The Way of Refining One’s Life Through Meal Preparation

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The Zen of Preparing One’s Food

Preparing a meal for oneself, one’s family, “the communal table” at various levels, for the “tenzo”, the “chef” (cook) and the chef’s assistants within the Buddhist philosophy of the “spirit of meal preparation” brings a whole new meaning to the function of both kitchen and the “tenzo”. A renewed spirit of reverence for fresh food handling and preparation for specific life-styles and behaviors is essential. That “spirit” within which meals are prepared is transferred to those who ingest the vital nutrients of life and good health.

This book is not about recipes, but about the importance of reverence and a “life-style attitude” of the tenzo, the “chef” of which many of us are in various degrees. The daily effort of the practice of meal preparation is essential for refining one’s life and the lives of those one prepares such food, and is the foundation of one’s own enlightenment. Every daily practical work is the essence of personal refinement, and that includes one’s time within the kitchen and one’s attitude around procurement and the preparation of “one’s daily bread”, so-to-speak.

The spirit of meal preparation is the most fundamental of “Dogen’s” teaching: “Freedom is attained by realizing everything one encounters creates and is the self.” “Nonjudgment” is living with an unbiased mind. The very nature and complexities of the reality of each individual life and passing contain inconsistencies and negligence.

“Zazen”, daily contemplation (or meditation) assists the mind to be more flexible and capable of seeing from a broader perspective. Simply reading this very thin book and its footnotes, provides the meaning of the essential daily practice, of simple practice of both “Zazen” and the role of the “tenzo”, “chef”, “cook”, and the real role of meal preparation.

This book is a metaphor for each sector of our lives:

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