The Compassionate Kitchen
A new book by Ven. Thubten Chodron
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Cooking as a spiritual practice
At Sravasti Abbey, monastics take turns cooking. Each morning the community has a fifteen- to twenty-minute stand-up meeting where we share how we will offer service that day. To help us set our motivation for the ensuing activities — be they cooking, working in the forest, transcribing teachings, or preparing Dharma talks — we recite the following verse together:
“We are grateful for the opportunity to offer service to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and to sentient beings. While working with others, differences in ideas and ways of doing things may arise. These are natural and are a source of creative exchange; our minds don’t need to make them into conflicts.
We will endeavor to listen deeply and communicate wisely and kindly as we work together for our common goal. By using our body and speech to support the values we deeply believe in — generosity, kindness, ethical conduct, love, and compassion — we will create great merit, which we dedicate for the awakening of all beings.”
In a family setting, this verse could be adapted and recited by the whole family before each family member embarks on doing his or her weekly chores. Seeing chores as “offering service” rather than “work” changes our attitude and our mood.
When parents and children recite this verse together, they remember that everyone participates and contributes to the well-being of the family. Friends of the Abbey have brought this verse into their workplace, and even to office meetings.
Before beginning to prepare the meal, the cooks for that day gather together in the kitchen and recite and contemplate this verse:
“We will offer service by preparing a meal for the community of Dharma practitioners. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to prepare and cook this food. The food will nourish their bodies and the love we put into preparing it will nourish their hearts.
Preparing food is an expression of our kind heart. When we chop, mix, and cook, we will work with mindfulness and a relaxed mind. We will leave aside idle talk, and speak with gentle and low voices.
The menu will be simple and healthy, free from the distraction of elaborate and complicated menus. We will wash the veggies and fruits well, thinking that we are cleansing defilements from the minds of sentient beings with the nectar of wisdom. Out of consideration for those who will clean up after the meal, we will tidy up after ourselves.
Let’s take joy in working harmoniously together for the benefit of all!”
This verse, too, can be said in a family. It transforms our motivation from “I have to cook (sigh)” to “I have the opportunity to be of benefit to others.” It also gives children a way to join in food preparation and to be in contact with fresh food, rather than fast food.
from The Compassionate Kitchen by Ven. Thubten Chodron and Shambhala Publications
Available in stores and online December 11, 2018