Tenzo Kyokun 5 – Receiving our life

The tenzo should practice with the same attitude as when we sit in the zendo. The tenzo lets go of judgments about the food. He just receives the ingredients with gratitude and tries to make the best food for all people in the community. To do this he needs to make distinctions about the best way to make tasty and nutritious food from what he is given.


Here the tenzo’s practice is at the intersection between discrimination and non-discrimination. We need both. At any part of our life we are at this intersection of discrimination and non-discrimination. This means including the five skandhas as our life, using our body and mind for our self and for other beings. When we see our life in this way, we are both in discrimination and beyond discrimination, or in thinking and beyond thinking. This is how we see our life in zen practice.

“When washing rice, know that rice is the tenzo’s life” – this is what Uchiyama Roshi meant when he said, “Everything we encounter is our life.” If we are not careful and attentive and intimate and compassionate toward things, then we are not compassionate to ourselves. It is very important to use the opportunity as a tenzo to work together with all things in the kitchen. The kitchen is the tenzo’s world; everything in the kitchen is the tenzo’s life. How the tenzo works together with things in kitchen is how the tenzo works with his own life. This is same as jijuyu zanmai in our zazen. There is no separation between the person sitting and this entire dharma world. Dogen Zenji said in Bendowa that when we sit showing Buddha mudra within our entire body and mind, then this entire world becomes enlightenment and each and every thing in this entire world reveals its own awakening. So what Dogen said about zazen as jijuyu zanmai and what he says here in Tenzo Kyokun is really the same thing.

If your device does not display the embedded player, or if buffering takes too long, please visit: http://sanshin.podomatic.com/entry/2015-09-30T03_00_00-07_00

This talk continues Shohaku Okumura Roshi’s commentary on Dogen Zenji’s Tenzo Kyokun – Instructions for the Zen Cook (p. 36).

Okumura Roshi speaks about the tenzo’s attitude toward his work in the kitchen: the importance of not judging the quality of the ingredients that are provided. Just prepare them carefully, paying attention to the three important things in cooking: quality, quantity, and timing.

The tenzo’s life is at the intersection between discrimination and non-discriminating. He receives the food with no judgment and then makes determinations about the best way to use it. This is mind (as subject) and things (as object) working together as zenki – total function.

This talk was originally given at Sanshinji in Bloomington, IN on September 6, 2007.

Copyright 2015 Sanshin Zen Community

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