Citations from COMMENTARY on Dogen Zenji's
TENZO KYOKUN (典座教訓) Instructions for the Cook
from "A Monk's Mouth is like an Oven," by Shindo Aoyama, published
in NOTHING IS HIDDEN, ed. by Jisho Warner, Shohaku Okumura, et al
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One day not long ago, I received a phone call from a former tea-ceremony student who hadn't called me for a long time. Her voice was urgent: "Sensei, my husband has died of cancer! The memorial service is just over and I wanted to hear your voice." Not long after, I recieved a phone call from a childhood friend, who told me that her son, a university student, had committed suicide. These phone calls made me think about all the kinds of firewood that leap into the oven of our life, even if we want to reject them. A husband's death, a son's death, or our own death, all these logs go in. How should we burn this firewood?

An oven does not discriminate between fancy firewood and thorns. It accepts everything without preference and transforms it into thermal energy to cook rice or to heat bathwater. Pleasure and sadness, failure and success, love and hatred, all different kinds of firewood come into the oven of our lives. How can we go about accepting and burning them all, transforming them into the energy of our lives? If we complain and become sulky, our lives become smoky and we cannot burn anything. And when we become smoky we disturb others.
Dogen's teaching is very thorough. He says that we need to maintain the same attitude of respect toward things that we try to offer to people. We should take care of pots and bowls as well as we take care of our own eyes and head. He also says that we should consider rice and wheat as our own children. "When [the cook] watches over water and watches over grain, in every case [they] should sustain the caring and warmth of chlld-rearing." This is the attitude called nurturing mind. Instead of putting ourselves first on every occasion, we aim to cultivate a true heart toward people and things and put ourselves in the other's place at every encounter.
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(Zen Master) DOGEN ZENJI'S (道元禅師)
(Gender Inclusive) STUDIES OF THE WAY (學道) | (INDEX)
95-Fascicle SHOBOGENZO (正法眼蔵) & Other Writings