By the monk Dôgen
of the Kannon Dôri Kôshô Hôrin Zen Monastery
Buddhist monasteries have, in
principle, six stewards. All are disciples of Buddha and all
carry out the work of Buddha. Among them is the officer known
as the cook, who is in charge of preparing meals for the assembly
of monks. The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries (Chanyuan
qinggui) says, "In order to offer nourishment to the
monks of the community, there is a cook."1 From ancient
times, the position has been assigned to senior monks who have
the way-seeking mind -- eminent persons who have aroused the
thought of awakening.
In general, the job of cook is
an all-consuming pursuit of the way. If one lacks the way-seeking
mind, it will be nothing but a vain struggle and hardship, without
benefit in the end. The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries
says, "One should maintain a way-seeking mind, make adjustments
in accord with the occasion, and see to it that the great assemby
receives what is necessary and is at ease."2 In days of
yore, monks such as Guishan and Dongshan performed this job,
and various other great ancestral teachers did too at some point
in their careers.3
Thus, it is surely not the same as the work of worldy cooks,
imperial cooks, and the like.
When this mountain monk [I, Dôgen]
was in Song China, on my days off I inquired of retired elderly
monks who had held minor and important offices, and they shared
something of their views with me. Their explanations are the
bones and marrow bequeathed by the buddhas and ancestors who
were possessed of the way in ancient times. As a rule, one should
carefully read the Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries.
After that, one should pay heed to the detailed explanations
of those retired senior officers.
The duties of the cook over the
course of a single day and night [are as follows].
First, following the midday meal,
go to the offices of the prior and comptroller and get the ingredients
for the next day's meals: rice, vegetables, and so on. Having
received them, protect and be frugal with them, as if they were
your own eyes. Chan Master Yong of Baoning [Monastery] said,
"Protect and be frugal with monastery property, which is
[like] your own eyes."4 Respect and
value them as if they were ingredients for an imperial repast.
These cautions apply to fresh and cooked things alike.
Next, the various stewards consult
in the store hall about what seasonings should be used on the
following day, what vegetables should be eaten, how the rice
gruel should be prepared, and so on. The Rules of Purity for
Chan Monasteries says, "When deciding about ingredients
as well as the flavors and numbers [of side dishes] for meals,
first consult with the stewards in the store offices." The
stewards referred to here are the prior, comptroller, assistant
comptroller, rector, cook, and labor steward.5 When the flavors
and numbers have been decided, write them on the announcement
boards in the abbot's quarters, common quarters, and elswehere.
After that, ready the next morning's
rice gruel. When washing rice, preparing vegetables, and so on,
do so with your own hands, with close attention, vigorous exertion,
and a sincere mind. Do not indulge in a single moment of carelessness
or laziness. Do not allow attentiveness to one thing result in
overlooking another. Do not yield a single drop in the ocean
of merit; even a mountain of good karma can be augmented by a
single particle of dust.
The Rules of Purity for Chan
Monasteries says, "If the six flavors are not provided,
then it cannot be said that the cook has served the assembly."6
When examining the rice, first check for sand; when examining
the sand [sifted from the rice], first check for rice. If you
pay careful attention to detail, watching when coming and watching
when going, then your mind cannot be scattered, and [the food]
will naturally be replete with the three virtues and endowed
with the six flavors.
When Xuefeng resided at Dongshan
[monastery], he served as cook. One day when he was sifting rice
[master] Dongshan asked him, "Are you sifting the sand and
removing the rice, or sifting the rice and removing the sand?"
Xuefeng said, "Sand and rice are simultaneously removed."
Dongshan asked, "What will the great assembly eat?"
Xuefeng overturned the bowl. Dongshan said, "In the future
you will go and be scrutinized by someone else."7
In the past, eminent men in possession
of the way practiced in this way [as cooks], working energetically
with their own hands. In this latter day, how can we who are
so late getting started [in our practice] be negligent about
this? The ancients said that cooks regard tying up their sleeves
[for manual work] as the way-seeking mind. Lest there be any
mistakes in the sifting out of rice and sand, you should examine
it with your own hands. The Rules of Purity say, "When
preparing meals, one should reflect intimately on one's own self;
[the food] will then of itself be pure and refined."8
Keep the white water with which
you have washed the rice; do not wastefully discard it. In ancient
times they used a cloth bag to strain the white water and used
it to boil the rice when making gruel. Having put [the rice]
into the cooking pot, pay attention and guard it. Do not allow
mice and the like to touch it by mistake, nor any covetous idlers
to examine or touch it.
When cooking the vegetable side
dishes for the morning gruel, also prepare the platters and tubs
used for rice, soup, etc., as well as the various utensils and
supplies that will be used for that day's midday meal. Wash them
so that they are completely pure and clean, placing up high those
that belong in high places and putting down low those that belong
in low places. "High places are high and level; low places
are low and level."9
Treat utensils such as tongs and ladles, and all other implements
and ingredients, with equal respect; handle all things with sincerity,
picking them up and putting them down with courtesy.
When you have finished, think
about the ingredients for the next day's meals. First, pick over
the rice. If there are any insects, green beans, hulls or pebbles,
carefully pick them out. While picking over the rice and vegetables,
the postulants should chant sutras and dedicate the merit to
the kitchen god. Next, select the ingredients for the vegetables
and soup and cook them. Do not argue with the store officers
over the amount of ingredients you have received. Without worrying
about their quality, simply make the best of what you have. It
is prohibited to show your feelings or say anything about the
amount of ingredients.
During the day and through the
night, whether things come and dwell in your mind or your mind
turns and dwells on things, put yourself on a par with them and
diligently pursue the way. Prior to the third watch take stock
of the next morning's tasks; after the third watch take charge
of making the morning gruel. When that day's gruel is finished,
wash the pots, steam the rice, and prepare the soup. When soaking
the rice for the midday meal, the cook should not leave the vicinity
of the sink. Keep a sharp eye on everything, so as not to waste
even a single grain, and properly rinse out any foreign objects.
Put the rice in the pots, light the fires, and steam it. Of old
it was said, "When steaming rice, treat the pot as one's
own head; when rinsing the rice, know that the water is one's
own lifeblood." When the steaming is done, collect the rice
in bamboo baskets or rice tubs and place it on the table. Preparation
of vegetables, soup, and the like, should be done while the rice
is being steamed.
The cook keeps careful watch
over the area where the rice and soup are prepared, giving commands
to the postulants, the servants, and the fire stokers, and instructing
them in the handling of the various utensils. Nowadays, large
monasteries have rice cooks and soup cooks, but those are nevertheless
under the command of the cook. In the past there were no such
rice or soup cooks, only the single officer, the cook himself.
When ordinarily preparing ingredients,
do not regard them with ordinary [deluded] eyes, or think of
them with ordinary emotions. "Lifting a single blade of
grass builds a shrine;10
entering a single mote of dust turns the great wheel of the dharma."11
Even when, for example, one makes a soup of the crudest greens,
one should not give rise to a mind that loathes it or takes its
lightly; and even when one makes a soup of the finest cream,
one should not give rise to a mind that feels glad and rejoices
in it. If one is at the outset free from preferences, how could
one have any aversions? Even when confronted with poor ingredients,
there is no negligence whatsoever; even when faced with scanty
ingredients, one exerts oneself. Do not change your mind in accordance
with things. Whoever changes his mind in accordance with things,
or revises his words to suit the person [he is speaking to],
is not a man of the way.
With resolve and sincerity, one
should aim to exceed the ancients in purity and surpass the former
worthies in attentiveness. The way to put that aspiration into
practice in one's own person is, for example, to take the same
three coins that one's predecessors spent to make a soup of the
crudest greens and use them to now to make a soup of the finest
cream. This is difficult to do. Why is that? Because present
and past are completely different, like the distance between
heaven and earth. How could we ever be able to equal their stature?
Nevertheless, when we work attentively, therein lies the principle
that makes it possible to surpass our predecessors.
That you still do not grasp the
certainty of this principle is because your thinking scatters,
like wild horses, and your emotions run wild, like monkeys in
If you can make those monkeys and horses, just once, take the
backward step that turns the light and shines it inward, then
naturally you will be completely integrated. This is the means
by which we, who are [ordinarily] set into motion by things,
become able to set things into motion.
Harmonizing and purifying yourself
in this manner, do not lose either the one eye [of transcendent
wisdom] or the two eyes [of discriminating consciousness]. Lifting
a single piece of vegetable, make [yourself into] a six-foot
body [i.e. a buddha] and ask that six-foot body to prepare a
single piece of vegetable. Those are [the cook's] spiritual penetrations
and magical transformations, his buddha-work and benefiting of
Having prepared [everything] so that the preparations are finished,
and cooked [everything] so that the cooking is done, look to
"that side" and put things away on "this side".13
When the drum sounds or the bell rings, join the assembly [of
monks in training] and attend the convocation [to hear the abbot's
teachings]. "Morning and evening, seek and attend",
without being remiss even once.14
When you return to your quarters,
right away you should close your eyes and clearly envision the
number of individual places in the [sangha] hall; the number
of monks in the individual quarters of retired minor officers,
retired senior officers, and the like; how many individual monks
there are in the infirmary, geriatric quarters, temporary quarters,
and so on; the number of wandering monks registered in the guest
quarters; and the number of people in subtemples. After carefully
calculating in this way, if you have the slightest uncertainty,
ask the hall manager in question, or the quarters prefect, quarters
chief, or quarters head seat of the various quarters and eliminate
Now carefully calculate: for
every grain of rice to be eaten, one grain must be supplied.
If a single grain of rice is divided, then you will have two
half-grains of rice. Three tenths, four tenths; one half, two
halves. If you supply two half-grains of rice, you will make
a single whole grain. Or, supply nine tenths and see how many
tenths you still have; now take back nine tenths and see how
many tenths are still there.
Getting to eat a single grain
of Luling rice enables one to see the monk Guishan; getting to
supply a single grain of Luling rice enables one to see the water
buffalo [that Guishan will become]. The water buffalo eats the
monk Guishan, and the monk Guishan feeds the buffalo.15 Is my measurement
complete or not? Is your calculation complete or not? If you
carefully inspect and exhaustively check [these matters], your
understanding will dawn and become clear. Then, when an opportunity
presents itself, say something; when you confront someone, speak.
And, if you exert yourself in this way without deviation, day
after day, then you will not be able to forget it, even temporarily.
When a patron comes into the
monastery and donates money to hold a feast, the various the
stewards should all be consulted; this is the precedent established
in monasteries of old. With regard to the distribution of the
merit-making donations, they also consult together. Do not create
a disturbance in the hierarchy by infringing on anyone's authority.
When the midday meal or morning
gruel has been properly prepared and placed on the table, the
cook dons his kesa, spreads his sitting cloth, faces the sangha
hall [where the monks eat], burns incense and makes nine prostrations.
Upon finishing his prostrations, he sends the food [to the sangha
Throughout the day, as you prepare
the meals, do not pass the time in vain. If your preparations
are true, then your movements and activities will naturally become
the deeds of nurturing the womb of the sage. The way to put the
great assembly at ease is to step back and transform yourself.
It has been a long time now since
the name "buddha-dharma" came to be heard in our country,
Japan. However, our predecessors did not record, and the former
worthies did not teach, anything about the proper procedure for
monks' meals, and they never even dreamed of the rite of making
nine prostrations before the monks' meals. People in this country
say that the way in which the monks eat and the way in which
monasteries prepare food are just like the feeding methods of
[domestic] birds and beasts. This is truly pathetic, truly deplorable.
How could it be?
When this mountain monk [I, Dôgen]
was at Tiantong Monastery, the position [of cook] was held by
cook Yong, of the same province [as the monastery]. Once, after
the midday meal I was passing through the east corridor on my
way to the Chaoran room [where my teacher Myôzen was being
nursed] when I saw the cook in front of the buddha hall airing
mushrooms. He carried a bamboo staff in his hand, but had no
hat on his head. The sun was hot, the ground tiles were hot,
and sweat streamed over him as he worked diligently to dry the
mushrooms. He was suffering a bit. With his backbone bent like
a bow and his shaggy eyebrows, he resembled a crane.
I approached and asked the cook
his dharma age. He said, "Sixty-eight years." I said,
"Why do you not employ postulants or laborers?" He
said, "They are not me." I said, "Venerable sir,
your attitude is indeed proper, but the sun is so hot; why are
you doing this [now]?" The cook said, "What time should
I wait for?" I took my leave, but as I walked along the
corridor, I began to realize how important an opportunity this
Again, in the fifth month of
the sixteenth year of the Jiading era , I was on the ship
at Qingyuan. While I was talking with the Japanese captain, there
was an old monk who arrived. He was about sixty years old. He
came directly onto the ship and inquired of the Japanese passengers
if he could buy Japanese mushrooms. I invited him to drink tea
and asked where he was from. He was the cook of the monastery
on Mount Ayuwang. He said, "I come from Sichuan, but I left
my home village forty years ago. This year I am sixty-one years
old. In the past I have trained in quite a few different monasteries.
In recent years, I stayed for a while with Guyun. I was able
to register at Yuwang [monastery], but for some time I felt out
of place. At the end of the summer retreat last year, however,
I was appointed cook of that monastery. Tomorrow is the fifth
day [feast], but the entire menu does not yet include a single
delicacy. I need to cook noodle soup, but still have no mushrooms,
and thus have made a special trip here to try to buy mushrooms
to offer to the monks of the ten directions.
I asked him, "What time
did you leave there?" The cook replied, "After the
midday meal." I inquired, "How long is the road from
Yuwang to here?" He said, "Thirty-four or thirty-five
li." I asked, "When will you return to the monastery?"
He said, "If I can buy the mushrooms now, I will set off
right after that." I said, "Today I did not expect
to meet you and have a conversation on this ship. It is most
fortunate, is it not, to form this karmic bond? Dôgen [I]
will treat the cook Zen master [you] to a meal." The cook
said, "It is impossible. If I do not oversee the preparations
for tomorrow's meal offering, it will not turn out well."
I said, "Are there not co-workers in the monastery who understand
the meals? What will be deficient if only one officer, the cook,
is not present?" The cook said, "I took up this position
in my later years; it is this old man's pursuit of the way. How
could I hand it over to others? Besides, when I came I did not
ask to stay away overnight."
I again asked the cook: "You
are venerable in years; why don't you sit in meditation to pursue
the way or contemplate the words of the ancients? It is troublesome
being cook; all you do is labor. What good is that?" The
cook laughed and said, "My good man from a foreign country,
you do not yet understand pursuit of the way and do not yet know
about written words." When I heard him speak in this manner,
I suddenly felt ashamed and taken aback. I asked him, "What
are written words? What is the practice of the way?" The
cook said, "If you do not slip up and pass by the place
you ask about, how could you not be a man?" At the time,
I did not understand. The cook said, "If you still don't
understand, come to Yuwang Mountain at some other time, in the
future. On that occasion we can discuss the principle of written
words." Having spoken thus, the cook got up and said, "It
is late in the day and I am in a hurry, so I am going back now."
In the seventh month of the same
year, I registered at Tiantong [Monastery]. While I was there,
that cook came to meet me and said, "At the end of the summer
retreat I retired as cook and am now returning to my home village.
I happened to hear a disciple say that you were here; how could
I not come to meet you?"
I jumped for joy and was very
grateful. In the ensuing conversation that I had with him I brought
up the karmic conditions of written words and pursuit of the
way that we had discussed previously on the ship. The cook said,
"The study of written words is to understand the purpose
of written words. Exertion in pursuit of the way requires an
affirmation of the purpose of pursuing the way." I asked
him, "What are written words?" The cook answered, "One,
two, three, four, five." I also asked, "What is pursuit
of the way?" He said, "In the whole world, it can never
Although there was a great variety
of other things that we discussed, I will not record them at
this point. The little I know about written words and understand
about pursuing the way is due to the great kindness of that cook.
I told my late teacher Myôzen about the things that I have
just related here, and he was very happy to hear of them.
Later I saw a verse that Xuedou
wrote to instruct the monks:
One letter, seven letters, three
letters, or five;
Investigating myriads of images, one reaches no basis.
In the depth of night, the moon sets into the dark sea;
Seeking the black dragon's pearl, one finds there are many.16
What that cook said some years
before and what Xuedou expresses in this verse clearly coincide.
More and more I understand that the cook was a true man of the
way. But in the past what I saw of written words was one, two,
three, four, five. Today what I see of written words is also
six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
You disciples who come after
me, thoroughly contemplate there in accordance with here and
thoroughly contemplate here in accordance with there. If you
make this kind of effort, you will be able to obtain in written
words the Zen of a single flavor. If you are not like this, you
will be subjected willy-nilly to the poison of the Zen of five
flavors, and when it comes to arranging the monks' meals, you
will not be able to do it skillfully.
I have heard of former cooks
and witnessed present ones, with my eyes and with my ears. Concerning
this position, there are written words and there are principles
of behavior; truly, it can be called a central one! Even if one
has the title of head of meals, one's mental attitude should
still be the same as this. The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries
The preparation of gruel and
rice for the two daily meals should be refined and plentiful.
The provision of the four types of offerings must not admit to
any lack or scarcity. The World-honored One bequeathed the blessings
of twenty years to enfold his descendants.17 The merit
of a single beam of white light [emitted from his forehead],
when received and used [by his descendants] is never exhausted.
Therefore, just know that in serving the assembly, there can
be no fear of scarcity.18
If you do not have a mind that
is limited, as a matter of course there will be no lack of blessings.
After all, this is the mental attitude that the abbot has in
providing for the assembly.
As for the [proper] attitude
in preparing food offerings and handling ingredients, do not
debate the fineness of things and do not debate their coarseness,
but take as essential the profound arousal of a true mind and
a respectful mind.
Have you not seen that a single
bowl of starchy water, offered to Him of the Ten Names, naturally
resulted in wondrous merit that carried an old woman through
and that half a crabapple fruit, given to a single monastery,
enabled King Ashoka finally to establish his vast good karmic
roots, gain a prediction, and bring about a great result?20
Although they create a karmic connection with the Buddha, [donations
that are] large and vacuous are not the same as [ones that are]
small and sincere. This is the practice of a [true] person.
What is regarded as the preparation
of superb delicacies is not necessarily superior, nor is the
preparation of a soup of the crudest greens necessarily inferior.
When you select and serve up crude greens, if you do so with
a true mind, a sincere mind, and a pure mind, then they will
be comparable to superb delicacies. Why is that so? Because when
one enters into the pure and vast oceanic assembly of the buddha
dharma, superb delicacies are never seen and the flavor of crude
greens does not exist: there is only the one taste of the great
sea, and that is all. Moreover, when it comes to the matters
of nurturing the sprouts of the way and nourishing the sacred
embryo, superb delicacies and crude greens are as one; there
is no duality. There is an old saying that a monk's mouth is
like a stove.21
You must not fail to understand this. You should think that even
crude greens can nourish the sacred embryo and nurture the sprouts
of the way. Do not regard them as base; do not take them lightly.
A teacher of humans and devas is able to regard crude greens
as things that convert and benefit [beings].
Moreover, you should not concern
yourself with the strengths and weaknesses of the monks of the
assembly, or look upon them as being old or young. Even the self
does not know the self's own weak points; how could others be
aware of the weak points of others? How could it not be a mistake
to take one's own deficiencies as the deficiencies of others?
Although there are differences
in the appearance of seniors and juniors, and some have wisdom
while others are foolish or dim, as members of the sangha they
are the same. Moreover, something that was not true in the past
may be true at present, so who can know which are sages and which
are commoners? The Rules of Purity for Chan Monasteries
says, "The sangha gathers together from throughout the ten
directions, without distinguishing sages and commoners."22
If you have an aspiration that does not try to control all matters
of right and wrong, is that not the way of practice that directly
approaches supreme awakening? If you are confused about the step
you have just taken, then you will slip up and pass by that which
stares you in the face. The bones and marrow of the ancients
consists entirely in the place where this kind of effort is made.23
Disciples in these later generations who hold the position of
cook will also first attain [the bones and marrow] through this
kind of effort. How could the rules of the high patriarch Baizhang
be in vain?24
After I returned to Japan I took
up residence in Kennin Monastery for several years. That monstery
established the position of cook, but it was in name only; there
was no one at all who actually carried it out. As yet unaware
that this is the work of the Buddha, how pathetic was their pursuit
and practice of the way! Truly it is pitiable that they, without
meeting such a person, vainly passed their days and recklessly
destroyed the way of practice. Once I observed that the monk
who held the position of cook at that monastery did nothing at
all to manage the two daily meals. He entrusted all matters large
and small to a servant without a brain or human feelings, giving
him only general instructions. He never ever went to see whether
the work was done properly or not. He acted as if he was the
wife of a neighboring house: if he went and saw the other, it
would be an embarrassment or an injury. He ensconced himself
in his office, sometimes reclining, sometimes chatting and laughing,
sometimes reading sûtras, and sometimes reciting prayers.
For days on end and many months he did not approach the vicinity
of the pots. How much less did he take stock of the utensils
or pay attention to the flavors and numbers [of side dishes].
How could he possibly have done his job? Needless to say, he
had never even dreamed of the two [daily] occasions for making
nine prostrations. When the time came for instructing young postulants,
he never knew what to do. How pitiable and how sad was that person
who lacked the way-seeking mind. Not once did he come into contact
with a companion who was possessed of the virtue of the way.
Although he entered into the treasure mountain, he came away
with empty hands. Although he reached the treasure ocean, he
turned back with empty body. You should know that even if he
never aroused the thought of enlightenment, if he had seen a
single person who set a worthy example he would have attained
that way in his practice. And even if he never saw a single person
who set a worthy example, if his thought of enlightenment had
been profound, he would have hit upon that way in his practice.
But in actuality both were lacking, so there was no way for him
As I observed in the various
monasteries and temples of the Great Sung Nation, the monks who
held the positions of stewards and prefects, although they only
served for one year, each embodied the three ways of upholding
[the buddha dharma]. During their time [in office] they made
use of those [three ways], and in their vying for karmic connections
they inspired those [three ways].  Even as you benefit others,
concurrently there are ample benefits for oneself.  Elevate
the monastery pulpit and renew its high standing.  Standing
shoulder to shoulder and competing head to head, follow in the
footsteps of esteemed forerunners. You should have a detailed
knowledge of these matters. There are fools who look upon themselves
as if they were someone else, and there are wise people who regard
others as themselves.
An ancient said,
Two-thirds of one's days having
Not a single aspect of the spirit dais has been polished;
Craving life, day after day goes by in distress;
If one does not turn one's head when called, what can be done?
You should know that if you have
not met a wise teacher, you are liable to be carried away by
your emotions. How pitiable the foolish son who left behind the
family fortune handed down to him by his prominent father and
vainly labored in front of others handling garbage and excrement.25
At present, are we not liable to be like this?
When I observed accomplished
people in the past who held the position of cook, their personal
qualities were naturally in accord with their official roles.
The Great Gui awakened to the way when he was a cook.26 Dongshan's
[saying] "Three pounds of hemp" was also when he was
If there is a matter that can be valued, you should value the
matter of awakening to the way. If there is a time that can be
valued, surely you should value the time of awakening to the
way! The result of cherishing that matter and being addicted
to the way is attested especially by the [story of] "grasping
sand and making a jewel."28 We can often
see the effect of making an image [of the Buddha] and worshipping
[before it]. The position of cook is similar [in its karmic results],
but even more so. Its name is the same [as in the past]. If the
cook is someone who can transmit its character and its practice,
how could its beauty and its fulfillment fail to appear?
In general, the various stewards
and prefects, including the cook, should maintain a joyful mind,
an elder's mind, and a great mind whenever they perform rituals
or engage in work.
So-called joyful mind is the
spirit of happiness. You should consider that if you were born
in a heaven, you would be attached to pleasures without cease
and would not be able to arouse the thought of enlightenment.
Practice would not be feasible. Even less would you be able to
prepare meals as offerings to the three jewels! Among the myriad
dharmas, the most revered and precious are the three jewels.
The most superior things are the three 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 space outside
[worldly] things; pure and detached, the assembly of monks is
Now we have the good fortune to be born as human beings and to
prepare the food that these three jewels receive and use. Is
this not of great karmic significance? We should thus be very
Again, you should consider that
if you were born into the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, animals,
anti-gods, and the like, or born in circumstances where you suffered
from one of the eight difficulties, 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 the three jewels.
Relying on that painful physical form you would receive pain
and be bound in body and mind. Now, in this life, you have already
prepared those meals. How happy a birth! How happy a body! It
is the good karmic result of kalpas vast and great. It is merit
that cannot decay. When you prepare food and cook it you should
do so with the aspiration of taking tens of thousands of births
and concentrating them into this one day, this one time, that
you may be able 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 joyful mind. Truly, even if one takes
on the body of a wheel-turning holy king, if one does not prepare
meals as offerings to the three jewels, in the end it has no
benefit. It is only of the nature of water, froth, bubbles, or
So-called elder's mind is the
spirit of fathers and mothers. It is, for example, like a father
and mother who dote on an only child: one's thoughts of the three
jewels are like their concentration on that one child. Even if
they are poor or desparate, they strongly love and nurture that
single child. People who are outsiders cannot understand what
their state of mind is like; they can only understand it when
they themselves become fathers or mothers. Without regard for
their own poverty or wealth, [parents] earnestly turn their thoughts
toward raising their child. Without regard for whether they themselves
are cold or hot, they shade the child or cover the child. We
may regard this as affectionate thinking at its most intense.
A person who arouses this spirit is fully conscious of it. A
person who cultivates this spirit is one who truly awakens to
it. Therefore, when [the cook] watches over water and watches
over grain, in every case he should sustain the caring and warmth
The great teacher Shakyamuni,
moreover, apportioned twenty years of his lifespan as a buddha
to assist us in this age of the end of the dharma. What was his
intention? It was simply that he valued the spirit of fathers
and mothers. A tathâgata is utterly incapable of seeking
any reward or seeking any riches.
So-called great mind is, in its
spirit, like a great mountain or a great sea: it has no partiality
and no factionalism. Lifting an ounce, it does not consider it
light; hefting a stone, it does not consider it heavy.30 Being drawn
by the voices of spring, it does not wander into the swamp of
spring. Although it sees the colors of autumn, it has nothing
whatsoever of the spirit of autumn. It contrasts the four seasons
against the backdrop of a single vista. It views pennyweights
and ounces [of silver] within the context of a single system
As an emblem of this sameness, we can write the character "great".
You should know the character "great". You should study
the character "great". If the cook Jiashan had not
studied the character "great", he would not have spontaneously
laughed his single laugh and would not have saved Taiyuan.32
If Ch'an Master Guishan had not written the character "great",
he could not have taken a stick of firewood and blown on it three
If the Reverend Preceptor Dongshan had not known the character
"great", he would not have been able to instruct the
monk by raising "three pounds of hemp".34 You should
know that the great teachers of old were alike in their study
of the character "great" in connection with the diverse
phenomena of this world. Now, too, there are those who freely
make a great sound, expound the great meaning, complete the great
matter, connect with great people, and accomplish karmic conditions
of this one great matter. How could abbots, stewards, prefects,
and monks in training entirely forget these three kinds of mind?!
Recorded in the spring
of the third year of the Katei era 
as instruction for accomplished practitioners of the way in the
Recorded by the dharma-transmitting
abbot of the Kannon Dôri Kôshô Hôrin