This story through the use of wit and humor emphasizes the importance of being present in the moment. This is a principle that is stressed repeatedly in many spiritual scriptures as well. The two excerpts below are from the book “Awakening” by Anthony de Mello.
When a guest volunteered to do the dishes after dinner, the master said, “Are you sure you know how to do dishes?” The man protested that he had done them all his life. Said the master, “Ah, I have no doubt of your ability to make dishes clean. I only doubt your ability to wash them.”
This is the explanation the master gave his disciples: “There are two ways to wash dishes: One is to wash them in order to make them clean; the other is to wash them in order to wash them.” That was still far from clear, so he added, “The first action is dead, because while your body does the dishes your mind is fixed on the goal of cleaning them; the second is alive, because your mind is where your body is.”
“Enlightenment,” said the master, “means knowing precisely where you are at any given moment—not an easy task at all!” And he told of a popular friend of his who was, even in his late eighties, invited to dozens of functions. Once he was spotted at a party and asked how many he was attending that night. “Six,” said the elderly gentleman, carefully examining his little notebook. “What are you doing? Seeing where you are to go next?” they asked him. “No,” said the dynamic fellow. “Finding out where I am now.”
Using his sharp wit the Master breaks down how even a supposedly small act like washing the dishes can become an object of meditation and teach us a bigger lesson in life.
The lesson of being completely absorbed in the task at hand with both our mind and body. When our mind and body are not aligned, i.e., our mind is focusing on the outcome or thinking ahead rather than being present in the moment along with our action, we might be doing the task half-heartedly. Thus, not understanding or enjoying it fully.
So, it is important for us to be present in the moment and not focus on the outcome of the task but the task itself. You can improve your ability to focus by reading our article [link]
- Book : “Awakening – Conversations with the Masters”, by Anthony de Mello