Equanimity, Gratitude, Respect ... Sincerity, Generosity

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( Dogen's Instructions for the Cook - XXV)

In this section, Master Dogen continues to counsel that we should take the ingredients that life hands us and treat them with each of equanimity, gratitude and respect ... even if poor ingredients, small or not what we would necessarily want.

Master Dogen also emphasizes that a small donation or gift, though meagre yet given with sincerity and generosity, may mean more than a casual giving of great treasure.

He references a couple of old Buddhist stories to make his point: The first (from the Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom) is a story of a poor old woman who made a simple offering to Buddha of the water that she had used to rinse rice and, as a result, was reborn to eventually became a buddha herself. The second concerns the great King Ashoka who, unable one day to give gold or money, donated with sincerity a mere half a crabapple to a monastery, which the monks received courteously, ground into flour, and baked into a cake which was shared by all (from the Ashoka sûtra).

The passage also refers to the Buddha as "Him of Ten Names", because many names are used to describe the Buddha. One sometimes heard is "awake and generous one", which seems fitting here.


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 future births; 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? 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.

From: Tenzo Kyokun - Instructions for the Cook by Eihei Dogen - Translated by Griffith Foulk 

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

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