Instructions to the Cook
â€śDay and night, the work for preparing the meals must be done without wasting a moment. If you do this and everything that you do whole-heartedly, this nourishes the seeds of Awakening and brings ease and joy to the practice of the community.â€ť – Eihei Dogen zenji
the following is an excerpt from Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life That Matters
Â Â Â One of the key principles of the Zen cook is that nothing exists by itself. Everything is interdependent.
Â Â Â Even though we all have responsibility for our own life and work, at the same time none of us can accomplish the work we need to do all by ourselves. This is especially true if we want to help others. We all need to work together to prepare the supreme meal.
Â Â Â The Zen cookâ€™s way of working with others is based on the vision of Indraâ€™s net, which is the Zen model of life. Indra was an ancient king of India who thought a great deal of himself. One day he went to the royal architect and said that he wanted to leave a monument of himselfâ€”something that all people would appreciate.
Â Â Â The kingâ€™s architect created an immense net that extended throughout all space and time. And the kingâ€™s treasurer placed a bright, shining pearl at each node of the net so that every pearl was reflected in every other pearl. And each single pearlâ€”each person, each eventâ€”contains the whole of Indraâ€™s net, including all of space and time.
Â Â Â When we realize that we are all bright pearls in Indraâ€™s net, we see that within each one of us the whole body of the universe is contained. Since we are all already connected in Indraâ€™s net, there are no limits to the possibilities of connecting with other people in our lives and our work.
Â Â Â Still, itâ€™s natural for most of us to begin â€śnetworkingâ€ť with the people closest to our own interests and needs. Accountants network with other accountants, poets with other poets, and Buddhists with other Buddhists. This kind of networking certainly has its uses. Itâ€™s especially effective, for example, when we need help in solving a very difficult problem. But it is not a very effective overall strategy, because it leads to a narrowing instead of a widening of your network. It results in ever-diminishing returns. The tax accountants end up talking only to other tax accountants; the free-verse poets end up talking only to other free-verse poets; and the Zen Buddhists of one school end up talking only to Zen Buddhists of the same school.
Â Â Â When we network according to the vision of Indraâ€™s net, on the other hand, we begin by casting the widest possible net. We do this by defining our mission in the broadest possible way. If I define myself in the narrowest sense, for example, as a Zen Buddhist monk who is involved in running a bakery and providing housing for homeless people, I might limit my network to Zen Buddhists, bakers, and social workers.
Â Â Â But I can also define my missionâ€”or vow, to use the Zen Buddhist termâ€”in a much broader way. I can say, for example, that my mission is to prepare the supreme meal for the benefit of all sentient beings. I am now casting a much wider netâ€”an immense net, in factâ€”for I can now work with anyone who wants to improve the quality of life on this planet. (specific issues and ways in which you want to work, you will naturally find yourself working with a particular segment of the net. But even thenâ€”especially thenâ€”itâ€™s important to remember youâ€™re still part of a bigger net.)
Bernie Glassman & Rick Fields, â€śThe Fifth Course, Recipes For Community,â€ť Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Masterâ€™s Lessons in living a Life That Matters, (New York: Bell Tower, 1996), 124-125.
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