Saturday, March 05, 2005

A Minnesota Potter, In Mashiko, Japan
Tenzo kyokun:
Instructions for the Tenzo
by Eihei Dogen
Translated by Yasuda Joshu roshi
and Anzan Hoshin sensei
(published in Cooking Zen, Great Matter Publications, 1996)
The text was copied from the White Wind Zen Community Website at

From ancient times communities of the practice of the Way of Awake Awareness have had six office holders who, as disciples of the Buddha, guide the activities of Awakening the community. Amongst these, the tenzo bears the responsibility of caring for the community's meals. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "The tenzo functions as the one who makes offerings with reverence to the monks."

Since ancient times this office has been held by realized monks who have the mind of the Way or by senior disciples who have roused the Way-seeking mind. This work requires exerting the Way. Those entrusted with this work but who lack the Way-seeking mind will only cause and endure hardship despite all their efforts. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "Putting the mind of the Way to work, serve carefully varied meals appropriate to each occasion and thus offer everyone to practice without hindrance."

In times past such great masters as Guishan Lingyu, Dongshan Shouchu, and others have served in this post. Although this is a matter of preparing and serving meals, the tenzo is not just "the cook."

When I was in Song China, during spare moments I enquired of many elder monks who had served in the various offices about their experience. Their words to me were from the bone and marrow of the Awakened Ancestors who, having attained the Way, have passed it through the ages. We should carefully study the Zen Monastic Standards to understand the responsibility of the tenzo and also carefully consider the words of these senior monks.

The cycle of one day and night begins following the noon meal. At this time the tenzo should go to the administrator and assistant administrator and procure the rice, vegetables, and other ingredients for the next day's morning and noon meals. Having received these things, you must care for them as you would the pupils of your own eyes. Thus Zen master Baoning Renyong said, "Care for the monastery's materials as if they were your eyes." The tenzo handles all food with respect, as if it were for the emperor; both cooked and uncooked food should be cared for in this way.

Following this all of the officers gather in the kitchen building in order to carefully consider the next days meals with regard to flavourings, vegetables to be used, and the kind of rice-gruel. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "In deciding the morning and noon meals, the amount of food and number of dishes, the tenzo should consult the other officers. The six officers are the administrator, assistant administrator, treasurer, disciplinarian, tenzo, and head caretaker. After the menu is decided post it on boards by the abbot's residence and the study hall." Following this the morning gruel may be prepared.

Do not just leave washing the rice or preparing the vegetables to others but use your own hands, your own eyes, your own sincerity. Do not fragment your attention but see what each moment calls for; if you take care of just one thing then you will be careless of the other. Do not miss the opportunity of offering even a single drop into the ocean of merit or a grain atop the mountain of the roots of beneficial activity.

The Zen Monastic Standards states, "If the six flavours are not in harmony and three virtues are lacking, then the tenzo is not truly serving the community."

Be careful of sand when you wash the rice, be careful of the rice when you throw out the sand. Take continuous care and the three virtues will be naturally complete and the six flavours harmonious.

Xuefeng once practiced as tenzo under Zen master Dongshan. Once when he was washing rice, Dongshan said, "Do you wash the sand away from the rice, or the rice away from the sand?"

Xuefeng said, "I wash them both away together?"

Dongshan said, "Then what will the community eat?"

Xuefeng overturned the washing bowl.

Dongshan said, "You should go and study with someone else. Soon."

Senior students, from ancient times, always practiced with the mind which finds the Way and so how can we of later generations not do the same? Those of old tell us, "For the tenzo, the mind which finds the Way actualizes itself through working with rolled up sleeves."

You yourself should examine the rice and sand so that rice is not thrown out with sand. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "In preparing the food, the tenzo is responsible for examining it to ensure that it is clean." Do not waste grains of rice when draining off the rinsing water. In olden times a cloth bag was used as a filter when draining the rinse water. When the rice is placed in the iron cooking pot, take care of it so that rats do not fall into it or idlers just hang around poking at it.

After cooking the vegetables for the morning meal and before preparing rice and soup for the noon meal bring together the rice pots and other utensils and make sure that everything is well-ordered and clean. Put whatever goes to a high place in a high place and whatever goes to a low place in a low place so that, high and low, everything settles in the place appropriate for it. Chopsticks for vegetables, ladles, and all other tools should be chosen with great care, cleaned thoroughly, and placed well.

After this, begin work on the coming day's meals. Remove any weevils, lentils, husks, sand, and pebbles carefully. While you are selecting the rice and vegetables, the tenzo's assistants should chant the sutras to the shining being of the hearth. When preparing the vegetables or ingredients for the soup which have been received from the office do not disparage the quantity or quality but instead handle everything with great care. Do not despair or complain about the quantity of the materials. Throughout the day and night, practice the coming and going of things as arising in the mind, the mind turning and displaying itself as things.

Put together the ingredients for the morning meal before midnight and begin cooking after midnight. After the morning meal, clean the rice cooking pots and soup pots for the noon meal. The tenzo should always be present at the sink when the rice is being soaked and the water measured. Watching with clear eyes, ensure that not a single grain is wasted. Washing it well, place it in the pots, make a fire, and boil it. An old teacher said, "Regard the cooking pot as your own head, the water your own life-blood." Place the cooked rice in bamboo baskets in summer and wooden serving buckets in winter and set these out on trays. While the rice is boiling, cook the soup and vegetables.

The tenzo supervises this personally. This is true whether the tenzo works alone or has assistants to tend the fire or prepare the utensils. Recently, Zen monasteries have developed positions such as rice-cook and soup-cook who work under the tenzo. The tenzo is always responsible for whatever is done. In olden times the tenzo did everything without any assistance.

In preparing food never view it from the perspective of usual mind or on the basis of feeling-tones. Taking up a blade of grass erect magnificent monasteries, turn the Wheel of Reality within a grain of dust. If you only have wild grasses with which to make a broth, do not disdain them. If you have ingredients for a creamy soup do not be delighted. Where there is no attachment, there can be no aversion. Do not be careless with poor ingredients and do not depend on fine ingredients to do your work for you but work with everything with the same sincerity. If you do not do so then it is like changing your behaviour according to the status of the person you meet; this is not how a student of the Way is.

Strengthen your resolve and work whole-heartedly to surpass the monks of old and be even more thorough than those who have come before you. Do this by trying to make as fine a soup for a few cents as the ancients could make a coarse broth for the same amount.

The difficulty is that present and the past are separated by a gulf as great as between sky and earth and no one now can be compared to those of ancient times. However, through complete practice of seeing the nature of things you will be able to find a way. If this isn't clear to you it is because your thoughts speed about like a wild horse and feeling-tones careen about like a monkey in the trees. Let the monkey and horse step back and be seen clearly and the gap is closed naturally. In this way, turn things while being turned by them. Clarify and harmonize your life without losing the single Eye which sees the context or the two eyes which recognize the details.

Taking up a vegetable leaf manifests the Buddha's sixteen-foot golden body; take up the sixteen-foot golden body and display it as a vegetable leaf. This is the power of functioning freely as the awakening activity which benefits all beings.

Having prepared the food, put everything where it belongs. Do not miss any detail. When the drum sounds or the bells are struck, follow the assembly for morning zazen and in the evening go to the master's quarters to receive teachings. When you return to the kitchen, count the number of monks present in the Monks' Hall; try closing your eyes. Don't forget about the senior monks and retired elders in their own quarters or those who are sick. Take into account any new arrivals in the entry hall or anyone who is on leave. Don't forget anyone. If you have any questions consult the officers, the heads of the various halls, or the head monk.

When this is done, calculate just how much food to prepare: for each grain of rice needed, supply one grain. One portion can be divided into two halves, or into thirds or fourths. If two people tend to each want a half-serving, then count this as the quantity for a single full serving. You must know the difference that adding or subtracting one serving would make to the whole.

If the assembly eats one grain of rice from Luling, the tenzo is the monk Guishan. In serving a grain of that rice, the tenzo sees the assembly become the ox. The ox swallows Guishan. Guishan herds the ox.

Are your measurements right or are they off? Have those you consulted been correct in their counting? Review this as best as you can and then direct the kitchen accordingly. This practice of effort after effort, day after day, should not be forgotten.

When a patron visits the monastery and makes a donation for the noon meal, discuss this with the other officers. This is the tradition of Zen monasteries. Other offerings to be distributed should also be discussed with the other officers. In this way, the responsibilities of others are not disrupted nor your own neglected.

When the meal is ready and set out on trays, at noon and morning put on the wrap robe, spread your bowing mat, offer incense and do nine great bows in the direction of the Monks' Hall. When this is done, send out the food.

Day and night, the work for preparing the meals must be done without wasting a moment. If you do this and everything that you do whole-heartedly, this nourishes the seeds of Awakening and brings ease and joy to the practice of the community.

Although the Buddha's Teachings have been heard for a long time in Japan, I have never heard of any one speaking or writing about how food should be prepared within the monastic community as an expression of the Teachings, let alone such details as offering nine bows before sending forth the food. As a consequence, we Japanese have taken no more consideration of how food should be prepared in a monastic context than have birds or animals. This is cause for regret, especially since there is no reason for this to be so.

When I was staying at Tiantong-jingde-si, a monk named Lu from Qingyuan fu held the post of tenzo. Once, following the noon meal I was walking along the eastern covered walkway towards a sub-temple called Chaoran Hut when I came upon him in front of the Buddha Hall drying mushrooms in the sun. He had a bamboo stick in his hand and no hat covering his head. The heat of the sun was blazing on the paving stones. It looked very painful; his back was bent like a bow and his eyebrows were as white as the feathers of a crane. I went up to the tenzo and asked, "How long have you been a monk?"

"Sixty-eight years," he said.

"Why don't you have an assistant do this for you?"

"Other people are not me."

"Venerable sir, I can see how you follow the Way through your work. But still, why do this now when the sun is so hot?"

"If not now, when?"

There was nothing else to say. As I continued on my way along the eastern corridor I was moved by how important the work of the tenzo is.

In May of 1223 I was staying aboard the ship at Qingyuan. Once I was speaking with the captain when a monk about sixty years of age came aboard to buy mushrooms from the ships Japanese merchants. I asked him to have tea with me and asked where he was from. He was the tenzo from Ayuwang shan.

He said, "I come from Xishu but it is now forty years since I've left there and I am now sixty-one. I have practiced in several monasteries. When the Venerable Daoquan became abbot at Guyun temple of Ayuwang I went there but just idled the time away, not knowing what I was doing. Fortunately, I was appointed tenzo last year when the summer Training Period ended. Tomorrow is May 5th but I don't have anything special offerings for the monks so I thought I'd make a nice noodle soup for them. We didn't have any mushrooms so I came here to give the monks something from the ten directions."

"When did you leave Ayuwangshan?" I asked.

"After the noon meal."

"How far is it from here?"

"Around twelve miles."

"When are you going back to the monastery?'

"As soon as I've bought the mushrooms."

I said, "As we have had the unexpected opportunity to meet and talk like this today, I would like you to stay a while longer and allow me to offer Zen master tenzo a meal."

"Oh, I'm sorry, but I just can't. If I am not there to prepare tomorrow's meal it won't go well."

"But surely someone else in the monastery knows how to cook? If you're not there it can't make that much difference to everyone."

"I have been given this responsibility in my old age and it is this old man's practice. How can I leave to others what I should do myself? As well, when I left I didn't ask for permission to be gone overnight."

"Venerable sir, why put yourself to the difficulty of working as a cook in your old age? Why not just do zazen and study the koan of the ancient masters?"

The tenzo laughed for a long time and then he said, "My foreign friend, it seems you don't really understand practice or the words of the ancients."

Hearing this elder monk's words I felt ashamed and surprised. I asked, "What is practice? What are words?"

The tenzo said, "Keep asking and penetrate this question and then you will be someone who understands."

But I didn't know what he was talking about and so the tenzo said, "If you don't understand then come and see me at Ayuwang shan some time. We'll talk about the meaning of words." Having said this, he stood up and said, "It'll be getting dark soon. I'd best hurry." And he left.

In July of the same year I was staying at Tiantong shan when the tenzo of Ayuwang shan came to see me and said, "After the summer Training Period is over I'm going to retire as tenzo and go back to my native region. I heard from a fellow monk that you were here and so I came to see how you were making out."

I was overjoyed. I served him tea as we sat down to talk. When I brought up our discussion on the ship about words and practice, the tenzo said, "If you want to understand words you must look into what words are. If you want to practice, you must understand what practice is."

I asked, "What are words?"

The tenzo said, "One, two, three, four, five."

I asked again, "What is practice?"

"Everywhere, nothing is hidden."

We talked about many other things but I won't go into that now. Suffice it to say that without this tenzo's kind help I would not have had any understanding of words or of practice. When I told my late teacher Myozen about this he was very pleased.

Later I found a verse that Xuedou wrote for a disciple:

"One, seven, three, five.
What you search for cannot be grasped.
As the night deepens,
the moon brightens over the ocean.
The black dragon's jewel
is found in every wave.
Looking for the moon,
it is here in this wave
and the next."

What the tenzo said is expressed here in Xuedou's verse as well. Then it was even clearer to me that the tenzo was truly a person of the Way.

Before I knew one, two three, four, five; now I know six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Monks, you and those to follow must understand practice and words through this and from that. Exert yourself in this way and you will practice the single true taste of Zen beyond words, undivided into the poisonous five flavours. Then you will be able to prepare food for the monastic community properly.

There are many old stories we can hear and present examples of monks training as tenzo. A great many teachings concern this because it is the heart of the Way.

Even if you become the Abbot of a monastery, you should have this same understanding. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "Prepare each meal with each detail kept clear so that there will be enough. Make sure that the four offerings of food, clothing, bedding, and medicine are adequate just as the Generous One offered to his disciples the merit of twenty years of his lifetime. We ourselves live today within the light of that gift because the energy of even a white hair between his brows is inexhaustible." It also says, "Just think about how to best serve the assembly without being hindered by thoughts of poverty. If your mind is limitless, you enjoy limitlessness." This is how the abbot serves the assembly.

In preparing food, it is essential to be sincere and to respect each ingredient irregardless of how coarse or fine it is. There is the example of the old woman who gained great merit through offering water in which she had rinsed rice to the Thus Come. And of King Ashoka creating roots of wholesomeness through offering half a mango to a monastery as he lay dying. As a result of this he realized the deathless in his next life. Even the grandest offering to the Buddha, if insincere, is worth less than the smallest sincere offering in bringing about a connection with awakening. This is how human beings should conduct themselves.

A rich buttery soup is not better as such than a broth of wild herbs. In handling and preparing wild herbs, do so as you would the ingredients for a rich feast, wholeheartedly, sincerely, clearly. When you serve the monastic assembly, they and you should taste only the flavour of the Ocean of Reality, the Ocean of unobscured Awake Awareness, not whether or not the soup is creamy or made only of wild herbs. In nourishing the seeds of living in the Way rich food and wild grass are not separate. There is the old saying, "The mouth of a monk is like a furnace." Bear this in mind. Wild grasses can nourish the seeds of Buddha and bring forth the buds of the Way. Do not regard them lightly. A teacher must be able to use a blade of wild grass to benefit humans and shining beings.

Do not discriminate between the faults or virtues of the monks or whether they are senior or junior. You do not even know where you stand, so how can you put others into categories. Judging others from within the boundaries of your own opinions, how could you be anything other than wrong? Although there are differences between seniors and juniors, all are equally members of the assembly. Those who had many faults yesterday may be correct and clear today. Who can judge "sacred" from "common." The Zen Monastic Standards states, "Whether foolish or wise, the fact that one trains as a monk provides for others a gift that penetrates everywhere."

If you stand beyond opinions of right and wrong, you bring forth the practice of actualizing unsurpassable Awakening. If you do not, you take a wrong step and miss what's there. The bones and marrow of the ancients was just the exertion of such practice and those monks who train as tenzo in the future realize the bones and marrow of the Way only through just such exertion. The monastic rules set forth by great master Baizhang must always be maintained.

After I returned to Japan I stayed at Kennin-ji for around two years. They had the office of tenzo there but it was only nominal because no one actually carried out the real activity of this training post. They did not understand it as the activity of Awake Awareness so how could they have been able to use it to express the Way? Truly, it was very sad. The tenzo there had never encountered a living one who could use the office of tenzo as the functioning of Awake Awareness and so he carelessly idled away, breaking the standards of practice.

I watched the tenzo there quite closely. He never actually worked at preparing the morning and evening meals but just ordered about some rough servants, lacking in intelligence and heart, leaving to them all the tasks whether important or not. He never checked on whether they were working well or not, as if it would be shameful to do so like peeping into the private quarters of a neighbouring woman. He just hung about in his own rooms, reading sutras or chanting when he wasn't lying down or chatting. Months would go by before he would even come close to a pot, let alone buy utensils or make out a menu. He did not understand that these activities are the exertion of Awareness. The practice of donning the wrap robe and offering nine bows before sending out the food was something he would never have even dreamed of; it just wouldn't have occurred to him. As he himself did not understand the office of tenzo, when it came time for him to teach a novice how to carry out the office what understanding could be passed on? It was very regrettable. Although one might have the fortune to hold this post, if one is without the mind which uncovers the Way and fails to meet with one who has the virtue of the Way, it is like returning empty-handed after climbing a mountain of treasure or entering an ocean of jewels.

Although you might not have the mind which uncovers the Way, if you meet one manifesting the True Person you can then practice and unfold the Way. Or, even if you cannot meet with one who is the display of the True Person, by yourself deeply arousing the seeking for the Way, you can begin the Way. If you lack both of these, what is the point?

In the many monasteries of the mountains of Song China that I have seen, the monks holding the various offices train in these posts for a year at a time, each of them in each moment practicing by three standards. Firstly, to benefit others benefits yourself. Second, make every effort to maintain and renew the monastic environment. Third, follow the standards set forth by the examples of excellent practitioners of past and present and come to stand with them.

You should understand that foolish people hold their practice as if it belonged to someone else, wise people practice with everyone as themselves.

An ancient teacher said,

"Two-thirds of your life has passed
without clarifying who you are.
Eating your life,
muddling about in this and that,
you don't even turn when called on.

From this verse we can see that if you have not met a true teacher, you will just follow the lead of your tendencies. And this is pathetic. It's like the story of the foolish son who leaves his parent's home with the family treasure and then throws it away on a dung heap. Do not waste your opportunity as that man did.

Considering those who in the past made good use of their training as tenzo, we can see that their virtues were equal to those of their office. The great Daigu woke up while training as tenzo and Dongshan Shouchou's "Three pounds of flax," occurred while he was tenzo. The only thing of value is the realization of the Way, the only time that is precious is each moment of realizing the Way.

Examples of those who long for the Way are many. There is the story of a child offering the Buddha a handful of sand as a great treasure. Another is of someone who made images of the Buddha and had reverence for them and thus had great benefit follow them. How much more benefit must there be in fulfilling the office of tenzo through actualizing its possibilities as have those excellent ones who have practiced before us?

When we train in any of the offices of the monastery we should do so with a joyful heart, a motherly heart, a vast heart. A "joyful heart" rejoices and recognizes meaning. You should consider that were you to be born in the realm of the shining beings you would be absorbed in indulgence with the qualities of that realm so that you would not rouse the recognition of uncovering the Way and so have no opportunity to practice. And so how could you use cooking as an offering to the Three Jewels? Nothing is more excellent than the Three Jewels of the Buddha, the Teachings, and the Community of those who practice and realize the Way. Neither being the king of gods nor a world ruler can even compare with the Three Jewels.

The Zen Monastic Standards states, "The monastic community is the most excellent of all things because those who live thus live beyond the narrowness of social fabrications." Not only do we have the fortune of being born as human beings but also of being able to cook meals to be offered to the Three Jewels. We should rejoice and be grateful for this.

We can also reflect on how our lives would be were we to have been born in the realms of hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, or jealous gods. How difficult our lives would be in those four situations or if we had been born in any of the eight adverse conditions. We would not then be able to practice together with the strength of a monastic community even should it occur to us to aspire to it, let alone be able to offer food to the Three Jewels with our own hands. Instead our bodies and minds would be bound within the limits of those circumstances, merely vessels of contraction.

This life we live is a life of rejoicing, this body a body of joy which can be used to present offerings to the Three Jewels. It arises through the merits of eons and using it thus its merit extends endlessly. I hope that you will work and cook in this way, using this body which is the fruition of thousands of lifetimes and births to create limitless benefit for numberless beings. To understand this opportunity is a joyous heart because even if you had been born a ruler of the world the merit of your actions would merely disperse like foam, like sparks.

A "motherly heart" is a heart which maintains the Three Jewels as a parent cares for a child. A parent raises a child with deep love, regardless of poverty or difficulties. Their hearts cannot be understood by another; only a parent can understand it. A parent protects their child from heat or cold before worrying about whether they themselves are hot or cold. This kind of care can only be understood by those who have given rise to it and realized only by those who practice it. This, brought to its fullest, is how you must care for water and rice, as though they were your own children.

The Great Master Shakyamuni offered to us the final twenty years of his own lifetime to protect us through these days of decline. What is this other than the exertion of this "parental heart"? The Thus Come One did not do this hoping to get something out of it but sheerly out of munificence.

"Vast heart" is like a great expanse of ocean or a towering mountain. It views everything from the most inclusive and broadest perspective. This vast heart does not regard a gram as too light nor five kilos as too heavy. It does not follow the sounds of spring or try to nest in a spring garden; it does not darken with the colours of autumn. See the changes of the seasons as all one movement, understand light and heavy in relation to each other within a view which includes both. When you write or study the character "vast," this is how you should understand its meaning.

If the tenzo at Jiashan had not thus studied the word "vast," he could not have woken up Elder Fu by laughing at him. If Zen master Guishan had not understand the word "vast," he would not have blown on dead firewood three times. If the monk Dongshan had not understood the word "vast," he could not have taught the monk through his expression, "Three pounds of flax."

All of these and other great masters through the ages have studied the meaning of "vast" or "great" not only though the word for it but through all of the events and activities of their lives. Thus they lived as a great shout of freedom through presenting the Great Matter, penetrating the Great Question, training great disciples and in this way bringing it all forth to us.

The abbot, senior officers and staff, and all monks should always maintain these three hearts or understandings.

Written in the spring of 1237 for those of coming generations
who will practice the Way by Dogen, abbot of Kosho-(Horin-)ji.

Tenzo Kyôkun
Instructions for the Cook
by Eihei Dôgen
Translated by Griffith Foulk

Buddhist monasteries have, in principle, six stewards. All are disciples of Buddha and all carry out the work of Buddha. Among them is the officer known as the cook, who is in charge of preparing meals for the assembly of monks. The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries (Chanyuan qinggui) says, "In order to offer nourishment to the monks of the community, there is a cook."1 From ancient times, the position has been assigned to senior monks who have the way-seeking mind -- eminent persons who have aroused the thought of awakening.

In general, the job of cook is an all-consuming pursuit of the way. If one lacks the way-seeking mind, it will be nothing but a vain struggle and hardship, without benefit in the end. The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries says, "One should maintain a way-seeking mind, make adjustments in accord with the occasion, and see to it that the great assemby receives what is necessary and is at ease."2 In days of yore, monks such as Guishan and Dongshan performed this job, and various other great ancestral teachers did too at some point in their careers.3 Thus, it is surely not the same as the work of worldy cooks, imperial cooks, and the like.

When this mountain monk [I, Dôgen] was in Song China, on my days off I inquired of retired elderly monks who had held minor and important offices, and they shared something of their views with me. Their explanations are the bones and marrow bequeathed by the buddhas and ancestors who were possessed of the way in ancient times. As a rule, one should carefully read the Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries. After that, one should pay heed to the detailed explanations of those retired senior officers.

The duties of the cook over the course of a single day and night [are as follows].

First, following the midday meal, go to the offices of the prior and comptroller and get the ingredients for the next day's meals: rice, vegetables, and so on. Having received them, protect and be frugal with them, as if they were your own eyes. Chan Master Yong of Baoning [Monastery] said, "Protect and be frugal with monastery property, which is [like] your own eyes."4 Respect and value them as if they were ingredients for an imperial repast. These cautions apply to fresh and cooked things alike.

Next, the various stewards consult in the store hall about what seasonings should be used on the following day, what vegetables should be eaten, how the rice gruel should be prepared, and so on. The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries says, "When deciding about ingredients as well as the flavors and numbers [of side dishes] for meals, first consult with the stewards in the store offices." The stewards referred to here are the prior, comptroller, assistant comptroller, rector, cook, and labor steward.5 When the flavors and numbers have been decided, write them on the announcement boards in the abbot's quarters, common quarters, and elswehere.

After that, ready the next morning's rice gruel. When washing rice, preparing vegetables, and so on, do so with your own hands, with close attention, vigorous exertion, and a sincere mind. Do not indulge in a single moment of carelessness or laziness. Do not allow attentiveness to one thing result in overlooking another. Do not yield a single drop in the ocean of merit; even a mountain of good karma can be augmented by a single particle of dust.

The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries says, "If the six flavors are not provided, then it cannot be said that the cook has served the assembly."6 When examining the rice, first check for sand; when examining the sand [sifted from the rice], first check for rice. If you pay careful attention to detail, watching when coming and watching when going, then your mind cannot be scattered, and [the food] will naturally be replete with the three virtues and endowed with the six flavors.

When Xuefeng resided at Dongshan [monastery], he served as cook. One day when he was sifting rice [master] Dongshan asked him, "Are you sifting the sand and removing the rice, or sifting the rice and removing the sand?" Xuefeng said, "Sand and rice are simultaneously removed." Dongshan asked, "What will the great assembly eat?" Xuefeng overturned the bowl. Dongshan said, "In the future you will go and be scrutinized by someone else."7

In the past, eminent men in possession of the way practiced in this way [as cooks], working energetically with their own hands. In this latter day, how can we who are so late getting started [in our practice] be negligent about this? The ancients said that cooks regard tying up their sleeves [for manual work] as the way-seeking mind. Lest there be any mistakes in the sifting out of rice and sand, you should examine it with your own hands. The Rules of Purity say, "When preparing meals, one should reflect intimately on one's own self; [the food] will then of itself be pure and refined."8

Keep the white water with which you have washed the rice; do not wastefully discard it. In ancient times they used a cloth bag to strain the white water and used it to boil the rice when making gruel. Having put [the rice] into the cooking pot, pay attention and guard it. Do not allow mice and the like to touch it by mistake, nor any covetous idlers to examine or touch it.

When cooking the vegetable side dishes for the morning gruel, also prepare the platters and tubs used for rice, soup, etc., as well as the various utensils and supplies that will be used for that day's midday meal. Wash them so that they are completely pure and clean, placing up high those that belong in high places and putting down low those that belong in low places. "High places are high and level; low places are low and level."9 Treat utensils such as tongs and ladles, and all other implements and ingredients, with equal respect; handle all things with sincerity, picking them up and putting them down with courtesy.

When you have finished, think about the ingredients for the next day's meals. First, pick over the rice. If there are any insects, green beans, hulls or pebbles, carefully pick them out. While picking over the rice and vegetables, the postulants should chant sutras and dedicate the merit to the kitchen god. Next, select the ingredients for the vegetables and soup and cook them. Do not argue with the store officers over the amount of ingredients you have received. Without worrying about their quality, simply make the best of what you have. It is prohibited to show your feelings or say anything about the amount of ingredients.

During the day and through the night, whether things come and dwell in your mind or your mind turns and dwells on things, put yourself on a par with them and diligently pursue the way. Prior to the third watch take stock of the next morning's tasks; after the third watch take charge of making the morning gruel. When that day's gruel is finished, wash the pots, steam the rice, and prepare the soup. When soaking the rice for the midday meal, the cook should not leave the vicinity of the sink. Keep a sharp eye on everything, so as not to waste even a single grain, and properly rinse out any foreign objects. Put the rice in the pots, light the fires, and steam it. Of old it was said, "When steaming rice, treat the pot as one's own head; when rinsing the rice, know that the water is one's own lifeblood." When the steaming is done, collect the rice in bamboo baskets or rice tubs and place it on the table. Preparation of vegetables, soup, and the like, should be done while the rice is being steamed.

The cook keeps careful watch over the area where the rice and soup are prepared, giving commands to the postulants, the servants, and the fire stokers, and instructing them in the handling of the various utensils. Nowadays, large monasteries have rice cooks and soup cooks, but those are nevertheless under the command of the cook. In the past there were no such rice or soup cooks, only the single officer, the cook himself.

When ordinarily preparing ingredients, do not regard them with ordinary [deluded] eyes, or think of them with ordinary emotions. "Lifting a single blade of grass builds a shrine;10 entering a single mote of dust turns the great wheel of the dharma."11 Even when, for example, one makes a soup of the crudest greens, one should not give rise to a mind that loathes it or takes its lightly; and even when one makes a soup of the finest cream, one should not give rise to a mind that feels glad and rejoices in it. If one is at the outset free from preferences, how could one have any aversions? Even when confronted with poor ingredients, there is no negligence whatsoever; even when faced with scanty ingredients, one exerts oneself. Do not change your mind in accordance with things. Whoever changes his mind in accordance with things, or revises his words to suit the person [he is speaking to], is not a man of the way.

With resolve and sincerity, one should aim to exceed the ancients in purity and surpass the former worthies in attentiveness. The way to put that aspiration into practice in one's own person is, for example, to take the same three coins that one's predecessors spent to make a soup of the crudest greens and use them to now to make a soup of the finest cream. This is difficult to do. Why is that? Because present and past are completely different, like the distance between heaven and earth. How could we ever be able to equal their stature? Nevertheless, when we work attentively, therein lies the principle that makes it possible to surpass our predecessors.

That you still do not grasp the certainty of this principle is because your thinking scatters, like wild horses, and your emotions run wild, like monkeys in a forest.12 If you can make those monkeys and horses, just once, take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward, then naturally you will be completely integrated. This is the means by which we, who are [ordinarily] set into motion by things, become able to set things into motion.

Harmonizing and purifying yourself in this manner, do not lose either the one eye [of transcendent wisdom] or the two eyes [of discriminating consciousness]. Lifting a single piece of vegetable, make [yourself into] a six-foot body [i.e. a buddha] and ask that six-foot body to prepare a single piece of vegetable. Those are [the cook's] spiritual penetrations and magical transformations, his buddha-work and benefiting of living beings.

Having prepared [everything] so that the preparations are finished, and cooked [everything] so that the cooking is done, look to "that side" and put things away on "this side".13 When the drum sounds or the bell rings, join the assembly [of monks in training] and attend the convocation [to hear the abbot's teachings]. "Morning and evening, seek and attend", without being remiss even once.14

When you return to your quarters, right away you should close your eyes and clearly envision the number of individual places in the [sangha] hall; the number of monks in the individual quarters of retired minor officers, retired senior officers, and the like; how many individual monks there are in the infirmary, geriatric quarters, temporary quarters, and so on; the number of wandering monks registered in the guest quarters; and the number of people in subtemples. After carefully calculating in this way, if you have the slightest uncertainty, ask the hall manager in question, or the quarters prefect, quarters chief, or quarters head seat of the various quarters and eliminate your doubts.

Now carefully calculate: for every grain of rice to be eaten, one grain must be supplied. If a single grain of rice is divided, then you will have two half-grains of rice. Three tenths, four tenths; one half, two halves. If you supply two half-grains of rice, you will make a single whole grain. Or, supply nine tenths and see how many tenths you still have; now take back nine tenths and see how many tenths are still there.

Getting to eat a single grain of Luling rice enables one to see the monk Guishan; getting to supply a single grain of Luling rice enables one to see the water buffalo [that Guishan will become]. The water buffalo eats the monk Guishan, and the monk Guishan feeds the buffalo.15 Is my measurement complete or not? Is your calculation complete or not? If you carefully inspect and exhaustively check [these matters], your understanding will dawn and become clear. Then, when an opportunity presents itself, say something; when you confront someone, speak. And, if you exert yourself in this way without deviation, day after day, then you will not be able to forget it, even temporarily.

When a patron comes into the monastery and donates money to hold a feast, the various the stewards should all be consulted; this is the precedent established in monasteries of old. With regard to the distribution of the merit-making donations, they also consult together. Do not create a disturbance in the hierarchy by infringing on anyone's authority.

When the midday meal or morning gruel has been properly prepared and placed on the table, the cook dons his kesa, spreads his sitting cloth, faces the sangha hall [where the monks eat], burns incense and makes nine prostrations. Upon finishing his prostrations, he sends the food [to the sangha hall].

Throughout the day, as you prepare the meals, do not pass the time in vain. If your preparations are true, then your movements and activities will naturally become the deeds of nurturing the womb of the sage. The way to put the great assembly at ease is to step back and transform yourself.

It has been a long time now since the name "buddha-dharma" came to be heard in our country, Japan. However, our predecessors did not record, and the former worthies did not teach, anything about the proper procedure for monks' meals, and they never even dreamed of the rite of making nine prostrations before the monks' meals. People in this country say that the way in which the monks eat and the way in which monasteries prepare food are just like the feeding methods of [domestic] birds and beasts. This is truly pathetic, truly deplorable. How could it be?

When this mountain monk [I, Dôgen] was at Tiantong Monastery, the position [of cook] was held by cook Yong, of the same province [as the monastery]. Once, after the midday meal I was passing through the east corridor on my way to the Chaoran room [where my teacher Myôzen was being nursed] when I saw the cook in front of the buddha hall airing mushrooms. He carried a bamboo staff in his hand, but had no hat on his head. The sun was hot, the ground tiles were hot, and sweat streamed over him as he worked diligently to dry the mushrooms. He was suffering a bit. With his backbone bent like a bow and his shaggy eyebrows, he resembled a crane.

I approached and asked the cook his dharma age. He said, "Sixty-eight years." I said, "Why do you not employ postulants or laborers?" He said, "They are not me." I said, "Venerable sir, your attitude is indeed proper, but the sun is so hot; why are you doing this [now]?" The cook said, "What time should I wait for?" I took my leave, but as I walked along the corridor, I began to realize how important an opportunity this position affords.

Again, in the fifth month of the sixteenth year of the Jiading era [1223], I was on the ship at Qingyuan. While I was talking with the Japanese captain, there was an old monk who arrived. He was about sixty years old. He came directly onto the ship and inquired of the Japanese passengers if he could buy Japanese mushrooms. I invited him to drink tea and asked where he was from. He was the cook of the monastery on Mount Ayuwang. He said, "I come from Sichuan, but I left my home village forty years ago. This year I am sixty-one years old. In the past I have trained in quite a few different monasteries. In recent years, I stayed for a while with Guyun. I was able to register at Yuwang [monastery], but for some time I felt out of place. At the end of the summer retreat last year, however, I was appointed cook of that monastery. Tomorrow is the fifth day [feast], but the entire menu does not yet include a single delicacy. I need to cook noodle soup, but still have no mushrooms, and thus have made a special trip here to try to buy mushrooms to offer to the monks of the ten directions.

I asked him, "What time did you leave there?" The cook replied, "After the midday meal." I inquired, "How long is the road from Yuwang to here?" He said, "Thirty-four or thirty-five li." I asked, "When will you return to the monastery?" He said, "If I can buy the mushrooms now, I will set off right after that." I said, "Today I did not expect to meet you and have a conversation on this ship. It is most fortunate, is it not, to form this karmic bond? Dôgen [I] will treat the cook Zen master [you] to a meal." The cook said, "It is impossible. If I do not oversee the preparations for tomorrow's meal offering, it will not turn out well." I said, "Are there not co-workers in the monastery who understand the meals? What will be deficient if only one officer, the cook, is not present?" The cook said, "I took up this position in my later years; it is this old man's pursuit of the way. How could I hand it over to others? Besides, when I came I did not ask to stay away overnight."

I again asked the cook: "You are venerable in years; why don't you sit in meditation to pursue the way or contemplate the words of the ancients? It is troublesome being cook; all you do is labor. What good is that?" The cook laughed and said, "My good man from a foreign country, you do not yet understand pursuit of the way and do not yet know about written words." When I heard him speak in this manner, I suddenly felt ashamed and taken aback. I asked him, "What are written words? What is the practice of the way?" The cook said, "If you do not slip up and pass by the place you ask about, how could you not be a man?" At the time, I did not understand. The cook said, "If you still don't understand, come to Yuwang Mountain at some other time, in the future. On that occasion we can discuss the principle of written words." Having spoken thus, the cook got up and said, "It is late in the day and I am in a hurry, so I am going back now."

In the seventh month of the same year, I registered at Tiantong [Monastery]. While I was there, that cook came to meet me and said, "At the end of the summer retreat I retired as cook and am now returning to my home village. I happened to hear a disciple say that you were here; how could I not come to meet you?"

I jumped for joy and was very grateful. In the ensuing conversation that I had with him I brought up the karmic conditions of written words and pursuit of the way that we had discussed previously on the ship. The cook said, "The study of written words is to understand the purpose of written words. Exertion in pursuit of the way requires an affirmation of the purpose of pursuing the way." I asked him, "What are written words?" The cook answered, "One, two, three, four, five." I also asked, "What is pursuit of the way?" He said, "In the whole world, it can never be hidden."

Although there was a great variety of other things that we discussed, I will not record them at this point. The little I know about written words and understand about pursuing the way is due to the great kindness of that cook. I told my late teacher Myôzen about the things that I have just related here, and he was very happy to hear of them.

Later I saw a verse that Xuedou wrote to instruct the monks:

One letter, seven letters, three letters, or five;
Investigating myriads of images, one reaches no basis.
In the depth of night, the moon sets into the dark sea;
Seeking the black dragon's pearl, one finds there are many.16

What that cook said some years before and what Xuedou expresses in this verse clearly coincide. More and more I understand that the cook was a true man of the way. But in the past what I saw of written words was one, two, three, four, five. Today what I see of written words is also six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

You disciples who come after me, thoroughly contemplate there in accordance with here and thoroughly contemplate here in accordance with there. If you make this kind of effort, you will be able to obtain in written words the Zen of a single flavor. If you are not like this, you will be subjected willy-nilly to the poison of the Zen of five flavors, and when it comes to arranging the monks' meals, you will not be able to do it skillfully.

I have heard of former cooks and witnessed present ones, with my eyes and with my ears. Concerning this position, there are written words and there are principles of behavior; truly, it can be called a central one! Even if one has the title of head of meals, one's mental attitude should still be the same as this. The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries says,

The preparation of gruel and rice for the two daily meals should be refined and plentiful. The provision of the four types of offerings must not admit to any lack or scarcity. The World-honored One bequeathed the blessings of twenty years to enfold his descendants.17 The merit of a single beam of white light [emitted from his forehead], when received and used [by his descendants] is never exhausted. Therefore, just know that in serving the assembly, there can be no fear of scarcity.18

If you do not have a mind that is limited, as a matter of course there will be no lack of blessings. After all, this is the mental attitude that the abbot has in providing for the assembly.

As for the [proper] attitude in preparing food offerings and handling ingredients, do not debate the fineness of things and do not debate their coarseness, but take as essential the profound arousal of a true mind and a respectful mind.

Have you not seen that a single bowl of starchy water, offered to Him of the Ten Names, naturally resulted in wondrous merit that carried an old woman through future births;19 and that half a crabapple fruit, given to a single monastery, enabled King Ashoka finally to establish his vast good karmic roots, gain a prediction, and bring about a great result?20 Although they create a karmic connection with the Buddha, [donations that are] large and vacuous are not the same as [ones that are] small and sincere. This is the practice of a [true] person.

What is regarded as the preparation of superb delicacies is not necessarily superior, nor is the preparation of a soup of the crudest greens necessarily inferior. When you select and serve up crude greens, if you do so with a true mind, a sincere mind, and a pure mind, then they will be comparable to superb delicacies. Why is that so? Because when one enters into the pure and vast oceanic assembly of the buddha dharma, superb delicacies are never seen and the flavor of crude greens does not exist: there is only the one taste of the great sea, and that is all. Moreover, when it comes to the matters of nurturing the sprouts of the way and nourishing the sacred embryo, superb delicacies and crude greens are as one; there is no duality. There is an old saying that a monk's mouth is like a stove.21 You must not fail to understand this. You should think that even crude greens can nourish the sacred embryo and nurture the sprouts of the way. Do not regard them as base; do not take them lightly. A teacher of humans and devas is able to regard crude greens as things that convert and benefit [beings].

Moreover, you should not concern yourself with the strengths and weaknesses of the monks of the assembly, or look upon them as being old or young. Even the self does not know the self's own weak points; how could others be aware of the weak points of others? How could it not be a mistake to take one's own deficiencies as the deficiencies of others?

Although there are differences in the appearance of seniors and juniors, and some have wisdom while others are foolish or dim, as members of the sangha they are the same. Moreover, something that was not true in the past may be true at present, so who can know which are sages and which are commoners? The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries says, "The sangha gathers together from throughout the ten directions, without distinguishing sages and commoners."22 If you have an aspiration that does not try to control all matters of right and wrong, is that not the way of practice that directly approaches supreme awakening? If you are confused about the step you have just taken, then you will slip up and pass by that which stares you in the face. The bones and marrow of the ancients consists entirely in the place where this kind of effort is made.23 Disciples in these later generations who hold the position of cook will also first attain [the bones and marrow] through this kind of effort. How could the rules of the high patriarch Baizhang be in vain?24

After I returned to Japan I took up residence in Kennin Monastery for several years. That monstery established the position of cook, but it was in name only; there was no one at all who actually carried it out. As yet unaware that this is the work of the Buddha, how pathetic was their pursuit and practice of the way! Truly it is pitiable that they, without meeting such a person, vainly passed their days and recklessly destroyed the way of practice. Once I observed that the monk who held the position of cook at that monastery did nothing at all to manage the two daily meals. He entrusted all matters large and small to a servant without a brain or human feelings, giving him only general instructions. He never ever went to see whether the work was done properly or not. He acted as if he was the wife of a neighboring house: if he went and saw the other, it would be an embarrassment or an injury. He ensconced himself in his office, sometimes reclining, sometimes chatting and laughing, sometimes reading sutras, and sometimes reciting prayers. For days on end and many months he did not approach the vicinity of the pots. How much less did he take stock of the utensils or pay attention to the flavors and numbers [of side dishes]. How could he possibly have done his job? Needless to say, he had never even dreamed of the two [daily] occasions for making nine prostrations. When the time came for instructing young postulants, he never knew what to do. How pitiable and how sad was that person who lacked the way-seeking mind. Not once did he come into contact with a companion who was possessed of the virtue of the way. Although he entered into the treasure mountain, he came away with empty hands. Although he reached the treasure ocean, he turned back with empty body. You should know that even if he never aroused the thought of enlightenment, if he had seen a single person who set a worthy example he would have attained that way in his practice. And even if he never saw a single person who set a worthy example, if his thought of enlightenment had been profound, he would have hit upon that way in his practice. But in actuality both were lacking, so there was no way for him to benefit.

As I observed in the various monasteries and temples of the Great Sung Nation, the monks who held the positions of stewards and prefects, although they only served for one year, each embodied the three ways of upholding [the buddha dharma]. During their time [in office] they made use of those [three ways], and in their vying for karmic connections they inspired those [three ways]. [1] Even as you benefit others, concurrently there are ample benefits for oneself. [2] Elevate the monastery pulpit and renew its high standing. [3] Standing shoulder to shoulder and competing head to head, follow in the footsteps of esteemed forerunners. You should have a detailed knowledge of these matters. There are fools who look upon themselves as if they were someone else, and there are wise people who regard others as themselves.

An ancient said,

Two-thirds of one's days having swiftly passed,
Not a single aspect of the spirit dais has been polished;
Craving life, day after day goes by in distress;
If one does not turn one's head when called, what can be done?

You should know that if you have not met a wise teacher, you are liable to be carried away by your emotions. How pitiable the foolish son who left behind the family fortune handed down to him by his prominent father and vainly labored in front of others handling garbage and excrement.25 At present, are we not liable to be like this?

When I observed accomplished people in the past who held the position of cook, their personal qualities were naturally in accord with their official roles. The Great Gui awakened to the way when he was a cook.26 Dongshan's [saying] "Three pounds of hemp" was also when he was a cook.27 If there is a matter that can be valued, you should value the matter of awakening to the way. If there is a time that can be valued, surely you should value the time of awakening to the way! The result of cherishing that matter and being addicted to the way is attested especially by the [story of] "grasping sand and making a jewel."28 We can often see the effect of making an image [of the Buddha] and worshipping [before it]. The position of cook is similar [in its karmic results], but even more so. Its name is the same [as in the past]. If the cook is someone who can transmit its character and its practice, how could its beauty and its fulfillment fail to appear?

In general, the various stewards and prefects, including the cook, should maintain a joyful mind, an elder's mind, and a great mind whenever they perform rituals or engage in work.

So-called joyful mind is the spirit of happiness. You should consider that if you were born in a heaven, you would be attached to pleasures without cease and would not be able to arouse the thought of enlightenment. Practice would not be feasible. Even less would you be able to prepare meals as offerings to the three jewels! Among the myriad dharmas, the most revered and precious are the three jewels. The most superior things are the three jewels. Indra cannot compare. A wheel-turning king does not equal them. The Rules of Purity says, "Revered by the world, it is an excellent space outside [worldly] things; pure and detached, the assembly of monks is best."29 Now we have the good fortune to be born as human beings and to prepare the food that these three jewels receive and use. Is this not of great karmic significance? We should thus be very happy.

Again, you should consider that if you were born into the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, anti-gods, and the like, or born in circumstances where you suffered from one of the eight difficulties, even if you sought to cover yourself in the power of the sangha, your hands would naturally be unable to prepare pure meals as offerings to the three jewels. Relying on that painful physical form you would receive pain and be bound in body and mind. Now, in this life, you have already prepared those meals. How happy a birth! How happy a body! It is the good karmic result of kalpas vast and great. It is merit that cannot decay. When you prepare food and cook it you should do so with the aspiration of taking tens of thousands of births and concentrating them into this one day, this one time, that you may be able to bind together in good karmic result the bodies of millions of [past] births. A mind that contemplates and understands things in this way is a joyful mind. Truly, even if one takes on the body of a wheel-turning holy king, if one does not prepare meals as offerings to the three jewels, in the end it has no benefit. It is only of the nature of water, froth, bubbles, or flames.

So-called elder's mind is the spirit of fathers and mothers. It is, for example, like a father and mother who dote on an only child: one's thoughts of the three jewels are like their concentration on that one child. Even if they are poor or desparate, they strongly love and nurture that single child. People who are outsiders cannot understand what their state of mind is like; they can only understand it when they themselves become fathers or mothers. Without regard for their own poverty or wealth, [parents] earnestly turn their thoughts toward raising their child. Without regard for whether they themselves are cold or hot, they shade the child or cover the child. We may regard this as affectionate thinking at its most intense. A person who arouses this spirit is fully conscious of it. A person who cultivates this spirit is one who truly awakens to it. Therefore, when [the cook] watches over water and watches over grain, in every case he should sustain the caring and warmth of child-rearing!

The great teacher Shakyamuni, moreover, apportioned twenty years of his lifespan as a buddha to assist us in this age of the end of the dharma. What was his intention? It was simply that he valued the spirit of fathers and mothers. A tathâgata is utterly incapable of seeking any reward or seeking any riches.

So-called great mind is, in its spirit, like a great mountain or a great sea: it has no partiality and no factionalism. Lifting an ounce, it does not consider it light; hefting a stone, it does not consider it heavy.30 Being drawn by the voices of spring, it does not wander into the swamp of spring. Although it sees the colors of autumn, it has nothing whatsoever of the spirit of autumn. It contrasts the four seasons against the backdrop of a single vista. It views pennyweights and ounces [of silver] within the context of a single system of measurement.31 As an emblem of this sameness, we can write the character "great". You should know the character "great". You should study the character "great". If the cook Jiashan had not studied the character "great", he would not have spontaneously laughed his single laugh and would not have saved Taiyuan.32 If Ch'an Master Guishan had not written the character "great", he could not have taken a stick of firewood and blown on it three times.33 If the Reverend Preceptor Dongshan had not known the character "great", he would not have been able to instruct the monk by raising "three pounds of hemp".34 You should know that the great teachers of old were alike in their study of the character "great" in connection with the diverse phenomena of this world. Now, too, there are those who freely make a great sound, expound the great meaning, complete the great matter, connect with great people, and accomplish karmic conditions of this one great matter. How could abbots, stewards, prefects, and monks in training entirely forget these three kinds of mind?!

Recorded in the spring of the third year of the Katei era [1237]
as instruction for accomplished practitioners of the way in the future.

Recorded by the dharma-transmitting monk Dôgen,
abbot of the Kannon Dôri Kôshô Hôrin Zen Monastery.