When a patron comes into the monastery and donates money to hold a feast, the various the stewards should all be consulted; this is the precedent established in monasteries of old. With regard to the distribution of the merit-making donations, they also consult together. Do not create a disturbance in the hierarchy by infringing on anyone’s authority.
When the midday meal or morning gruel has been properly prepared and placed on the table, the cook dons his kesa, spreads his sitting cloth, faces the sangha hall [where the monks eat], burns incense and makes nine prostrations. Upon finishing his prostrations, he sends the food [to the sangha hall].
Throughout the day, as you prepare the meals, do not pass the time in vain. If your preparations are true, then your movements and activities will naturally become the deeds of nurturing the womb of the sage. The way to put the great assembly at ease is to step back and transform yourself.
It has been a long time now since the name “buddha-dharma” came to be heard in our country, Japan. However, our predecessors did not record, and the former worthies did not teach, anything about the proper procedure for monks’ meals, and they never even dreamed of the rite of making nine prostrations before the monks’ meals. People in this country say that the way in which the monks eat and the way in which monasteries prepare food are just like the feeding methods of [domestic] birds and beasts. This is truly pathetic, truly deplorable. How could it be?
When this mountain monk [I, Dôgen] was at Tiantong Monastery, the position [of cook] was held by cook Yong, of the same province [as the monastery]. Once, after the midday meal I was passing through the east corridor on my way to the Chaoran room [where my teacher Myôzen was being nursed] when I saw the cook in front of the buddha hall airing mushrooms. He carried a bamboo staff in his hand, but had no hat on his head. The sun was hot, the ground tiles were hot, and sweat streamed over him as he worked diligently to dry the mushrooms. He was suffering a bit. With his backbone bent like a bow and his shaggy eyebrows, he resembled a crane.
I approached and asked the cook his dharma age. He said, “Sixty-eight years.”
I said, “Why do you not employ postulants or laborers?” He said, “They are not me.”
I said, “Venerable sir, your attitude is indeed proper, but the sun is so hot; why are you doing this [now]?” The cook said, “What time should I wait for?”
I took my leave, but as I walked along the corridor, I began to realize how important an opportunity this position affords.