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Dogen How to Cook Your LifeIn Buddhism one of the major positions in the monastery is the person called the Tenzo.  The Tenzo is in charge of the food. Dogen in his book, How to Cook Your life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment, gave specific directions for those who would become the Tenzo.

He wrote this about the Tenzo: Use your way-seeking mind carefully to vary the menus from time to time and offer the great assembly ease and comfort (page 53).”[1] He goes on to say that the Tenzo is not the same as an ordinary cook or waiter.” Thus they are asked to “respect the food as though it were for the emperor (page 54).”[2]

When you are cooking for yourself or your family do you really focus on the task of cooking, on the food itself, how it is prepared, how it is handled?  Or do you simply throw something together as fast as you can, so it can be eaten quickly? Then you rush to clean up the dishes and pots and pans, so you can get to those “more important” things on your To-do List?

Dogen encourages us this way, “When you wash rice and prepare vegetables, you must do it with your own hands, and with your own eyes, making sincere effort. Do not be careful about one thing and careless about another (page 54).”[3]

To me this is such a beautiful way to see everything in life, not just the big things like the birth of a child, or graduation from college, or a great promotion at work.  It is the little everyday things that grow into a life filled with good memories.  My ideal life is filled with good friends, a happy family, a fulfilling job, two adorable little doggies, and a life lived with few regrets.  How about you?

Are you living one moment at a time mindful of your thoughts, actions, and deeds. Really being there, really being present in mind, body, and spirit.  Or is your mind wandering into the past or the future with thoughts of fear, anger, and pain?

Either way when your focus is off the task at hand your rice will be over cooked or underdone or tasteless because your focus and passion and love have gone elsewhere.  Or your anger and fear will have gone into the food.  Yes, it does go into the food and it gets burned through neglect or tossed with anger.  Which food would you prefer to eat? The one prepared with love and focused attention or the one prepared with anger and animus?  The choice, of course, is up to you…

[1]Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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Saturday three of my dear friends will be celebrating Jukai and I am so excited for them.  The word Jukai is translated as: “receiving [ju] the precepts [kai]. It is a time for them to receive and acknowledge the Buddhist precepts and officially become a Buddhist. In that moment they will be acknowledging the Buddha within them and in all things.

To live every moment as a Buddhist is not easy.  The ceremony gives them the time to focus on the choice that they are making and the ramifications of that choice in their lives.  In each moment we realize that we are one with all things and that our goal is to live the Buddhist principles regardless of the circumstances.  To live a life of peace, love, and compassion in the eternal now moment is our life’s goal.

In this ceremony one commits oneself to be devoted to The Three Pure Precepts:

  • A disciple of the Buddha vows to cease all evil deeds.
  • A disciple of the Buddha vows to cultivate goodness.
  • A disciple of the Buddha vows to act for the benefit of others.

And The Ten Grave Precepts:

  • A disciple of the Buddha does not kill
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not steal
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not misuse sexuality
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not lie
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not cloud the mind
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not speak of the faults of others
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not elevate the self and blame others
  • A disciple of the Buddha is not possessive of anything
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not harbor ill will
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not disparage the three treasures [Buddha, dharma, sangha]

Marge, Robin, and Steve your presence in our sangha has brought to us three beautiful lights of wonder and joy.  Your work on the tenzo team and the service team have brought such love, laughter, and life to our group–we all have been blessed by your presence. I am so glad you found us. Congratulations!

I leave you with these beautiful words from Issa…Dew drops on a lotus leaf(1)

Buddha Law,

   Shining

In a leaf dew.

 

~Kobayashi Issa

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Photo: Dew-Drops on a Lotus Leaf, Margo Richter, digital album cover

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