HyC Adventures
The Poetics of Perception
Two Zen Cooks Show Dogen the Way

 


 

Two Zen Cooks

Show Dogen the Way

 

Hyatt Carter

 

 

In the year 1223, when he was a young monk in his early twenties, Dogen set sail by ship for China where he hoped to find a true master who would help him further refine his understanding and experience of Zen. After two years of searching, and on the advice of a friend, he sought out Master Rujing under whose guidance he experienced realization that he described as the “falling off of body and mind,” or shinjin datsuraku (身心脱落), an expression that became a key term in Dogen’s Zen.

 

During his sojourn in China, Dogen enjoyed three encounters with tenzo (典座), or Zen cooks, who deepened his understanding. One was with the tenzo at Tiantong Temple, and the other two encounters, one while still aboard ship,1 were with the tenzo from Ayuwang Monastery. These encounters left him with high appreciation for the role of the tenzo in the Zen community.

 

Here, in his own words, is Dogen’s description of those three encounters. For ease of scholarly or aesthetic comparison, I have arranged this in a dual-language format with the English translation2 on the left and Dogen’s original Chinese text3 on the right.

 

Maybe you, like me, will be impressed with Dogen’s way with words when you read the vivid word-picture he paints of the first Zen cook in the opening paragraph. 

 

 

 


When this mountain monk
[Dogen] was at Tiantong Temple, a person named Yong from Qingyuan Prefecture had the job of tenzo. I happened to be passing through the eastern corridor on my way to the Chaoran hut after lunch, when the tenzo was drying mushrooms in front of the buddha hall. He carried a bamboo cane, but had no hat on his head. The sun beat down on the hot pavement and the sweat flowed down and drenched him as he resolutely dried the mushrooms. I saw he was struggling a bit. With his spine bent like a bow and his shaggy eyebrows, he looked like a crane.


山僧在天童時。本府用典座充職。予因齋罷過東廊。赴超然齋之路次。
典座在佛殿前晒苔。手携竹杖。頭無片笠。天日熱。地甎熱。汗流徘徊。勵力晒苔。稍見苦辛。背骨如弓。龍眉似鶴。

 

I approached and politely asked the tenzo his age. He said he was sixty-eight.

山僧近前。便問典座法壽。座云。六十八歳。

I asked, “Why do you not have an attendant or lay worker do this?”

山僧云。如何不使行者人工。

The tenzo said, “Others are not me.”

座云。他不是吾。

I said, “Esteemed sir, you are truly dedicated. The sun is so hot. Why are you doing this now?”

山僧云。老人家如法。天日且恁熱。如何恁地。

 

The tenzo said, “What time should I wait for?”

座云。更待何時。

I immediately withdrew. Thinking to myself as I walked away, I deeply appreciated that this job [expresses] the essential function.

山僧便休。歩廊脚下。潜覺此職之爲機要矣。

 

 

 

Another time, in the fifth month of the sixteenth year of the Katei period [June or July 1223], I was on my ship at Qingyuan. While I was talking with the Japanese captain, an old monk arrived who looked about sixty years old. He came straight onto the boat and asked one of the crew if he could buy some Japanese shiitake mushrooms. I invited him to drink some tea and asked him where he lived. He was the tenzo at the monastery at Ayuwang Mountain.

 

又嘉定十六年癸未五月中。在慶元舶裏。倭使頭説話次。有一老僧來。年六十許歳。一直便到舶裏。問和客討買倭椹。山僧請他喫茶。問他所在。便是阿育王山典座也。

 

He said, “I am from the western part of Sichuan, and left home forty years ago. This year I am sixty-one years old. I have spent time at many monasteries in various areas. In recent years I stayed with Guyun Daoquan. Then I went to practice at Ayuwang Monastery, where I have been kept very busy. Last year, after the end of the summer practice period, I was appointed tenzo of the temple. Tomorrow is the fifth day celebration, and I do not have any special food to serve. I want to make noodle soup, but I do not have any mushrooms. Therefore I came here to try to buy shiitake to offer the monks from the ten directions.”

 

他云。吾是西蜀人也。離郷得四十年。今年是六十一歳。向來粗歴諸方叢林。先年權住孤雲裏。討得育王掛搭。胡亂過。然去年解夏了充本寺典座。明日五日。一供渾無好喫。要做麺汁。未有椹在。仍特特來。討椹買。供養十方雲衲。

 

I asked him, “What time did you depart from there?”

山僧問他。幾時離彼。

The tenzo said, “After lunch.”

座云。齋了。

I said, “How far distant from here is Ayuwang?”

 

山僧云。育王去這裏有多少路。

 

The tenzo said, “Thirty-four or thirty-five li” [about twelve miles].

座云。三十四五里。

I said, “When are you going to return to the temple?”

山僧云。幾時廻寺裏去也。

 

The tenzo said, “As soon as I finish buying the mushrooms I will go.”

座云。如今買椹了便行。

I said, “Today unexpectedly we have met and also had a conversation on this ship. Is this not a truly fortunate opportunity? Allow Dogen to offer food to you, Tenzo Zenji.”

山僧云。今日不期相會。且在舶裏説話。豈非好結縁乎。道元供養典座禪師。

The tenzo said, “It is not possible. If I do not take care of tomorrow’s offering it will be done badly.”

 

座云。不可也。明日供養吾若不管便不是了也。

 

I said, “In your temple aren’t there some workers who know how to prepare meals the same as you? If only one person, the tenzo, is not there, will something be deficient?”

山僧云。寺裏何無同事者理會齋粥乎。典座一位不在。有什麼缺闕。

 

The tenzo said, “During my old age I am handling this job, so in senility I am doing this wholehearted practice. How could I possibly just give away [my responsibilities]? Also, when I came here, I did not ask permission to stay away overnight.”

座云。吾老年掌此職。乃耄及之辨道也。何以可讓他乎。又來時未請一夜宿暇。

 

I then asked the tenzo, “Venerable tenzo, in your advanced years why do you not wholeheartedly engage the Way through zazen or penetrate the words and stories of the ancient masters, instead of troubling yourself by being tenzo and just working? What is that good for?”

山僧又問典座。座尊年。何不坐禪辨道。看古人話頭。煩充典座。只管作務。有甚好事。

 

The tenzo laughed loudly and said, “Oh, good fellow from a foreign country, you have not yet understood wholeheartedly engaging in the Way, and you do not yet know what words and phrases are.”

座大笑云。外國好人。未了得辨道。未知得文字在。

 

Hearing this, I suddenly felt ashamed and stunned, and then asked him, “What are words and phrases? What is wholeheartedly engaging the Way?”

山僧聞他恁地話。忽然發慚驚心。便問他。如何是文字。如何是辨道。

 

The tenzo said, “If you do not stumble over this question you are really a true person.”

座云。若不蹉過問處。豈非其人也。

I could not understand at that time.

山僧當時不會。

The tenzo said, “If you have not yet fully gotten it, sometime later come to Ayuwang Mountain. We will have a complete dialogue concerning the principle of words and phrases.”

座云。若未了得。他時後日。到育王山。一番商量文字道理去在。

 

After saying that, the tenzo got up and said, “It’s getting dark and I am going now.” Then he left to return home.

恁地話了便起座云。日晏了忙去。便歸去了也。

 

 

In the seventh month of the same year [August or September], I rested my monk’s staff at Tiantong Monastery.

同年七月。山僧掛錫天童。

At that time, this tenzo [from Ayuwang Mountain] came to visit me and said, “After the summer practice period was over I retired, and I’m returning to my home village. I happened to learn at my monastery that you were here. How could I not come to see you?”

時彼典座來得相見云。解夏了退典座歸郷去。適聞兄弟説老子在箇裏。如何不來相見。

 

I was deeply touched and overjoyed to welcome him, and during our conversation I brought up the issues that we had mentioned before on the ship concerning words and phrases and wholehearted engagement of the Way.

山僧喜踊感激。接他説話之次。説出前日在舶裏文字辨道之因縁。

 

The tenzo said, “People who study words and phrases should know the significance of words and phrases. People dedicated to wholehearted practice need to affirm the significance of engaging the Way.”

典座云。學文字者。爲知文字之故也。務辨道者。要肯辨道之故也。

 

I asked, “What are words and phrases?”

山僧問他。如何是文字。

The tenzo said, “One, two, three, four, five.”

座云。一二三四五。

Also I asked, “What is wholeheartedly engaging the Way?”

又問。如何是辨道。

The tenzo said, “In the whole world it is never hidden.”

 

座云。遍界不曾藏。

Although we discussed many topics, I will not record the rest now. For whatever bit I know about words and phrases or slightly understand about wholeheartedly engaging the Way, I am grateful to that tenzo’s kindness. I recounted this conversation to my late teacher Myozen. He was delighted to hear about it.

其餘説話。雖有多般。今所不録也。山僧聊知文字了辨道。乃彼典座之大恩也。向來一段事。説似先師全公。公甚隨喜而已。

 

Later I saw a verse Xuedou wrote for a monk that goes:

山僧。後看雪竇有頌示僧云

 

One character, three characters, five, and seven characters.

Having thoroughly investigated the ten thousand things, none have any foundation.

At midnight the white moon sets into the dark ocean.

When searching for the black dragon’s pearl, you will find they are numerous.

 

一字七字三五字。

萬像窮來不爲據。

夜深月白下滄溟。

搜得驪珠有多許。

 

What that tenzo had said in former years and what Xuedou had expressed naturally match each other. More and more I realize that this tenzo was a true person of the Way. Accordingly, what I previously saw of words and phrases is one, two, three, four, five.

前年彼典座所云。與今日雪竇所示。自相符合。彌知彼典座是眞道人也。然則從來所看之文字是一二三四五也。

 

Today what I see of words and phrases is also six, seven, eight, nine, ten. My junior fellow-practitioners, completely see this in that, completely see that in this. Making such an effort you can totally grasp one-flavor Zen through words and phrases.

 

今日所看之文字。亦六七八九十也。後來兄弟。從這頭看了那頭。從那頭看了這頭。作恁功夫。便了得文字上一味禪去也。

 

 

 
 

Notes

 

1. Dogen was still on board the ship where it was docked at the port city of Mingzhou on the Chinese coast when the tenzo came aboard to buy Japanese mushrooms.

 

Mingzhou (明州) is now named Ningbo () and is located in Zhejiang province.

 

2. English translation by Daniel Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, in their book Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community, pages 40-43. This is a translation of Dogen’s  Eihei Shingi (永平清規).

 

3. The source of the Chinese text is The SAT Daizokyo Text Database, available online at this address: http://21dzk.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/SAT/database_en.html. Dogen’s Eihei Shingi is # 2584 in Volume 82. The SAT Database texts sometimes have pictures of the Chinese characters rather than the characters themselves; in all such instances I have substituted Chinese characters for the pictures.

 

For example, where the SAT text has a picture of the Chinese character bié . . .

 

I have substituted the Chinese character itself:

 

 

, or bié in Pinyin, is 8382 in the Unicode system. If you want to see a neat trick, type 8382 in a MS Word document and then, with the cursor flashing in the space after the 2, hold down the Alt key and then press the x key. Voilà . . . 8382 is converted to.

 

 

A HyC Presentation

 

 

 

Zen Koans
Four 12th-Century Zen Letters
Dogen's Metaphors of Enlightenment
Dogen Preaches on Nonduality
Dogen's Fukanzazengi: A Tale of Three Texts
Two Zen Cooks Show Dogen the Way
The Karma of Words: A Poem by Bai Juyi
The Zen Koan
HomeMy Twelve BooksProcess PhilosophyHyC AdventuresZen BuddhismDigital DogenChiasmusLevity and LudibundityAbout Me