In a Zen monastery, the head cook. Usually this position is filled by one of the more deeply realized monks in residence. The position of tenzo was captured by Dogen Zenji in his Instructions to the Cook, which centres on the idea that realization of the Dharma can be found through everyday acts as well as meditation, and/or that there is no difference between the two.

In the Tenzokyokun, Dogen zenji wrote:

From ancient times communities of the practice of the Way of Awake Awareness have had six office holders who, as disciples of the Buddha, guide the activities of Awakening the community. Amongst these, the tenzo bears the responsibility of caring for the community’s meals. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "The tenzo functions as the one who makes offerings with reverence to the monks."

Since ancient times this office has been held by realized monks who have the mind of the Way or by senior disciples who have roused the Way-seeking mind. This work requires exerting the Way. Those entrusted with this work but who lack the Way-seeking mind will only cause and endure hardship despite all their efforts. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "Putting the mind of the Way to work, serve carefully varied meals appropriate to each occasion and thus offer everyone to practice without hindrance."

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