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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
71 Hoko Jan karnegis is the interim practice director at Milwaukee Zen Center. she was ordained as a novice by shohaku okumura in 2005, and in 2009 completed an interdisciplinary master’s degree with a thesis focusing on development and leadership in the american sangha. of fruits and vegetables so the resulting meals are in line with this teaching—even if my tongue wants nothing but oranges, carrots, and yams. As for ryo (size or amount in this context), Dogen advises counting the practitioners and then determining how much food it will take to feed them, including people who are work- ing as servers during the meal and those who are out of the zendo due to illness or other things. It’s important to have enough for everyone at the sesshin without choosing and cooking an overabundance that will go to waste. The nyohos of tai, shiki and ryo as they apply to grocery store choices, then, could be summed up like this: get good quality food—not cheap and unhealthful but not luxurious or unnecessarily expensive; get foods from each of the five color and six taste groups; and get neither too much nor too little. Serving and Eating Without Trouble As one last source of guidance for my grocery decision- making, I turn to the teachings of my dharma grandfather, Kosho Uchiyama. In the final talk of his life, he discussed seven points of practice. These have become the foundation of my own practice, and the seventh point holds particular interest for me: “Cooperate with one another and aim to create a place where sincere practitioners can practice with- out trouble.” If I buy this and cook it, can servers manage it in the zendo? Am I causing trouble for the kaisshiki (direc- tor of serving)? Can practitioners eat it using spoons and chopsticks? Will it sup- port or hinder practice? Putting myself in the place of those who will have to get the food into the bowls, and then in the place of those who will be eating, helps safeguard sangha relationships. Casseroles with a lot of stringy cheese are difficult to serve neatly. Spaghetti noodles in the first bowl might serve eas- ily with tongs and look and taste delight- ful, but they’re nearly impossible to eat with a spoon. Much as we might personally love these foods, they’re poor choices for zendo gyohatsu. How We Choose I originally came to Zen practice looking for the answer to a fundamental question: how do I make decisions? On what basis do I choose one action over another? On some level, many of us may feel that our own opinions are a shaky foun- dation for making the many choices we face every day. Indeed, our texts and teachers remind us that “the way is easy for those who do not pick and choose.” Dogen tells us that “a monk’s mouth is like an oven,” accepting whatever is put into it with- out discrimination or likes and dislikes. Are they all telling us to become dull and wishy-washy, floating through life without strong feelings about anything? That’s a disturbing idea, espe- cially when we hear every day about the suffering going on in our own neighborhoods and around the world. Are we really to have no opinions about such things, just accepting them without comment or action? And how do we carry out the little tasks that we need to take care of every day? The distinction being made is about the basis for decision- making, not the need for making decisions themselves. The issue is not that we choose, but how we choose. If our opin- ions come from the three poisonous minds of greed, anger, and delusion, then decisions based on them are going to be faulty. If instead we make choices based on the guidelines given us by the Buddha and ancestors, which are in accord with the way things really are, our decisions will be filled with generosity, compassion, and awareness. That means that I sometimes plan for, buy, cook, and serve foods at sesshin that are not necessar- ily my own personal favorites—but they do nourish practice in alignment with the Buddha way. And sometimes that tempting bag of Cheezies really is just what the sangha needs. SenryuPaulnichollS photo (top) norbert huebner