Zen and the Art of Car Maintenance


Attain inner knowledge through Swarfega

During my Buddhist training high in the Himalayas, we students would attempt to achieve enlightenment through meditation exercises, such as staring into puddles of water or sitting in the snow for hours on end dressed in nothing but a loincloth.

For years I practised these techniques until the day finally arrived when I was allowed to glimpse the ultimate attainment of self-realisation – Zen through the art of car maintenance.

My teacher would begin by changing the spark plugs on his old Austin Allegro, then move on to stripping the carburettor and finally replacing the cylinder head gasket, and all without using tools. Not a spanner, not a socket, not even a can of WD-40 for loosening those particularly stubborn nuts.

All I needed to know about life could be crystallised from what I learned with a tub of grease in one hand and a tin of Swarfega in the other and I shall attempt to enlighten you with a few simple lessons that routine car maintenance can teach you.

  1. The next time you pull up at the petrol pump, consider this – the destination we seek is not in the far distance, or in the future. It is in this very place and moment of our existence. We cannot travel until we learn to be still and tranquil in the now. Return to your car seat and meditate on this for several hours, or until the honking of angry, queueing motorists wakes you up.
  2. The blind man can see the horizon clearly because his view is not hampered by haze or fog or the setting sun. So let your washer bottle remain empty and your windscreen cloudy so that you may achieve perfect vision.
  3. The breath of life is within us and all around us – we take what we need to keep our heart beating and no more. Learn from this and let tyres find their own air pressure. If they are running low, it is because they wish to be closer to the earth from which we all spring.
  4. We can have no concept of where we are going without clear sight of where we have been. So remember, it’s ‘mirror, signal, contemplate’.

Finally, something to ponder: If a car alarm goes off in the middle of the night and the owner doesn’t hear it, does it make a sound?

The blessings of Zen and Haynes Manuals to you and remember, the zen garage of the holographic universe is your master mechanic within.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

8 comments… Add yours
  • Greasemonkey Pudding 13th April 2012

    Who’d have thought that the mundaneness of car maintenance could be lifted into a fascinating blogpost? You should give lectures to car mechanics so that they can also appreciate the spiritual dimensions of their craft. I am sure you would be warmly received.

  • Jennyta 13th April 2012

    Does this work for auto-locksmiths’ vans too, SP? If so, I will definitely recommend it to Keith.

  • Mr Parrot 13th April 2012

    Ah Jenny, he who has lost the keys to his car has also lost the key to his inner-self. Zen teaches us to shake of the intellectual and dualist thinking of western culture and seek out the metaphorical wire hanger of the soul.

  • rhymeswithplague 13th April 2012

    If I sat in the snow for hours on end dressed in nothing but a loincloth, I would have particularly stubborn nuts too.

    Love the Zen thoughts. Here’s a favorite of mine that truly warms the wire hanger of my soul:

    The ox moves slowly, but the earth is patient.

  • Mr Parrot 13th April 2012

    Oh I do like that one Mr Plague. I shall steal at some point.

  • Abbot Pudding 13th April 2012

    You can steal this one too:- The parrot in the plague never squawks.

  • Mr Parrot 13th April 2012

    I was going to say that the proof of the pudding is in the tweeting, but you don’t, so I won’t.

  • rhymeswithplague 17th April 2012

    There is no parrot in this plague, figuratively or otherwise.


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