The cover of How To Cook Your Life

How To Cook Your Life

From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment

by Dōgen Zenji and Kōshō Uchiyama

I’m going to do a poor job of representing what this book is really about. On its face, the book is about cooking. Specifically, the first half is an instruction manual written by Dōgen about how to be the cook in a buddhist monastery in the 13th century. The second half was written by Kōshō Uchiyama in the 20th century, reflecting on Dōgen’s instructions, and interpreting them as guidance for life in general.

As far as Zen goes, this book is a great introduction to some of the everyday teachings and cultural elements of practice. Buddhism is a religion, and so there’s a lot of theology interwoven throughout the text. I personally don’t know much about the theistic parts of Buddhism, and was able to follow along, so I figure most readers will be ok with those elements. There’s clearly a lot lost in translation between Japanese and English, but the translator does a good job of providing tons of footnotes to pull back the curtain and address the difficulty of keeping the text faithful.

As cheesy as it sounds, this book was enlightening. Sort of in a literal way — I feel a bit lighter after reading it. The practice of Big Mind, Parental Mind, Joyful Mind is a really straightforward platform for mindfulness, and the writing of Dōgen really sticks with me. Highly recommend.