Why you have two eyes

During formal meals at retreat, students help to serve rice, soup, side dishes, and “clear” water. This is a great practice for everyone because everyone has to keep a clear mind. Those who are serving need to be clear about the serving order. Those who receive food have to be clear about which bowls they are using because each bowl holds a different kind of food.

After the meal, we wash our bowls with hot tea, dry them with a white cloth, and wrap them neatly with a brown cloth. To conclude the formal meal, one by one we put out our bowls, carefully lining them up with the bowls of the Dharma friends in our row. Each row then forms a straight line with their bowls. This is such a wonderful practice.

There is a kong-an that asks why we have two eyes. Many students can easily give a correct answer after a few tries. Unfortunately many of us will treat the answer as a model answer and forget to apply the spirit of the kong-an, which is the actual attainment of the answer. Very often we are happy when we can give a correct answer. Once we leave the kong-an room we will go back to our old habits. Most of us feel that our practice only applies to the meditation cushion. Our everyday life has nothing to do with the practice.

Attaining “why we have two eyes” means we are able to observe and reflect the situation. At the same time our action can flow with harmony accordingly. This seeing is not about checking ourselves or others but how we use our two eyes to make harmony with everyone. When you are on a bus and you “see” an older person, a pregnant lady, or a handicapped person, you give your seat to them. When you see that someone is about to fall, you try to help them. When you see some desirable products that you do not need, you look at them and walk away. When you are writing a cheque, you pay attention to what you are writing on the cheque. When you are at the airport, you watch out for the boarding time. In this way you are attaining “why you have two eyes”.

This is how we use our kong-an practice in our everyday life to make a clear life and help each other.