Dining Room Lecture

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Evening talk

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time to time, and many of the dishwashers would get way behind because then all these different dishes come in. If you just stack them up, then you can do all the platters, all the plates, all the smaller plates. Anyway, when I started out as a dishwasher, I said I was very good at it, and I was very calm and good-natured. They were making really delicious bread, so I asked if I could learn how to make bread if they'd teach me. They said, sure. I learned the sponge method. There's history to all these things. Our bread comes from, actually, my teachers were students of a man named Alan Hooker at the Ranch House Restaurant in Ojai. That's a whole other story. He was a student of Krishnamurti's. These things go back. They taught me to make bread, and then they started teaching me to make lunch soups and breakfast. Then, about halfway through the summer, one of the cooks quit.


The owners of Tussar said, why don't you become a cook? Within hours, I had cook's temperament. Within a few weeks, there was meetings. What are we going to do about Ed? It took two people to replace me doing the dishes, the pots, and the bread. We had just two cooks. One cook did breakfast and lunch, the other cook did dinner. You worked 12 days and then had two days off. I was sitting in cabin 3B, which isn't there anymore. It turned out the woman in 2D, we had a little tiny mokugyo for our chanting in the morning. We had a little bell. She had a drinking problem, and our little mokugyo about 7, 15 or so in the morning would


wake her up. We moved our zendo down to the barn, the first barn, which didn't have all the rooms then. Things have changed a lot, obviously, since then. Since I had two or three months of experience working in the kitchen, when Zen Center bought Tassajara and I was already a Zen student and already a cook, they said, why don't you be the head cook? I was 22. Depending on when organizations started, it doesn't take long to advance. Now you get here and before you're the head cook, it's like years of practice at Tassajara and Zen Center and in the kitchen, and then maybe you can be the head cook finally. I was 22 and I started being the head cook. Somebody asked me last summer, were you ever a guest cook? Ed, were you ever a guest cook? I think that was probably before you were born. Many of the students now, I mean, I was guest cooking in 67, 68, 69.


Many of the students now, 70, 71, 72. Oh well. Then I try to explain, when I was guest cook, I was also the tensor in the baker. We had two guest cooks, one tensor, two guest cooks, and one baker. We sometimes worked three or four weeks and then we'd take a day off. But we were young, and we didn't know any better, and we weren't staffed that well, and it was all kind of a big adventure or something. Anyway, now we're so well organized, it's amazing. Everything is all mapped out and it's really quite nice. Probably much more conducive to Zen practice. I was also remembering, I've always had this interest, not always, but going back this time,


I was interested in cooking and I was interested in helping Zen Center and Tassajara. Our teachers used to say, Suzuki Rishi and Karagiri Rishi used to say, working in the kitchen is the same as being in the Zendo. But most people don't believe this, I don't think. At one point there, the people in the kitchen said, because we're working in the kitchen, we're not getting as much Zazen time as those other people. So we need a special period of Zazen just for the kitchen, so we can make up for lost Zazen time. This is stupid. But they convinced the authorities here at Tassajara that we should have a kitchen Zazen. So we get up in the morning and make breakfast, and then we clean up from breakfast. In those days, we were also serving the food to the Zendo. We cooked the food. Now that we have people come out of the Zendo to serve the food to the Zendo. In those days, the cooks, then we went and served the food, we brought the food back,


we ate, we cleaned up. It was a long day. So we started having kitchen Zazen in the morning, when otherwise we would have a break. So after we finished serving breakfast and cleaning up from breakfast, then we might have time to go to the bathroom, and then we'd go and sit Zazen, and then we'd come back to work on lunch. So then sometime in the afternoon, we'd have a break. And then we'd start on dinner. And I thought, I never liked that idea of having kitchen Zazen. I feel vindicated now, if I may say so, because I'm still here and they're not. All those people who got their extra Zazen time, because kitchen practice wasn't really Zazen. And the way to have Zazen is to be in the Zendo.


Many years later, I was at a Tibetan center, and the Tibetan teacher was going on and on about the most beneficial place to be is the meditation hall and the most auspicious. And to be meditating, this is most auspicious, most wonderful. And after this hour-long talk, are there any questions? And I said, doesn't somebody have to cook? Is there any hope for them? Is it just a loss? They don't have a chance, and it's only auspicious if you're in the meditation hall. Because I've also been to centers where it's like that. We're actually very unusual here. I've been to centers where people, the cook will say to me, nobody helps because they're all busy sewing Lama robes and writing out hundreds of thousands of mantras that they're putting in the top of 16-foot-high Buddhas.


They're doing spiritual practices, so you wouldn't want to cook when you have a chance to do a spiritual practice. Do you understand? We're a little different that way, that cooking could be a spiritual practice. Anyway, this Tibetan teacher said, if you do your kitchen work completely willingly, with your full willingness and generosity of heart, it's exactly the same thing. Oh, well, thank you for saying so. Well, I wanted to read you from the Tenzo Kyokan here, another one of the mushroom stories. We read one this afternoon. This kind of rubs it in. In the fifth month of the 16th year of Jiading, 1223,


Dogen says, I was staying on a ship. One time while I was talking with the captain, a monk about 60 years old came on board and he talked to a Japanese merchant and then bought some mushrooms from Japan. I invited him to have tea and asked where he came from. He was the Tenzo from Mount Ayuwang. I am from Shu in western China, he said, and have been away from my native place for 40 years. Now I am 61 years old. I have visited monasteries in various places. Some years ago, Priest Daochuan became abbot of Guyun Temple on Mount Ayuwang, so I went to Mount Ayuwang and entered the community and have been there ever since. Last year when the summer practice period was over, I was appointed Tenzo, the head cook of the monastery. Tomorrow is the fifth day of the fifth month, but I have nothing good to offer the community. I wanted to make a noodle soup, but we did not have mushrooms, so I made a special trip here to get some mushrooms to offer to the monks from the Ten Directions.


I asked him, when did you leave there? And he said, after the noon meal. How far is Mount Ayuwang? 34 or 35 li, so it's about 12 miles. So this is the Tenzo, you know, kind of walking from here to Janeburg to get some mushrooms. That's 14 miles. When are you going back to your monastery? I will go back as soon as I have bought mushrooms. I said, today we met unexpectedly and had a conversation on the ship. Is it not a good causal relationship? Please let me offer you a meal, Reverend Tenzo. It is not possible. If I don't oversee tomorrow's offering, it will not be good. Dogen says, is there not someone else in the monastery who understands cooking? Even if one Tenzo is missing, will something be lacking? And the Tenzo says, I have taken this position in my old age.


This is the fulfillment of many years of practice. How can I delegate my responsibility to others? Besides, I did not ask permission to stay out. I again asked the Tenzo, Honorable Tenzo, why don't you concentrate on Zazen practice and on the study of the ancient master's words rather than troubling yourself by holding the position of Tenzo and just working? Is there anything good about it? The Tenzo laughed a lot and replied, Good man from a foreign country, you do not yet understand practice or know the meaning of the words of the ancient masters. Hearing him respond in this way, I suddenly felt ashamed and surprised. So I asked him, what are words? What is practice? The Tenzo said, if you penetrate this question,


you cannot fail to become a person of understanding. But I did not understand. Then the Tenzo said, if you do not understand this, please come and see me at Mount Ayuang sometime. We'll discuss the meaning of words. He spoke in this way and then he stood up and said, the sun will soon be down. I must hurry. And he left. We talked some this afternoon. This again is an example of the fact that we each have our position. Our position is this body, this place, this time. We have various positions here at Tathagatagarbha. We have our individual lives and we have our individual relationships with our families, our children, our parents. We are in various positions and nobody else can take our position.


We are the only ones who can be in the position of me. Each one of us. There's no one else who can take that position. This is very basic to Zen. It's completely up to each one of us to fulfill the position of being who we are and responding to all the relationships in all directions, whether it's working in the kitchen or taking care of our children or being a spouse or taking care of our aging parents. No one else does these things. And if we don't do it, it's not as though someone will. This Tenzo monk has a sense of this. Another way we say this oftentimes, Dogen says, is when you meet, meeting one Dharma, practice one Dharma.


Or we could say, meeting this moment, practice this moment. What's happening in this moment? What are we going to do? How is it to be me? So it's not real obvious what it is to be alive in this moment and how to fulfill our position, how to fulfill our life as an individual and also fulfill the various directions of our relationships with things, with people, with place. It's very challenging. But this is what the encouragement of our ancestors is, to take on this challenge of how to fulfill the position of being me. It would be nice in a certain way if there was some obvious way to do it


because then you could actually work at it. But it doesn't turn out like that. We're each studying how to do this. And I appreciate this also. There was a Japanese Zen teacher named Tenke. And Tenke is teaching at one point. He said, see with your eyes, listen with your ears, smell with your nose, taste with your tongue. And he said, nothing in the universe is hidden. What else would you have me say? And I think what we would usually have him say is, would you please tell me how to make everything come out the way I'd like it to be? This is what not even a Zen master is going to be able to tell you. And our taking on our position and responding to our life doesn't mean that things come out the way we want them to.


So this is very interesting. What is it then to do this? Sometimes in cooking I think about... When I started cooking, I had more the idea that you dream up, you think of what to do, you come up with an idea, a concept. I'm going to make this, this, and this. And then you set out to do what you thought up. This is mostly the way we are, you know, often the way we're living our lives. We have an idea or a picture of the reality that would be good to create. And then we try to get all the things that are out there, help us create our reality. And I don't know about you, but whenever I try to do that, the world is not that helpful. And people don't fit in, the sponges don't help, you know.


They just don't do that. They're somehow not ready to say, Oh, is that your idea? Oh, we'd be delighted. We would be so happy to make your idea or your picture come true. And this is often the way we're going forward in our lives is to have this picture and then see if we can get it to happen. So we have a picture of our relationship, or we have a picture of a recipe. And then it turns out, well, we're missing an ingredient. Or we don't have time. And, you know, so our picture that we dream up is not happening. And of course Buddhism suggests, you know, that this is pretty, sometimes this is called suffering or the first noble truth. Things aren't going to happen the way we thought. And it turns out that, you know, on the other hand,


we could kind of look around and see what's around and have some sense of our capacity and our possibilities. And we could look and see what's in the garden, what's in the refrigerator. And when we observe all the things, then we dream up what to do with them. So our dreaming up what to do is in response to the things, rather than we have a picture and then we tell the things, you should fit into my picture. Do you understand the difference? So I have the feeling, you know, I mean, a lot, you know, we can understand, you know, a story like this about the Tenzo and the mushrooms in various ways. But this is one way I think about this. You know, it's very easy to have a picture of what practice is. And I could do this practice and then I would become, you know, if I study the words of the ancients and I do Zaz,


and then I could become such and such. I have this picture of the kind of person I could be. But actually we do this practice and then we become something we hadn't dreamed of. And that's seeing with your eyes and smelling with your nose and responding to things. And so Dogen calls this also, and this is, you know, one of my favorite expressions, let your heart go out and abide in things. Let things come and abide in your heart. Let your heart, and you know, sometimes this is translated mind, but for the understanding for, in Japanese and Chinese, you know, is heart is mind. The heart is actually 5,000 times, electromagnetically the heart is 5,000 times stronger than the brain. Let your heart go out and abide in things. Let things return and abide in your heart. And we seem to need this advice because there is a tendency


for us to kind of be inside and sort of thinking up what to do and how to make something happen. And, you know, we don't like the way it is, or, you know, how do I do this? And how do I make my picture of the way things could be come true? How do I make that picture happen? And it's just, and it's not happening. So the advice is let your heart go out and abide, to actually go out and see, and smell, and taste, and touch. And it's another kind of going out actually in meditation to think your thoughts, feel your feelings, sense your sensations. This is also a kind of going out because the tendency, whether it's meditation or in other places in our life, the meditation tendency is I could get my body into some position where I don't have to pay attention to anything. And then I could, and then, in other words, you know, to have to actually give your attention to anything,


this is really hard. So mostly, because mostly we have the idea that I could actually relax and be calm and peaceful when I don't have anything I have to pay attention to. Isn't this the way we think? So this is why we go and lie on beaches in Hawaii. Because, you know, I'm done, I'm finished. I don't have to actually take care of anything. So now I can relax. So this is our tendency is, could everything please take care of itself and that I didn't have to relate to anything, and then I could relax, and then I could be quiet and peaceful and calm because I don't have to relate to anything. And this is a kind of, you know, so-called trap for meditators. I don't have to relate to anything and now I'm peaceful and quiet and I get to sit here in the meditation hall and, you know, I don't even have to pay attention to my body. This is when in the old days we used to come and hit you with a stick. Give your attention to something,


to your posture, sit up. Have some vitality, have some energy. And that worked as long as it was the Japanese teachers who were hitting us, especially when we started hitting each other. And then when men and women started hitting each other, you know, women are hitting men, men are hitting women. It's like, whoa, this is kinky. So, and this is America and we don't do that sort of, you know, stuff anymore. So, you know, it's just guys. You know, and young men, you can, you know, knock each other around. You know, otherwise known as football or whatever it is. But, you know, Zen, no different, you know. I don't know if I'm making this clear, but, you know, as soon as you are aware of something, then what do I do with it? Or how do I respond to it? Or what does it think of me? What do I think of it? Do I like it? Do I not like it? How does this reflect on me? You know, how am I going to handle this? This is too much for me. I don't know what to do. And so forth.


So, the idea of Zen is actually that we could actually pay attention or give our attention to all these things and be calm. And have some quiet in our life. It's not when we finish doing all these things. So, it's a real different kind of idea in that there's actually a vitality and a stillness in relating to things moment after moment. That there's this kind of possibility rather than peace and stillness and harmony and calm is when you don't have to relate to anything. Do you understand? This is an important point. So, we're studying actually how to relate to things. So, the kitchen, you know, this is true in the kitchen to actually pick up the food, see the food, smell the food, taste things, touch things. It's true in the shop. It's true, you know, in the dining room. And we're also relating then to each other and to our own experience. So, I want to read you the...


Well, I want to talk, before I go on here, I want to tell you, I just... Every so often here at Tessahara, I like to tell you about kid talk. Because most of us are familiar with kid talk, but we don't realize what kind of, you know, how kid talk it is. And so, this is some of the things we do rather than relate to things, rather than actually letting our heart go out and abide in things, letting things come and abide in the heart. So, one of the things we say is, I can't. And, you know, how is it that we can't? Well, you know, if I did that, it might not work out well. So, why don't I just say I can't? Or, you know, if I did that, you might not like it, so I can't. In other words, I can't is a way to avoid the possibility of failure or that it's not working out or that somebody would disapprove of how you did that.


I can't. So, that's simpler than actually trying and failing, you know. I can't. I'm not willing to be awkward. I'm not willing to be clumsy. I'm not willing to do something I haven't done before. I can only do the things that I've done before and that I know what I'm doing and that I'm an expert at. And I wouldn't want to be a beginner at anything. I wouldn't want to just try out. I wouldn't want to stumble along or be awkward. I can't. Okay? So, this is one. And, you know, the opposite of that would be, why don't I try something out and be a beginner and, you know, see what I can find out and study this and be a little awkward to start with and clumsy and gradually, I'll get better at things and I'll find out how to do things and I'll work at it. So, that's a different mentality than I can't. I'm not going to go into something I don't know how to do. Another one is, I'll try. We've all heard that one and you know what that means, right? I don't really want to


but I don't want to tell you that I don't want to and that I'm not going to so I'll tell you that I'll try. Because I wouldn't want to disappoint you or upset you with the fact that I'm not going to. So, we say, yeah, I'll try. How often have you heard that and you know right away, like, that means nothing. And we say that so easily, you know. So, it's useful like, either like, actually I'd rather not do that or I'm not ready to say yes to that or rather than just saying, I'll try, which is a kind of evasive. Why not be willing to express I'm not willing to do that right now. I can't agree to that right now. And another one is, I should. I should. So, that's I'm not,


I don't want to, but I should. Right? So, if you're watching your language, what do you tell yourself? About, or another one like, so when I say, if I find myself saying should, I just say, yeah, I don't want to. I'm not, and I don't want to. And then either, okay, but I'll do it anyway. But I don't, we're trying to, sort of like, let's have some real language in our own psyche. Another one is, I can't be bothered. So, that's exactly this thing. I can't be bothered means, I want to spend some time in my own world where I don't have to relate to anything. And we all have, and we all have the, you know,


we should have that kind of space from time to time. And you know, like here, we have a pretty intense schedule, but you know, now and again, there's a little time where I don't have to relate to anything, and you kind of get a break from it. And we should be able to do that. Just like, you know, if you want to dissociate, go ahead and dissociate. You know, go ahead and space out. No one says you have to be present all the time. Have to. There's another one of these. I have to. No one says you have to anything. You know, so if you find yourself saying have to, it's really useful to say, well, what is it I'm choosing to do? Because have to you know, there's just a difference of, you know, this isn't really my, you know, first choice, and I don't, and I'm not really enthusiastic about this, but I'm choosing to do this anyway. I'd rather go ahead and do this. I'd like to go ahead and,


you know, give it a shot. It's just different than I have to do this. Have to means you start to feel coerced. You're coercing yourself into following the schedule or doing what you should, and then you make up all these things. So this is all stuff that you know, the Zen teacher says nothing in the universe is hidden. And this is also like Dogen says, your thoughts were already realization, but you thought, and you said, these thoughts can't be realization. Who just said that? So we are in this strange business of there's some future where it's going to be a realization which is different than the present. And then how do we arrive at that space? And then we have a picture of that space, a picture of that moment, of that time, some future time, some future moment which is different than now.


And then how would you ever get to there when all you can be is here with all of its all of what's going on? So Dogen says realization what you think one way or another about realization is not a help for realization. But same with your eyes, smelling with your nose, listening with your ears, tasting with your tongue, this is a help. You can walk with your feet. You know, do things with your hands. And then as we do things where life is coming alive, our hands come alive, our feet come alive, our body's alive because we are manifesting ourselves, we're doing things. And the world is appearing to us outside of our conception or our picture


of what we thought it would be or what we'd like to see. No problem. Without our having to do anything. Realization comes forth by the power of realization. And Dogen says thank goodness, otherwise it wouldn't be trustworthy. If it was just up to any of us, ah well. So the second part of the mushroom story here. So Dogen, it turns out, did have a second encounter with this in Tenzo. He says In the seventh month of the same year I was staying at Mount Tien Tong when the Tenzo of Ayuwang came to me to see me and said after the summer practice period is over I'm going to retire as Tenzo and return to my native place. I heard from a fellow monk that you were staying here so I thought I should come to see you. I was moved with joy. I served him tea and we talked.


When I referred to the discussion of words and practice which had taken place on the ship the Tenzo said to study words you must know the origin of words. To endeavor in practice you must know the origin of practice. And I asked what are words? The Tenzo said one, two, three, four, five. I asked again what is practice? The Tenzo said nothing in the entire universe is hidden. We talked about many other things which I will not introduce now. If I know a little about words or understand practice it is because of the great help of the Tenzo. I told my late master Myozen about this in detail and he was extremely pleased. I later found a verse which Shui Do wrote for a monk through one word or seven three or five nothing in the universe can be fully comprehended


or grasped. Night advances the full moon falls and sinks into the ocean the black dragon jewel you have been searching for is everywhere. Many people when they comment on what are words one, two, three, four, five this is one thing after another that is these things that our heart to let our heart go out to and the things that we let come and abide in our heart one thing after another. And the things that are coming and abiding are not just things but it is also the preciousness of our life or in this case it is called the black dragon jewel you have been searching for. Because what it is we are really searching for is not something you know


about how well we do anything or how poorly but it is because what we are searching for is to give our heart and to let things come home to our heart. And to be in this kind of intimate relationship with the things of life which are the things inside us the things outside us the people around us the things around us the food the place the gardens you know the activities that we are engaged in and to find things in our life and places and times where we can give ourselves to things and things can come and you know be our good companions. I cut myself today.


What do you think? Isn't that embarrassing? Experienced chef. Oh well. I am going to have So in Zen we have this kind of idea that I don't want to talk too much longer so I want to tell you briefly one more story about you know it was actually right here this was the Zen Do before we finished the Zen Do that was over there that burned down before that Zen Do. This was like about our one of our first Zen Do's and we used to and when we first started serving breakfast in the Zen Do in those you know it was 1967 and we had when we were eating at tables outside we had been serving milk and sugar and because some people


didn't want white sugar we also had brown sugar and some people didn't want sugar so we had honey and then some people didn't want honey so we had molasses and then in terms of milk you know this is before soy milk rice milk and low fat milk non-fat milk so milk and then some extra rich milk and then some half and half and then some canned milk and after all this is America have it your way and shouldn't you be able to make things the way you want them to be? and shouldn't you have the condiments of your choice? and so we didn't know any better and we were serving these things and when you're doing this in the Zen Do then you have to pass it down the row and it turns out to pass several things down the row like that takes a long time so we started having one tray for every three people so now


for 30 people we have there's 10 trays 10 trays of all the milks and 10 trays of all the sugars so there's 20 trays with 4 or 5 containers each this is a lot if you're in the kitchen and about the third morning we did this I had been serving and we were outside here and we heard somebody came out and said Suzuki Roshi is going to give a talk he wants everybody in the meditation hall so we all came in here I think the altar was over there and we were using these back doors I mean it's all been remodeled since those days anyway but and Suzuki Roshi said I don't understand you Americans when you put all these condiments on your cereal how can you taste the true spirit


of the grain and you know I think until he mentioned that we had no idea that there was such a thing that you could do don't you just don't you just like when something happens you try to make it be the way you'd like it to be you don't go like sort of like I could taste the true spirit of the cereal or I could taste the true spirit of the person in front of me or I could taste my own true spirit or I could know my own good heart or I could know someone else's sincerity or good heart or say well speak up or calm down or you know we're trying to and then Suzuki Roshi went on what did you think that every moment in your life you could add enough cream and sugar to make it taste just the way you want it to of course we're thinking sure and he said you know


each moment you could you know why don't you practice tasting the true spirit why don't you just practice tasting the way things are rather than making wanting to make everything taste a certain way be a certain way and and so there's that kind of emphasis in our practice and in our cooking which is to even though we're we're seasoning things and taking care of things we're not you know the tradition is not to mix up a bunch of different ingredients it's to have things be fairly fairly simple not a lot of different ingredients except for when we sort of have you know we have leftovers sometimes and we put a bunch of them together and the sense is you know that each of us has you know our spirit and we're studying you know


how to see beyond the appearance of things to someone's true spirit and how to call forth one another's true spirit and this is different than you know how do I get this person to calm down or shut up or you know be nice to me or why are they you know like this or so we're sort of seeing if we can somehow connect with this person's good heart and not be you know put off by the kinds of difficulties or problems I have or you have or you know we have with each other is there some way we can sense that and and realize we're all we're good hearted people and how do we call that forth in one another and our call forth our good heartedness and our capacity to to let our heart go out and be with things and let the things


come home to our heart we're all just working on this you know I just thought of another story but oh well it's probably late enough and there'll be other talks won't there and then I'll have something to tell you next time it's been my pleasure to be with all of you tonight and thank you so much for your your good hearted presence I appreciate your the stillness and sense of quiet and refreshment in the room so thank you blessings