Parental Mind

From Tenzo Kyokun

by Zen Master Dogen

Featured in Mountain Record 24.4, Summer 2006

When working in any position of responsibility, not only as tenzo, but as any officer or assistant, strive to maintain a spirit of joy and magnanimity, along with the caring attitude of a parent.

A joyful spirit is one of gratefulness and buoyancy. You should consider this carefully. If you had been born into some heavenly realm, you would most likely have only become attached to the pleasures of that realm, taking neither time nor opportunity to awaken the bodhi-spirit, nor would you be likely to feel any particular necessity for practicing the buddhadharma. Much less would you be able to prepare meals for the Three Treasures despite their being the highest and most worthy of all things. Neither being Sakro-devanam-indrah nor a cakravartin compares with the Three Treasures.

In the Chanyuan Qinggui we find this passage: “The samgha is the most precious of all things. Those who live in this community are unfettered by the pettiness of social affairs. Such a community manifests a refined posture devoid of fabrication about the world.”

How fortunate we are to have been born as human beings given the opportunity to prepare meals for the Three Treasures. Our attitude should truly be one of joy and gratefulness.




We should also reflect on what our lives might have been had we been born in one of the realms of hell, as an insatiable spirit, as some lowly animal, or as a demon. How difficult our lives would be if we suffered the misfortunes of these four circumstances or any other of the eight misfortunate conditions. We would be unable to practice the dharma with the strength of the community even though we had a mind to do so. Much less would we be able to prepare food with our own hands and offer it to the Three Treasures. Our bodies and minds would be bound by the limitations and afflictions of those worlds and would have to suffer their burdens.

Therefore, rejoice in your birth into the world, where you are capable of using your body freely to offer food to the Three Treasures: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Samgha. Considering the innumerable possibilities in a timeless universe we have been given a marvelous opportunity. The merit of working as a tenzo will never decay. My sincerest desire is that you exhaust all the strength and effort of all your lives—past, present, and future—and every moment of every day into your practice through the work of the tenzo, so that you form a strong connection with the buddhadharma. To view all things with this attitude is called Joyful Mind.