Cooking as Dharma Practice

Cooking as Dharma Practice

Date of Advice:
July 2016
Date Posted:
April 2018

Rinpoche sent this letter to the cook at a Dharma center.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Singapore, February 2016. Photo: Roger Kunsang.

My dear most precious, kind, wish-fulfilling one,
How are you? I heard that you have been cooking for twelve years or more than that.

What I heard is that you are not only cooking, but you are practicing Dharma at the same time. Your cooking is practicing Dharma. There are professional cooks who make delicious food, but their motivation is to make the real I happy, which is not there, and then on top of that, to cherish this real I most, which is not there. I am very happy to hear that you are living your life and working by understanding your mind.

The essence of the Mahayana teaching is to let go of the I and to cherish others who are numberless. Even by cherishing one [sentient being], that brings enlightenment to you. That means you are able to free all sentient beings from the oceans of suffering and bring them to the peerless happiness, buddhahood—the total cessation of obscurations and completion of realizations. That is why even if one insect falls in the water, to arise compassion and help that insect is so important. Or if an animal, such as an ant, is attacked by another animal, to help rescue it with compassion. Also to help even one person with problems, with suffering, for example, to help rescue someone or to help someone who is suicidal, to help them not to be suicidal.

It is said in the Chenrezig Sutra Well-Condensed Dharma, that you don’t need to follow many Dharmas, only one, which is compassion. If you have compassion then the whole Buddhadharma comes, which means in your heart, all the understanding of the words and all the realizations. The conclusion is that if there is compassion you can achieve enlightenment. Without compassion, no enlightenment.

Relating to cooking, it is very important. As you know, cooking gives so much happiness to sentient beings. What I have heard from Kopan is that the food is very good and even if people don’t like the meditation course, they stay. So that helps them and even if they do not understand the teachings or the meditations, they stay, and it leaves a positive imprint in their mind. Besides that, they achieve everlasting happiness, nirvana. This is one example related to the Kopan courses in Nepal or the Tushita courses in Dharamsala.

I like to make food for people because it pleases their mind very much. When you know how to make different food delicious, one of the greatest benefits is that you can invite your gurus and make food for them. They enjoy it and you collect the greatest merit and this becomes the greatest purification. That means especially by pleasing the guru it becomes a quick way to achieve enlightenment. So many negative karmas get purified on the way. By making delicious food, you make the guru happy.

Before you made the food offering you would be reborn in the hells but by offering food and pleasing the guru you will be reborn in the pure land, or at least have a perfect human body, meet Dharma and actualize the path, and then achieve enlightenment. This benefit is not only relating to food, it’s anything that pleases the guru. Previously you would have been reborn in the lower realms, but if you please the guru you will be reborn in the pure realm, or become a human, become a monk. It changes from second to second, your whole karma changes your rebirth.

This is something you must keep in your heart and not forget. This is the way to make your life most meaningful.

With much love and prayers ...