Uchiyama Roshi opens his comments to Dogen’s “Instructions for the Zen Cook” with a story of a tenzo who would not let any distractions stand in his way when cooking:
“One day Wuzhao was working as the tenzo at a monastery in Wutai Mountains. When the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī suddenly appeared above the pot he was cooking, Wuzhao beat him. Later he said, “Even if Shakyamuni were to appear above the pot, I would beat him, too”. (“How to cook your life”, p 23).
This story made an impression on Uchiyama Roshi when he was a tenzo himself. Wuzhao’s cool amazed and puzzled me: it is not every day that the Bodhisattva of compassion makes an appearance and if it happens when I am cooking, isn’t this yet another wonderful ingredient to add to the meal? Flexibility and going with a flow is something I could use more of in the kitchen (of life).
When I read the story of Wuzhao sending Mañjuśrī off, I could not help thinking of the guests I would actually be glad to get a company of while at the stove. Here’s what I came up with so far:
I’d be delighted to take a cup of tea with the charming Mad Hatter while waiting for the rice to cook
the giant and most bizarre looking sun fish (mola mola) because it is so cool and fascinating
Eddie Izzard because I could not afford going to his show when he was in Stockholm and because he looks so delicious delivering jokes in those leather pants and pumps
Jill Bolte Taylor (with the brain) because I would finally have a chance to see this most exciting organ so close
Kathryn Morris because she is so cute as emotionally distant but very persistent detective Lilly Rush
last but not least my friend Marian whose very presence has a relaxing effect on me and who proved to be a terrific help in the kitchen in both working and taking delight in chocolate and ice-cream
And I only started… It could get rather crowdy over the pot, but what a nice blend! Can I ever make an authentic holistic meal without putting the whole of me into it, including my inner child, the kind and courageous Mad Hatter, the clown, the wise fish, the insightful scientist, the caring and supportive friend, the sharp and cute detective and the rest of the zoo – all of which I first notice in others? Wuzhao is Gordon Ramsey in his kitchen, I have to give him that, but I am certainly GR in mine and from where I stand the whole crazy town is welcome to show up over the pot. Buddha, don’t be a stranger you too!