Making a Choice

*The Way to the Ultimate is not hard;
simply give up being picky and choosy.

In our tradition we have very clear teaching from Zen Master Dogen around food. In every aspect from buying it, preparation, cooking and eating the mind of non discrimination towards food, of not being picky and choosy, is held uppermost. Living within a monastery one is saved from needing to choose what to eat since that is all dealt with by the chief cook. He or she, under the guidance of the Abbot, decides what is eaten at each meal. Of course there is plenty of room left for being mentally picky and choosy while eating, however what one eats is not a choice.

Living as a lone Prior these past couple of years my meals evolved into being more or less the same for breakfast, lunch and medicine meal. I guess I defaulted to a combination of what I like to eat and what takes the least amount of time to prepare. The priors life is a busy one with little time to spend on cooking for oneself or deciding a varied menu. In this way shopping was simple, preparation straight forward and picky/choosy problems side stepped. Now while traveling, and eating out especially, the issue of personally choosing what to eat from a menu brings up the picky/choosy issue. When I’m asked what I like to eat my standard answer is, “I eat anything (vegetarian)”. And that is true.

When faced with a menu this lunch time making a choice was not easy. “What would you like to eat”? “Err, it all looks good to me!” The great variety of choice can be overwhelming. Yes that, and then there is a fine line between choosing and being choosy and picking a dish from the menu and being picky. All a matter of right attitude of mind of course.

*From ‘That which is Engraved Upon the Heart That Trusts to the Eternal’
(Kanshi Sosan, 30th Ancestor), Buddhist Writings, Copyright Shasta Abbey Press

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3 thoughts on “Making a Choice”

  1. Hi Rev. Mugo…back from our 5 week long North America trip and it was fun to read about: food. I can really understand that because while we were travelling food was mostly just put in front of us at my parent’s in Arizona for example, where a trip to an American supermarket can almost seem overwhelming after living here in Germany for six years and then again at my sisters all the way north in Idaho almost on the Canadian border where she simply went out into her garden and picked what was available for that day from the myriad vegetables, berries and herbs and then served it with a grain of some sort. Delicious and full of love. And, of course, there is the moment of not being able to be picky or choosy when one stops at a truck stop in Montana…and there is one vegetarian item! For me, it is also important to not be judgemental because I do most of the cooking in our household and can be a bit too picky about other’s style. Good to be back and nice to read your blog again!

  2. I was in a food court (a cheap communal eating place, as I’m sure you know). Finding a vegetarian stall, and not really knowing what was on offer, I said “You choose”. All eyes turned to this crazy foreigner, and momentary confusion ensued. But it all looked good to me, and for a few Singapore dollars was very tasty. Now I choose, if nothing else to remain anonymous.
    Thanks for posting.
    In gassho

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