What is Zen? A clean plate

Acharya Prashant
6 min readSep 13, 2020

Following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered this monastery. I beg you to teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”

The monk replied, “I have.”

“Then,” said Joshu, “Go and wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Nothing except this is needed. Go and clean your plate, go and wash your utensils. Go and clean the dishes, that’s all is needed. What else is Zen? A clean slate. What else is Zen? A clean plate. You must be totally done with it. If you are done with eating, why is your plate still carrying food? Even if it is traces of food. You must be totally done with it. That complete closure is Zen.

We live lives of continuity where the past keeps carrying itself forward. Zen, is a total dissociation, every moment. Every moment is complete in itself, leaves no residue behind. I have no obsession with the past because the past is, complete and closed. I have nothing to give to the future because right now, I have no fear. I am not living in incompleteness. There is nothing that would get rolled over to the future.

A dirty plate is a dirty mind. It is carrying traces. It is carrying stuff from somewhere else. Go clean the plate. And since this happens to be the one and only thing, hence it is more surprise that the monk gets instantly enlightened. After all, what remains after this? If your plate is clean, if your mind is clean, what is left to be done? What is left to be done?

But this is one thing that is so straight-forward and yet does not happen. Filling up the plate is so easy, emptying the plate is so difficult. Fifteen readings, wonderful! I’ll have a good time. My already overloaded mind would get further overloaded! So I feel attracted, enthused, fifteen readings, nice! But the moment, the teacher strikes, and content in your mind starts getting off-loaded, you shiver and try to run away. Gathering knowledge is so pleasant, right? It makes the ego feel bloated, inflated and bigger…

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