The True Meaning of Laziness

Posted in Spiritual Stories,Zen Buddhism by Anmol Mehta

What is Laziness?

Do you think you are a lazy person?  Do you think you are not a lazy person?  I think a better question is, do you know what the true meaning of laziness is?  I mean, until we know what the true meaning of laziness is, we can’t really decide if we are or are not lazy people.  So to reveal the true meaning of laziness let me tell you a story.

Zen Master Blumise was growing very old.  He had been the head abbot of No Wind Monastery for a very long time and was ready to anoint a successor.  Master Blumise decreed that the monk who he felt was least lazy, would take over as head abbot of No Wind Monastery.  Everyone knew that the real competition was only between Chin and Tara.  They both had immense character, were flush with noble qualities and were favorite students of Master Blumise.  The competition was on.

Chin pondered hard as to how he would demonstrate his non-lazy character to Master Blumise and finally came up with a huge list of items that needed to be done around the monastery grounds.  This he thought would be appripo.  There was much work to be done and, in accordance with the Zen teachings of physical labor, he would show Master Blumise just how devoted to work he could be.  Moreover, Chin knew that some of this work was very physical in nature and that Tara, being a lady of slight stature and build, would not be able to do it even if she decided to.  Feeling confident in his plan, he set out to execute it.

Chin began rebuilding the temple roof which had begun to decay.  Also, high up on the roof he knew he would be very visible to everyone in the grounds, especially Master Blumise.  As he toiled in the hot sun, he noticed Tara far away sitting by the river under a shaded tree.  He smiled and mentally awarded himself a point.  Early the next morning, Chin sprang out of bed and headed to the monastery kitchen, which he had decided to repaint.  Along the way he noticed Tara, awake, but still in bed.  “That’s 2 points for me,” he thought as his smile grew wider.

And so it went.  Chin pounding away making the monastery the 8th wonder of the world and Tara strolling along the river, hanging out in bed, drinking tea with her friends and watching the clouds roll by.  A week passed and then there was great excitement around the monastery.  Master Blumise had made his decision and all had been asked to convene in the newly built Great Meditation Hall.

“My most beloved students,” Master Blumise began, “First, I would like to say that we are renaming the Great Meditation Hall to Chin Meditation Hall, to show our collective appreciation to young Master Chin for rebuilding it so finely and also, for all the terrific work he has done around the monastery grounds.”  After the sound of one hand clapping settled down, Master Blumise continued, “Master Tara will take over as the head abbot as I am retiring and heading to Disney Land.”  All were pleased and applauded once more, except of course a confused Chin.

Later that day, Chin visited Master Blumise and inquired about why he had selected Tara as the least lazy student.  “Dearest Chin,” said Master Blumise with a soft, compassionate smile, “It was a no-brainer.  In the past week she has not let a single thought, emotion or action of hers go unnoticed.  She is equal to Shakyamuni Buddha himself in her awareness.  I bow to her greatness.”  Chin understood clearly and bowed as well in admiration and respect.

So there you have it.  A lazy person is one who is not aware of their thoughts, emotions and actions – that’s it.  One who is aware of their thoughts as they occur, the feelings that pass through them and the actions they take, are the ones who are not lazy.  So, one can be very active and still be very lazy, or one can be not active at all, but be very diligent.  It is simply about being mindful and finely tuned in to the present moment.

Now I think you are better prepared to answer the question.  I also like very much to bow to the greatness of others and I hope you will extend me this opportunity in the near future.


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18 Responses to “The True Meaning of Laziness”

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  1. 18
    Geroy Davis Says:

    If I think that enlightenment is something that I need to work for, ( although I have read that it is something that I need only to realize) , then if am not observing mental, emotional, and physical bodies in action during my everyday activities, then I am indeed lazy towards my own enlightenment ; I am inwardly lazy, in a mode of tamas.

  2. 17
    Kamil Says:

    Hello Anmol,

    Thanks for your article, I really appreciate it. I now understood the meaning of laziness especially that I know how hard to keep watch or keep track to one’s thoughts. Thank you again and now I’m at peace. :)

  3. 16
    Paul Says:

    HI, thanks for sharing this story.
    It is not clear to me how Master Blumise decided that Chin did not have the correct “attitude” while repairing the roof (which needed to be fixed) and how he decided that Tara was focused during the week.
    Kind regards,

  4. 15
    Trupti Mehta Says:

    There you have it Candy,

    Your Son is probably just being aware of what he needs to do and what he has to do…..he may as well be viewing each thought as a beautiful painting and witnessing it as is… who knows :-)

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. 14
    Tod Says:

    I think ‘lazy’ is a term of abuse, uttered by a resentful person who is who is still labouring under an externally imposed burden of ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’. They don’t know it, but they are still in ‘slave’ mode, and they can’t believe there is any alternative.
    If someone calls you lazy, beware. They are trying to force you into their prison (aka Protestant Work Ethic). They want you to conform, as they think they have to.
    If you feel tempted to label someone else as lazy, stop. Try to see their situation in terms of their internal motivations and demotivations (usually fears).

  6. 13
    Candy Says:

    I loved this story because it made me think of my son and his father. Dad is always telling his son how lazy he is, but my son just does no physical labor like his father. My son sits in contemplation and is wanting to be an artist.

  7. 12
    5 Major Obstacles to God Realization & Spiritual Enlightenment Says:

    [...] For more on this topic, here is an interesting read on how Zen views laziness: The True Meaning of Laziness. [...]

  8. 11
    Spiritual Short Story - The Library of God Says:

    [...] I cannot emphasize enough that the book you must read in this life is your own mind.  In fact for enlightenment, it is the only book you really need to pay attention to.  As Osho puts it, "My meditation is a method of being aware – of what ever you are doing, thinking, feeling.  On all three layers you have to become aware."  So today decide you are going to watch carefully everything that you think, feel and do.  Today, decide that you are not going to miss.  Today decide that you are not going to be lazy and make the effort required to stay vigilant (read: True Meaning of Laziness).  Today you will watch each and every thought. [...]

  9. 10
    Anmol Mehta Says:

    Hi Bigstarideas,

    Thanks for stopping by and glad you are enjoying the blog.


  10. 9
    bigstarideas Says:

    Great story told very well. Sometimes I feel like I’m going through life like Chin, and I see others who have this aura of awareness around them – inaction speaks so well sometimes.


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