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( Dogen’s Instructions for the Cook – XXXII)

This world and life into which we find we were born is far from perfect, often difficult … yet how fortunate we are that this life is as it is … neither heaven nor hell (though we can help make it a little bit of each) … but a place to care, to practice, to live …


Ingeneral, the various stewards and prefects, including the cook, should maintaina joyful mind, [a motherly heart], and a great [and vast] mind whenever they performrituals or engage in work.

So-calledjoyful mind is the spirit of happiness. You should consider that if you wereborn in a heaven, you would be attached to pleasures without cease and wouldnot be able to arouse the thought of enlightenment. Practice would not befeasible. Even less would you be able to prepare meals as offerings to thethree jewels [Buddha, Dharma and Sangha]! Among the myriad dharmas, the mostrevered and precious are the three jewels. The most superior things are thethree 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 spaceoutside [worldly] things; pure and detached, the assembly of monks isbest." Now we have the good fortune to be born as human beings and toprepare the food that these three jewels receive and use. Is this not of greatkarmic significance? We should thus be very happy.

Again,you should consider that if you were born into the realms of hell, hungryghosts, animals, anti-gods, and the like, or born in circumstances where yousuffered from one of the eight difficulties [such as being born in a place ortime where the Dharma is not practiced or taught, being born without thefaculties that would allow us to practice or locked into the views of socialconventions], 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 thethree jewels. Relying on that painful physical form you would receive pain andbe bound in body and mind. Now, in this life, you have already prepared thosemeals. How happy a birth! How happy a body! It is the good karmic result ofkalpas vast and great. It is merit that cannot decay. When you prepare food andcook it you should do so with the aspiration of taking tens of thousands ofbirths and concentrating them into this one day, this one time, that you may beable 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 joyfulmind. Truly, even if one takes on the body of a wheel-turning holy king, if onedoes not prepare meals as offerings to the three jewels, in the end it has nobenefit. It is only of the nature of water, froth, bubbles, or flames.

From: Tenzo Kyokun - Instructions for the Cook by Eihei Dogen -

Translated by T. Griffith Foulk [with additions by Yasuda Joshu and Anzan Hoshin] 

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

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