Self Responsibility

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( Dogen's Instructions for the Cook - XX)

This is a chance to talk about Buddhist practice and personal (or "self") responsibility. The world and our self are not two, meaning that we can do a lot to repair this world starting by looking and changing within our self.

Also, it is important to realize this life & world as perfectly "just what is" ... and we accept it all, are at one with it all, reject none of it ...

However, we must simultaneously seek to free our "self" of greed, anger and ignorance, freeing our "self" of its "self", dropping all that away.

All at once. If one merely says "all is perfect" and, thus, there is no need to practice ... one is foolish.

Dirty teeth, clean teeth ... each perfectly what they are, as they are, dirty teeth precisely dirty, each a jewel in its own way. ..................... Yet, brush brush brush each day!

This is true for our little life, and for this whole world ... all the weeds and flowers, each natural in its way ... yet constantly pull those weeds, nurture the flowers as one can.

You may recall the famous poetry slam in the "Platform Sutra of the 6th Patriarch". It is said that Shenxiu lost the contest with these lines ...

The body is a Bodhi [Perfect Wisdom] tree,
the mind a standing mirror bright.
At all times polish it diligently,
and let no dust alight.

and that Huineng won the day with this little diddy ...

Bodhi is no tree,
nor is the mind a standing mirror bright.
Since all is originally empty,
where does the dust alight?

But, really, it is not that Shenxiu was wrong (in fact, their Master, Hongren, praised each in its way) and both are truly right at once ... both two sides of a complete view.


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?

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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