We just sold my wife’s car. She has more interior design jobs and needs an SUV to carry furnishings. I drove her sedan to the car wash, took photos, and listed it on Craigslist. I got a few inquiries, and I showed it to two couples.
The first people said they didn’t want to take on the thirteen-year-old vehicle. They thought the interior was a bit worn. While they looked at it, I noticed that I did not do a great job of cleaning it. I thought I might have to have it professionally detailed. The second couple had a totally different take. The woman drove it. Her husband said, “It’s up to you. Do you want it?” “Yes! I love it,” she said. They bought the car.
Before I delivered it, I filled the car with premium gas and took it through the car wash one more time. I got all the spots inside and out that I had missed before. I presented the new owners with an immaculate vehicle.
The people chose the car just as they saw it. I didn’t have to go through the extra effort. I was moved. It isn’t that I’m some kind of special person. It didn’t have to do with me. I don’t know the people and I will never see them again. It was the spirit that moved in me. It was the spirit of Zen.
I once went shopping with my Zen master. On the way into the grocery store, he strode past the shopping carts and hand baskets. We gathered in our arms bags of vegetables, bottles of soy sauce and rice vinegar, packages of seaweed and noodles. As we finished, he pulled a bag of rice off the shelf. As the bag sat on the floor by his feet and he juggled the items in his arms, I came by and grabbed the rice. As we walked out to the car, he said to me, “That was the spirit of Zen. To anticipate other’s needs.”
Zen practice instills this spirit of generosity. It is not a choice about whether it’s too much trouble or expensive, or whether it will make us look good. It is just the thing we do for other people.