"When this mountain monk was in great Song China, in my spare time I talked with many older monks who had years of experience working in various monastic offices. They taught me a little of what they had learned in their work. What they had to say must surely be the marrow of what has been handed down through the ages by previous buddhas and patriarchs settled in the Way.
The work of the tenzo (the cook), in particular, has always been carried out by teachers who have sought to live out their lives in the most settled way, and by others who have aroused the bodhisattva spirit within themselves. Down through the ages, many great teachers and patriarchs, such as Guishan Lingyou and Dongshan Shouchu, have served as tenzo.
Although the work is just that of preparing meals, being tenzo is different in spirit from the work of an ordinary cook or kitchen helper. The Rules for Monastic Purity advise the tenzo to 'put your awakened mind to work, making a constant effort to serve meals full of variety that are appropriate to the need and the occasion, and that will enable everyone to practice in body and mind with the least hindrance.'
Such a job requires all of your energies. If a person entrusted with this work lacks such a spirit and is indifferent about life, they will only endure unnecessary hardships and suffering that will have no value."
- Zen Master Dogen, from Instructions for the Cook
Dogen's instructions aren't simply for the tenzo bodhisattva, but for all of us in our everyday chores and work. He encourages us to put all our energies into everything that we do and make a constant effort to put our awakened mind to work, not for our own benefit or edification but to assist and sustain the practice of all others, to make our life's purpose to vigorously and mindfully be cooperative and helpful to the lives of others.