesterday and overheard a couple that had just finished its meal. The lady said, “where’s the bin?” The man said, “don’t worry about it… it’s okay. Leave it!”

And my logical mind went, “why?” You expect the busboy to take out YOUR TRASH as well? Agitated, you may say, “Of course, that’s what he’s supposed to do!” In a way, yes. But I think their job is to give you the best experience, and that includes making you sit at a clean/sanitized table. Perhaps even serving you! But not to take out YOUR TRASH. That’s your job.

Had you been fine-dining or even casual dining, things would have been different. The busboys there literally want to woo you. They get paid. At a fast food chain, however, things aren’t the same. You don’t have the courtesy to tip them anyway. The restaurant owners suck too! And still, you expect a world-class treatment for pennies! That’s a little too much.

Of course, you crave for a better experience. But these people desire to be treated well too. You still may not agree — and that’s totally fine with me — but don’t complain the next time you’re treated like trash when you clearly deserve so much more!

After finishing my meal, I picked up my bag and the tray, dumped the leftovers and the soiled paper into the bin. I noticed the busboy standing next to the table looking at my direction. Our eyes met, and he smiled.

Wash your bowl. Whenever you can.

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