Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day: Turning the Green Leaf into Buddha's Body

St. Patrick's day is about green, right?  The symbolism of this feast day so dear to Irish hearts revolves around green this and green that.  When I was growing up, we were proud to put something bright green on for St. Pat's, to let the world know we were Irish--and happy to be so.

So perhaps it's appropriate today that, on this feast day of green this and green that, I'm thinking of the instructions Japanese Zen master Dogen gave to those doing the cooking for their monasteries.  I'm grateful to a reader of this blog for bringing Dogen's Instructions for the Cook to my attention.

 Here's what Dogen has to say about choosing the greens to cook for a noonday meal of rice and vegetables:

Picking up a green leaf, turn it into Buddha's body; taking Buddha's body, turn it in to a green leaf. This is the wondrous process of saving all living things.

Mindfulness.  Being there, wherever we are.  Being present to what we're doing, in the fullest way possible.
Caring intently about the tiniest task, particularly when that task serves others.  When it communicates to others the Buddanature inside everything.

There are important parallels between this worldview of Zen and the sacramental worldview of Catholicism, parallels that make it crucially important that we live what we proclaim--even before we proclaim it.  Dogen and other Zen masters would have been perfectly at home with St. Francis's instructions to his followers--in fact, their instructions to their followers say virtually the same thing Francis said: "Preach always.  Use words when necessary."

Happy St. Patrick's day, and may all the green leaves we pick up with care today become the Buddha's body, immersing us in the wondrous process of saving all living things.