Instructions To The Cook

‘After the noon meal the tenzo should go to the tsūsu and kansu to get the rice, vegetables, and other ingredients for the following morning and noon meals. Once he has these, he must handle them as carefully as if they were his own eyes. Renyong of Baoneng said, “Use the property and possessions of the community as carefully as if they were your own eyes.” The tenzo should handle all food he receives with respect, as if it were to be used in a meal for the emperor. Cooked and uncooked food must be handled in the same manner. 

Next, all the officers meet in the kitchen or pantry and decide what food is to be prepared for the following day, for example, the type of the rice gruel, the vegetables, the seasoning. In the Chanyuan Qinggui it says: “When deciding on the amount of food and number of side dishes for the morning and noonday meals, the tenzo should consult with the other officers. They are the tsūsu, kansu, fūsu, ino, and shissui. When they have chosen the meals, the menus should be posted on the notice boards in front of the abbot’s room as well as in front of the study hall.” When this has been done, preparations for the next morning’s meal may begin. You must not leave the washing of rice or preparation of vegetables to others, but must carry out this work with your own hands. Put your whole attention into the work, seeing just what the situation calls for. 

Prepare those vegetables that will be used in a side dish for the following morning’s meal. At the same time, clean up the rice and leftover soup from the noon meal. Conscientiously wash out the rice container and the soup pot, along with any other utensils that were used. Put those things that naturally go on a high place onto a high place, and those that would be most stable on a low place onto a low place; things that naturally belong on a high place settle best on a high place, while those which belong on a low place find their greatest stability there. 

Clean the chopsticks, ladles, and all other utensils; handle them with equal care and awareness, putting everything back where it naturally belongs. Keep your mind on your work and do not throw things around carelessly. After this work has been done it is time to prepare for the following day’s noon meal. First of all, check to see whether there are any insects, peas, rice-bran, or tiny stones in the rice, and if so, carefully winnow them out. When choosing the rice and vegetables to be used, those working under the tenzo should offer sutras to the spirit of the kamado.  

Then, begin preparing the ingredients for whatever side dish and soup there might be, cleaning everything thoroughly of any dirt or insects. When the tenzo receives the food from the kusu, he must never complain about its quality or quantity, but always handle everything with the greatest care and attention. Nothing could be worse than to complain about too much or too little of something, or of inferior quality. 

Both day and night, allow all things to come into and reside within your mind. Allow your mind (Self) and all things to function together as a whole. Before midnight direct your attention to organizing the following day’s work; after midnight begin preparations for the morning meal. After the morning meal, wash the pots and cook the rice and soup for the noon meal.’ (Dogen, from the Tenzokyokun)

‘Climbing into a taxi on Broadway, I decide that the fish special will be grilled tuna livornaise with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. It’s a layup. My overworked grill man can heat the already cooked spuds and the blanched asparagus on a sizzle platter; the tuna will get a quick walk across the grill; and all he’ll have to do is heat up the sauce at the last minute. For the appetizer special, I’m thinking cockles steamed with chorizo, leeks, tomatoes, and white wine—a one-pan wonder. The meat special is more problematic. The tuna will be taking up most of the grill’s time, so the meat will have to be prepared at the sauté station. Not easy. Les Halles features classic French bistro food, and at any one time the sauté station has to be ready to turn out moules à la marinièreboudin noir with caramelized apples, filet au poivre, steak au poivre, steak tartare, calf’s liver persillé, cassoulet Toulousain, magret de moulard with quince and sauce miel, the ridiculously popular mignon of pork, pieds de cochon, and a navarin of lamb that comes with baby carrots, pearl onions, niçoise olives, garlic confit, tomato concassée, fava beans, and chopped fresh herbs. But I’ve got a leg of venison and twelve pheasants coming in. I decide on the pheasant. I can par-roast it ahead of time, so that all my sous-chef will have to do is take it off the bone and sling it into the oven to finish, then heat up the sauce and the garnishes before serving….

Before noon, I cut and pepper pavées and filets; skin and slice calf’s liver; caramelize apples; blanch baby carrots; make garlic confit; produce a livornaise sauce for the tuna and start a currant sauce for the pheasant; and assemble the navarin. Then I write up the specials so that Camélia can enter them into the computer and set the prices. At eight-thirty, my butcher, Hubert, arrives, looking as if he’s woken up under a bridge. He unloads the meat order—côtes de bœuf, entrecôtes, rump steaks, racks of lamb, lamb-stew meat, merguez sausages, saucisson de Toulouse, rosette, pork belly, onglets, scraps, meat for steak tartare, pork tenderloins larded with bacon and garlic, pâtés, rillettes, galantines, and chickens.’ (Anthony Bourdain, from the New Yorker)

Mumon

If you grasp the first word,
You will realize the last word.
The last word and the first word, 
These are not one word.

Suzuki Roshi

‘Your everyday life is also the expression of the inmost nature, but our everyday life is too dualistic, so in everyday life it is almost impossible to study what is inmost nature. Only in zendo it is possible to study what is inmost nature. That is why we — we have zendo. And if you understand — if you get accustomed to this kind of life, you can apply this way in your everyday life. So that you may not be bothered by duality of the world. It is maybe proving difficult [laughs].’ (from the Suzuki Roshi Archives)

This is from a very short piece of audio that I transcribed recently; it was part of the first week-long sesshin to be recorded at Zen Center, and the expression here is quite typical of what Suzuki Roshi was trying to convey to his students at the time. I am very much enjoying this close study.

Tonen O’Connor

‘I’ve been reading Shohaku Okumura’s new book, The Mountains and Waters Sutra, a Practioner’s Guide to Dōgen’s Sansuikyo,and I came across the following :
There is actually no such thing as what we call “water”: it is merely a collection of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. When electrolyzed it becomes a vapor of hydrogen and oxygen. Just as a bubble is an event within the interaction between air and water, water is an event in which hydrogen and oxygen are connected. There is no fixed entity called water. 
Every once in awhile I have a reaction to a statement that is a sudden sense of realization, a sort of “Wow!,” a sense of profound awareness. I suppose I could say of “getting it.” That is what happened when I read the words above. Water is not a THING; water is an EVENT. Suddenly my whole understanding of interdependent origination took on clarity. What surrounds me are not “things.” They are “events.” I am an event. The universe is a vast event to which everything contributes.’ (from The Ancient Way Journal blog)

I thought this was worth a repeat viewing.

George Saunders

‘When I sit down to write fiction, because my attention is focused on an object, which is a paragraph or something. And it’s done in what I would call almost an athletic stance, where I’m not theorizing or conceptualizing. I’m just in it. Like, I’m hearing it a little bit my head. And I’m messing around with it a little bit. But the monkey mind goes quiet because I think the neural energy is being all channelled to that the concentration on the prose, about which I have very strong opinions. So in that experience, the ruminating mind goes somewhat more quiet. And that’s great. Now, in meditation, I think something similar happens. And I’m not experienced enough exactly to say what that is. But the common thing would be a concentration on a task, and then a related reduction in rumination.

The mind is so busy all the time. And what it’s really doing is it’s basically creating yourself, it’s creating you, this illusory thing called you. And when the thoughts die down, then that self creation gets a little less energetic. And in my experience, something else happens or something else rises up in that space that you’ve created. And that’s true, I think, in meditation and in writing…

When I was first starting to meditate… I noticed a certain pessimistic or snarky cast to my default mind. I walk into a party, and I was just looking for things to kind of lightly make fun of. Probably a defense mechanism, but also it was fun. So what was really useful about that was to say, oh, wait a minute, that’s not me. And it’s certainly not true of the party. It’s just a feature of this particular mind.’ (from the New York Times)

I have to say that the transcripts from some of Ezra Klein’s interviews are some of the most thought-provoking things I have read this year. I can certainly relate to the last paragraph.

Vows

Back when I first started writing the Ino’s Blog, I was quite fascinated to see how detailed the stats could be: not just how many people visited the site, and what they looked at, but the search terms that brought them there. Some of those terms seemed rather random to me, although in fact I think they were due to some anime or game character called Ino, rather than someone wanting to know the intricacies of the temple way of life.

Many years on, I still find it helpful to keep an eye on how this blog is doing, though knowing the number of visitors on any particular day doesn’t convince me to do anything different here, nor does knowing that the most popular time for visits, according to WordPress, is generally Monday at 4:00am (local time, that is).

Nonetheless, I have been very curious that for the past few months, there has been a consistent number of downloads (I suspect that actually means listens) of some of the audio that I have posted, namely the series of classes on the Bodhisattva Vows I gave at Zen Center a couple of years ago. Occasionally one of the other talks is listed in the stats, but for some reason, these four classes are always head and shoulders above the others. I don’t have any special feeling about the class myself – I don’t think it was among my best work by any means – and I am somehwat intrigued as to its popularity. If anyone can shed light on this, I would be very happy to hear about it.

And since we are on the subject, I will put in another plug for the class Zachary and I will be offering for Zen Center in about a month on Hyakujo and the fox. And, while I am blowing my own trumpet so shamelessly, a reminder that there is a roam on Saturday, and that if you are reading this post on the day it is published, you can attend my Within class at noon, local time.

Sharon Salzberg

‘In the Buddhist tradition we tend to be a little skeptical of hope, or perhaps it’s better to say we hold hope lightly. That doesn’t mean we are into hopelessness, quite the opposite in fact. But the opposite of hopelessness would be considered love, or connection, in contrast to trying to wrest control over life’s changes, which doesn’t do much for us. One cause of suffering is desire. When you get obsessed by or fixated on something specific that you want you may view yourself and the world around you from a deficit: Life would be perfect only if you could get that thing, person, experience. One can get lost in this craving, which only increases separation from the world as it is.

We try to see the world as it is with equanimity instead of craving and fixation. Equanimity — the balance that is born of wisdom — reminds us that what is happening in front of us is not the end of the story, it is just what we can see. Instead of being frightened of change, with equanimity, we can see its benefits and put our daily existence in a broader context. The hope resides in the certainty of relief not in specific outcomes, like getting exactly what we want; the hope comes from the way things actually are in this universe: This too shall pass.’ (from Instagram)

Baizhang

‘Baizhang said, “I want someone to go and tell something to Xitang.”

Wufeng said, “I’ll go.”

Baizhang said, “How will you speak to him?”

Wufeng said, “I’ll wait until I see Xitang, then I’ll speak.”

Baizhang said, “What will you say?”

Wufeng said, “When I come back, I’ll tell you.” (Zen’s Chinese Heritage)

I think Wufeng acquited himself quite well there, though he probably said too much at the end.

Zachary and I have scheduled a Zen Center class on the classic story of Baizhang and the fox, and I have started my reading around it. This is a dialogue I don’t remember reading before.

Yosa Buson

This is happiness
crossing the stream in summer
carrying my straw sandals.

I thought of this picture for this repost, a scene from Tassajara summer a few years ago.

Shodo Harada

‘Rarely do we reside in no place. We think about what day of the week this; upon hearing a bird sing, we think about its name; upon seeing a flower we think about how nice it looks. Instead of residing in no place, we reside in a small self. This is necessary for functioning in the workd, but it is not the actual truth. Only when abiding in no place can we experience the direct truth. When we hear the birds chirp from no place, our mind is freshly born in every moment. Because we seek comfort, we feel we have to reside somewhere. Because we are part of society, we feel we have to refer to others by judging them. But that’s not how our mind works when it is functioning at its clearest.’ (Not One Single Thing)

This is a deep and subtle point. We might think that our appreciation of a bird or a flower is exactly what mindfulness looks like, but, as I usually frame it, if we are just trying to put it in a box, whether that box is labeled ‘pleasant’ or ‘unpleasant’, we do not allow it, or ourselves, the freedom of full expression in the moment.