A Cook and a Dharma Master

Master Jingzong; English translation by Foyuan, edited by Fojin

A cook who cannot prepare a dish without any seasoning is not a good cook. And someone whose cooking always tastes of the same seasoning, without its natural flavor, is also not a good cook.

[The practice of reciting] “Namo Amitabha Buddha” is a most sumptuous meal in the dharma realms, containing the essential Dharma food for all sentient beings. Dharma masters of this practice should try to preserve the natural flavor of the precious dish before serving it to all. They must exercise restraint in seasoning it willy-nilly based on their personal preferences. This practice is about reciting Amitabha’s name single-mindedly with two-fold exclusivity. Its form should be simple. In fact, the simpler the better. If the Dharma teacher incorporates into the practice fancy singing, noisy jingling of tambourines, elaborate rituals, and a grand setting, initially that may appeal to some people because these additions look and sound good. However, boasting and competing over such displays will soon set in, resulting in followers becoming overawed and forgetting about the reciting. Just as a dish that is over-seasoned will lose its natural flavor.

People’s desires and tastes vary greatly. If the flavour of a main dish borders on the light side, it is acceptable to offer diners some side dishes to give them some choice. [In the context of Amitabha-recitation practice,] it means that the rituals in the main hall, the daily recitations and all the formal Dharma activities, should be kept simple because recitations are our Dharma staple food. For those who are artistically inclined and keen to exhibit their talents or who would like to enjoy something more lively, a small portion of chanting and devotional practices (such as bowing, prostrating, lighting incense, offering flowers and fruits etc) can be provided. However, these activities must not surpass recitation in terms of scale, frequency, the number of participants and presentation. It is a matter of the relative importance of appetizers and the main course. Diners know right away.

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