Okumura Roshi is a regular contributor to Dharma Eye, the journal of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, providing translation of and commentary on fascicles of Dogen Zenji’s Shobogenzo. Numerous articles are available free online. For a full listing, and the latest latest article on Ikka Myoju: One Bright Jewel, please see our DI page dedicated to these articles.
Okumura Roshi is a regular contributor to Dharma Eye, the journal of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, providing translation of and commentary on fascicles of Dogen Zenji’s Shobogenzo. Numerous articles are available free online. For a full listing, and the latest latest two articles on Ikka Myoju: One Bright Jewel, please see our DI page dedicated to these articles.
We are proud to announce the availability of two new books published by the Dōgen Institute:
Boundless Vows, Endless Practice
In honor of Sanshin Zen Community’s 15th anniversary, Shohaku Okumura and ten of his dharma descendants from around the world present a series of writings on making and carrying out bodhisattva vows in the 21st century. The book includes new translations by Okumura Roshi of material never before published in English.
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Life-and-Death: Selected Dharma Poems from Kosho Uchiyama
A translation of selected Dharma poems by Okumura Roshi’s teacher Uchiyama Roshi, with notes.
Accompanied by beautiful photographs from Jisho Takahashi.
“As human beings who cannot avoid physical life and death, all of us wish to see clearly exactly what life-and-death is, and to settle on our attitude toward it. Even though there may be no way to avoid the physical pain, we would all at least like to face death without the mental torment as though having fallen into hell. What is important here is how to live having settled on our attitude towards life-and-death. These poems are on life-and-death.” — Kosho Uchiyama
“After giving his last teachings to his disciples and talking about impermanence, the Buddha said, ‘From now on all of my disciples must continuously practice. Then the Thus Come One’s dharma body will always be present and indestructible.’ This ‘indestructible dharma body’ is the Buddha’s eternal life in the Lotus Sutra. I think the interpenetration of impermanence and the eternal life of Buddha is what Uchiyama Roshi is teaching us about in this collection of his poems. ” — Shohaku Okumura
“In the previous paragraph of Tenzo Kyōkun, Dōgen said we should see things not with our common eyes, but we should see things with the dharma eye or Buddha’s eye; and here he’s saying: anyway, we do have a competitive mind. How can we use this competitive mind for our practice? First he said: “If you’re resolute in your intention and are most sincere, you will vow to be more pure-hearted than the ancients and surpass even the elders in attentiveness.”
So he said that instead of competing with the contemporaries, the people around you, you should compete with the ancient masters, or elders. This is kind of a tricky thing, an interesting thing. Dōgen said when we really, sincerely want to work as a tenzo, in order to develop or improve our ability to make better dishes, somehow we need to compete; compete with ourselves and compete with others. How can we use this competitive mind to become better?”
Beginning with the passage studied in this podcast episode, Dōgen describes the most important point in the attitude of the tenzo. The meaning of Dōgen’s admonition is very clear: don’t complain. The tenzo receives food ingredients from storage, and whatever the tenzo receives, they don’t complain, they just accept things as they are and work together with those things to make them into the best food or dish possible.
But if we carefully read the expressions and sentences, what Dōgen is saying is not so simple. Of course, the meaning is to avoid “like and dislike.” But the reason for that attitude is very deep and important within the essence of Buddhist teaching. In the English translation alone, we cannot see that connection.
The Dōgen Institute now has a limited number of copies of the beautiful, self-produced collection of 14 of Dogen Zenji’s waka poems based on the seasons.
Building upon the Dōgen Institute’s popular postings, this book features translation and commentary by Shohaku Okumura Roshi, calligraphy by Kaz Tanahashi, and photography by Ai Takahashi.
This limited edition book is printed on hand-made Nepalese Daphne paper, the binding is stitched around split bamboo splints, and the covers are handmade Daphne dyed with Catechu stamped in blind and gold.
This book is not available through other outlets.
We have been sold out for over a year. Don’t miss your chance to obtain a copy, as our supplies are intermittent. Copies will be signed by Okumura Roshi.
$75.00 in USA; $90.00 most countries outside of USA (includes shipping and handling).
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.
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.