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In The Thirteenth Century, Zen Master Dogen Perhaps The Most Significant Of All Japanese Philosophers, And The Founder Of The Japanese Soto Zen Sect Wrote A Practical Manual Of Instructions For The Zen CookIn Drawing Parallels Between Preparing Meals For The Zen Monastery And Spiritual Training, He Reveals Far Than Simply The Rules And Manners Of The Zen Kitchen He Teaches Us How To Cook, Or Refine Our Lives In This Volume Kosho Uchiyama Roshi Undertakes The Task Of Elucidating Dogen S Text For The Benefit Of Modern Day Readers Of Zen Taken Together, His Translation And Commentary Truly Constitute A Cookbook For Life, One That Shows Us How To Live With An Unbiased Mind In The Midst Of Our Workaday World


10 thoughts on “How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment

  1. says:

    Instructions for the Zen Cook is probably Dogen s most famous writing it s a rather short text that was meant to be exactly what the title implies, a set of instructions for the cook of a Zen temple That position was actually very important in a temple s administration, and Dogen believed it entailed a lot of responsibilities that went beyond preparation of food This book is a translation of the original text, followed by commentaries on the essay by Rosho Uchiyama Roshi, a Japanese Zen monk.This is one of Dogen s most accessible texts, because unlike the Shobogenzo, it s not really ambiguous or contradictory, but really straightforward It s also applicable to pretty much every situation in life It can seem bizarre to think that a 800 years old book intended for a monastery cook can have so much relevance in modern life, but it actually does, and it s not that much of a mental stretch to see it The essence of this text is the importance of awareness and giving one s full attention to what needs to be done, regardless of circumstances those concepts are very relevant to modern life.Cooking happens to be something I love to do, and I remember looking at my pots, pans, knives and other implements with a very different eye after reading Instructions for the Zen Cook for the first time Once you understand that the focus, care and respect you give your tools and ingredients can be expanded to every other daily activity your partake in, it can really change the way you approach even the most mundane activity It makes me smile to think that a spatula can be a good instrument with which to teach the Dharma.I just love this book Even the translator s introduction was insightful and helpful And the commentary expands on ideas brought up in the essay, such as Parental Mind, the concept of the Self, discrimination of worldly values and the goal of practice giving the reader a deeper understanding of the many ways in which Dogen s essay can be a source of great teachings This is truly a classic, and an essential text for Zen Buddhists.


  2. says:

    I can think of very few activities that exemplify the spirit of zen as well as cooking It s a task so simple and yet so full of meaning I came to this book hoping for thoughts and insight regarding the zen of cooking, but unfortunately my expectations were a bit off target This book was written by Dogen Zenji over eight centuries ago specifically on the merits of the office of tenzo, or head of the kitchen, in a zen monestary Brad Warner speaks very reverently about Dogen s work, which was another reason that brought me to this book However, I was somewhat surprised to learn upon starting it that only the first chapter is written by Dogen, and the rest is commentary by Kosho Uchiyama with over a quarter of the book s pages as translator s notes Dogen s writing is indeed eloquent, and holds up well after all this time The commentary is interesting, but nothing terribly new for those familiar with Zen Buddhism The entire book is heavily colored by the monastic existence led by both Dogen and Kosho It doesn t render the book completely inaccessible to a lay person, but it does distance their perspective somewhat There was one line from Dogen, however, that made the book worth reading in itself It s like a lifetime of zen practice wrapped into one sentence A fool sees himself as another, but a wise man sees others as himself


  3. says:

    We need to learn what it means to emerge from a life which is confused, incomplete,and carelessly haphazard, a life based on compromise, on always fooling ourselves and others about who we are, about how we live we need to learn what it means to settle naturally into our lives A 13th century Buddhist monk gives advice that transcends time.Translated in 1982.Philosophical search for the meaning of life.


  4. says:

    Jet engines roar.Air conditioners hum.Waving band of sunlightOpens the mind to embraceThe ten thousand things.Can a manual for the monastery cook Tenzo illuminate the whole path, truth and delusion, practice enlightenment Absolutely Everything you encounter is your life Nothing other than washing rice and cleaning pots And that s than enough Wonderful commentary by Uchiyama Roshi Here s Dogen himself The true bond established between ourselves and the Buddha is born of the smallest offering made with sincerity rather than of some grandiose donation made without it This is our practice as human beings.


  5. says:

    There are people in this world who believe that spiritual practice involves working and working and working, or suffering and suffering and suffering or on the other hand not working at all until you have an earth shattering experience and are a new person, never having any doubts or problems again, ready to teach the rest of the world The Internet is jammed with such people There is this guy who actually studied in my own lineage and this guy and this woman There s even this whole magazine I m not making fun of such people though my closest spiritual friend says that anyone who claims to be enlightened is deluded, and immediately removes themselves from serious consideration I ve read their teachings and learned from some of them, though they all tend to sound alike The most authentic of them, for my money, is this guy And my favorite story of the experience is this one.Then there s Soto Zen, whose fiercest proponent insists that zazen is good for nothing.Somehow I trust that You practice to practice The reward of practice is practice If you have some spectacular experience it s just another moment You go on.The great 20th century teacher in that tradition wrote some simple modest books about it Inspired by a five day sesshin with his best known disciple 1 , I ve been re reading those books And I ve discovered again, in a new and deeper way, why I value this practice so much.My introduction to Soto Zen happened in the early nineties, when I was sitting at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Society and taking classes with Larry Rosenberg Ed Brown came to teach a cooking class, and my wife and I both took it it was one of the most enjoyable classes I ever took We spent the morning cooking and ate the results We spent the afternoon cooking and ate the results We did that for two days It would only have been better if we d had wine Before we began, Ed told some Zen stories, and they were from Dogen s Instructions to the Cook One concerned Dogen s meeting with a 68 year old Zen cook exactly my age at the moment who was drying some mushrooms in the hot sun, sweating profusely Dogen couldn t understand why he hadn t asked some younger man to do work that was so trivial and so wearing Others are not me, the man said When Dogen asked why he was doing the job in the heat of the day, the man said, When can I do it but now That story was the beginning of my attraction to Zen.But it paled beside another one, about the first Zen cook Dogen ever met, a man who had come to meet the boat Dogen had sailed to China on because he was looking for mushrooms for a special soup Again, this was an older man, 61 he had walked fourteen miles to get these mushrooms and had to walk fourteen back Dogen, young man that he was, couldn t understand why this venerable monk was going to so much trouble about food, why a man his age wasn t devoting his time to zazen or working on koans.The cook burst out laughing at this thought and said, My good friend from abroad You do not understand what practice is all about, nor do you know the meaning of characters Dogen felt taken aback and greatly ashamed, and asked about those things, but the monk wouldn t answer Some months later, the man was retiring and came to see Dogen, who in the meantime had found a new teacher and learned much Dogen asked him what practice is.The monk replied, There is nothing in the world that is hidden I regard those as the most inspiring and most mysterious words in all of Buddhism They go along with everything else about this practice There s nothing special about it All you do is sit there You re not looking for some spectacular experience, just the experience you re having Nothing in the world is hidden.I ve often wondered as I pondered some esoteric fascicle in the middle of the Shobogenzo why Dogen didn t write simply He obviously could, as this teaching indicates But Kosho Uchiyama who spent a lifetime studying Dogen s words penetrates to the heart of Dogen like no one else.Every word of this book is fascinating and inspiring, as inspiring as when I first read it, many years ago Even the chapter titles are inspiring, Everything You Encounter is Your Life, Having a Passion for Life, On Life Force and Life Activity, but Uchiyama gets to the heart of the teaching in his last two chapters, the first of which is The Function of a Settled Life He has let us know already that he doesn t see the goal of life as happiness, or pleasure, or material joy, anything that people normally strive after That doesn t mean he is removed from life Merely to study Buddhist thought and philosophy through books, or to do zazen only to become entranced by satori as some rapturous and esoteric state of mind without actually putting our bodies to work in our day to day lives as taught in our text, leaves grave doubts as to whether we have any idea at all of what it means to truly live out the buddhadharma That was what the cooks taught Dogen The measure of a practice isn t something that happens in zazen It s how you live your life, with what Uchiyama calls the three minds, Magnanimous Mind, Parental Mind, and Joyful Mind, which in effect become one mind, accepting everything just as it is, treating everyone you meet as if they were your child, being grateful and resilient about everything that happens to you That behavior is only possible because you ve settled the self onto the self in zazen.In the final chapter Uchiyama takes up another place where Dogen broke into simplicity, a section of Shoji Life and Death which Uchiyama regards as a condensation of all Dogen s teaching Let go of and forget your body and mind throw your life into the abode of the Buddha, living by being moved and led by the Buddha When you do this without relying on your own physical or mental power, you become released from both life and death and become a Buddha Do not immerse yourself in mental and emotional struggles Refrain from committing evil Neither be attached to life nor to death Be compassionate toward all sentient beings Revere that which is superior and do not withhold sympathy from that which is inferior Do not harbor hatreds nor covet anything Do not be overly concerned with trivial matters not grieve over difficulties in your life This is the Buddha Do not search for the Buddha anywhere else These instructions about how to live remind me of the great instructions Walt Whitman once gave 2 In the writings of both men, the words spring forth from abstract passages and ring with authenticity The question, of course, is what it means to throw your life into the abode of the Buddha According to Uchiyama, the abode of Buddha is nothing other than our own lives There is no refuge, no special place outside the life of our true Self, nor anything apart from the activities of that Self To devote ourselves to everything we encounter and throw our life force into doing just that is quite different from simply exhausting our energies in playing with toys 3 Here is where our passion for life as Joyful Mind manifests the significance of being alive This isn t having some experience that suddenly makes your whole life different, and makes you better It is living your life the way you sit zazen, constantly letting go of delusions and encountering reality The reality in which nothing is hidden is always here, obscured only by the delusions of our personal point of view We let them go and see it free and clear.It s available to everyone, not just those who have had some special experience 1 Shokaku Okumura, who did a Genjo e sesshin with the Chapel Hill Zen Center in early August 2 This is what you shall do Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body 3 Uchiyama s feeling is that most of us devote our whole lives with toys We begin with the toys of childhood, then the material possessions of adulthood, then sexual conquests, fame, and finally, in old age, collecting antiques, attending various tea ceremony functions, or visiting temples What is the difference between rich widows crowding around some famous priest or guru and teenage girls clamoring after some rock star davidguy.org


  6. says:

    This is a translation of Instructions for the Cook , a short manual by Dogen, the founder of Soto Zen Instructions for the Cook gives instruction on the practical application of Zen to life in the world, which in my experience, makes it very helpful to a Westerners I ve read several translations and this one with commentary by Kosho Uchiyama is by far my favourite Kosho Uchiyama was of course a native speaker and also understand the material thoroughly being an abbot in the Soto tradition It s indicative of the Soto Zen attitude that a book on how to be a cook should be one of its important documents.


  7. says:

    Brilliant Accessible Perhaps a challenge for newcomers, but I think Uchiyama actually provides an excellent introduction to the basics of Zen I flagged a dozen pages with pithy quotations and insights This is a book I ll return to again and again.


  8. says:

    This is by far one of my favorite books on Zen living Dogen s deceptively simple description of the tasks involved in cooking for a Zen monastery conceal great lessons for cooking one s own life, a recipe for deep, personal dharma practice.


  9. says:

    If only I could do what I read.


  10. says:

    Several years ago, I think misinterpreted the last book I read about Buddhism Christmas Humphrey s Walk On as somewhat opening a door to moral relativism This book, a commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi on Dogen s Instructions for the Zen Cook , corrected my error in clear, beautiful writing This is mind altering marginalia Here s one of the passages that did it, directly Seeing things from the perspective of the buddhadharma or of Big Mind means to cease engaging in prejudice, discriminative thinking and to be resolved that whatever we meet _is_ our life When I speak of Big Mind in terms of no longer engaging in discriminative thinking I do not mean one becomes inert We simply cannot live day by day without discriminating There is no human life in which there is no difference drawn between miso and kuso soup and sh t This is why the question arises in Instructions for the Zen Cook about whether one separates the sand from the rice or the rice from the sand Apparently in olden days in China the rice polishing process was not very efficient, and there were a lot of tiny pebbles mixed in with the rice The first thing the tenzo had to do was pick the tiny stones out of the rice before it was cooked In this respect there can be no doubt that food fit for human consumption lies at the point where the rice has been distinguished from the stones So, in our daily lives, we have to discriminate, but what we must not forget is the fundamental attitude grounding this discrimination everything we encounter is our life This is the attitude of Big Mind 46 7