From the main points of "Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions for the Zen Cook)" and "Fushuku Hanpo (The Dharma of Taking Food)" By Rev. Tatsuzen Sato, Professor of Ikuei Junior College
Eating is the most basic activity for us in order to sustain our life. As we have a phrase in Japanese "nichijo sahanji (literally meaning the everyday affairs of tea and meals)" , we cannot go a day without eating. This is no different for Zen practitioners. Therefore we can find in the Buddhist scriptures the sayings of the Buddha, such as; "All of us sustain our life by eating. We lose our life if we do not eat", or "By eating we maintain our life, increase our strength, make a more healthy appearance, overcome distress and stop hunger and weakening".
Enlightenment does not mean that the Buddha transforms into a special person. The word "Buddha", which means to be awakened, also has the meaning of "becoming aware". He left home to face the fundamental problems of life such as aging, sickness and death. He became aware of the truth of our life. He deeply recognized the fact that all lives in this world inter-relate with each other; they cannot stay in the same state forever, and they are bound to come to an end.
We are inter-related with each other. That is exactly why we should live in peace. That is what the Buddha thought is very important. He emphasized the compassionate mind which manifests as sympathy.
Besides human beings, he also brought a heart of compassion to animals and plants.
Now we have a big question here. For us to sustain our own life, we have to put other forms of life such as those of animals and plants into our mouth. That means our life is only possible at the cost of the precious lives of animals and plants.
So the Buddha took a serious view of eating as a matter of how to live. "What we eat" is no doubt an important question, but he also paid the closest attention to "in what way we eat". One of the examples is his teaching on shomyojiki and jamyojiki. Thus he put how to produce food and how to get food in question. Shomyojiki is the food obtained by a right way and is beneficial to maintain the health of mind and body. On the contrary, jamyojiki is the food obtained by doing what we should not do, or by cheating people.
Nowadays we use many kinds of chemicals to enhance the productivity of the land, and raise vegetables and livestock in disregard of season and location. If we keep eating such food for a long time, will it not cause health problems? Since we receive the precious lives of animals and plants as food, we should eat in a way that we can make the very best use of them.
It was Dogen Zenji who further deepened the Buddha's teachings on eating. He wrote Tenzo Kyokun and Fushuku Hanpo and gave concrete and detailed accounts on what the Zen cook, the Tenzo, has to keep in mind, and on what we should be mindful of when we eat.
In Tenzo Kyokun, he wrote about careful consideration, from how to cook food in order to make the most of ingredients, to how to prepare and store the ingredients. In Fushuku Hanpo, needless to say, eating is done with gratefulness, and Dogen Zenji described in detail manners such as the necessity of having the mind and body in good condition and giving attention to the people eating together.
For example in Tenzo Kyokun, as for how to wash the rice, Dogen Zenji advised:
We need such care because cooking can lead us to:
In Fushuku Hanpo, he wrote about the minute care we should take when eating:
These things to note are aiming at:
These are just a few examples, but all of them startle us because we now enjoy having food so abundantly that we easily forget to handle it with care, or to have a sense of gratitude.
As the phrase "nichijo sahanji" shows, we repeat cooking and eating everyday, and those activities can become so trivial to us. That is why only a few people pay close attention to the true meaning of preparing meals and eating. However, the activity of eating, which is crucial for living, has a serious meaning -- that we receive the lives of animals and plants. Therefore, the attitude of cooking and eating is certainly related to cultivating our mind as well as our body.
In Tenzo Kyokun, as a summary of this meaning, Dogen Zenji taught us that it is important to have Joyful Mind, Nurturing Mind and Magnanimous Mind. Joyful Mind is a mind that rejoices at the opportunity of taking such a wonderful position as that of Tenzo. A person who becomes a tenzo should grapple with cooking with Nurturing Mind, which is like parents gently caring for their children. And Magnanimous Mind is the capacity to embrace everything equally.
In Fushuku Hanpo, the verses to recite before eating meals are presented as The Verse of Five Contemplations.
The important points for us to keep in mind when we consider eating are all included in these words.
Recently more and more people are interested in the issue of eating. But their focus is mainly on the aspect of nutrition, which perhaps reflects the age of gluttony. Of course nutrition is important, but we must not forget that to eat is to deeply recognize the lives of others. As the Buddha taught, our lives are inter-related with each other.
Now we are facing serious environmental problems on a global scale. Precisely for this reason, we should learn many things from the teachings on how to eat as taught by the Buddha and Dozen Zenji. We eat not only to satisfy our hunger but also to recognize our own life and the lives of others.
Therefore, for us, eating is a practice. I am sure that we can receive many lessons on how to tackle these problems by thinking deeply about how to eat with care every day.