tomorrow’s gruel

“Prepare the rice today for tomorrow’s gruel.” This is a paraphrase of the wisdom you can find in the Tenzo Kyokun, or Instructions for the Zen Cook, by Zen Master Dogen. This is another exquisite piece of writing by Dogen, in which he gives advice to the cook (tenzo) of a Zen monastery. Gruel is the rice porridge that the monks eat for breakfast and other meals. Like everything Dogen writes, the superficial words carry a much deeper meaning. The advice contained in this book can apply not just to cooking, but to many other areas of your life as well. This can be something as simple as making your bed, washing the dinner dishes, or laying out tomorrow’s clothes. Preparing your life this way, as if you were cooking a grand dinner party for your most beloved friends, creates peace and equanimity in your daily affairs. He says, “Keep your eyes open. Do not allow even one grain of rice to be lost. See the pot as your own head; See the water as your lifeblood…Handle even a single leaf of a green in such a way that it manifests the body of the Buddha.” This brief quote comes from the wonderful translation by Thomas Wright and published by Weatherhill Press. Search out this book if you’d like to read more.

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