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Giving to Others

"Food has three virtues.  First, it sustains life.  Second, it enlivens the complexion. Third, it nourishes strength.  If one gives food to others, one will improve one's own lot, just as, for example if one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one's own way." 

– from The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Volume II, pg. 1060

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I am a practicing Buddhist. In other words, one could say I am a practicing human. Every day I get up and chant Nam myoho renge kyo to bring forth my Buddhahood or best possible humanity from within and use this power in daily life to be a positive force in my spheres of influence.  

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To practice Buddhism means not only to work on bringing out your own humanity but to also take action for the sake of others. Acting in service for others can take the form of many things – volunteering, cheering, cleaning, inspiring, teaching – the key is the doing – putting your own self aside to pure-heartedly do for other human beings.

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What does this little aside have to do with food you might ask?  For me everything – as I find the act of growing, making, serving and writing about food to as much a part of my Buddhist practice as teaching new practioners how to recite the Lotus Sutra and to chant Nam myoho renge kyo.  As the quote from the monk Nichiren Daishonin that started this post states – food has three virtures of which nourishing yourself and others is included.

Nourishment is a key word here when it comes to eating.  Nourishment comes from the act of creating your food as much as it comes from putting it in your own mouth.  Today, this first or second day of spring I brought home a palate of seedlings – little spinach, arugula, rainbow chard, and lettuce – tomorrow they will go in my front yard garden when I pull the seeding Kale plants that currently look like Dr. Suess trees.  I will plant the new seedlings and they will grow and feed Lamar and I and they will taste better than anything I could ever buy.  They will taste better because they are the fruit of my labor as my ability to eat them completely depends upon my ability to nourish them to grow and become plants. 

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These are all plants from my herb garden that gave back to me just this week when I prepared a recipe for this very blog (zucchini lasagna – forthcoming) and my dinner.  I also used it as an opportunity to teach my roommate George a new recipe.  The act of preparing a meal, teaching a recipe, and eating food raised by my own hands is the most nourishing combination I can think of. 

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At this time of changing seasons budding flowers and new endeavors I take this time out from recipe posting and food adventures to share these thoughts to encourage us all to create something, put something into the earth, or teach another how to do something.  Take action for the service of others that roots your connection to the earth and your human neighbors.  It will be a benefit to those you encourage and in return to yourself.

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I'll leave you with a poem from my book Poetry from the Heart – a collection of poetry inspired by my practice of Nichiren Diashonin's Buddhism (available for purchase here).

Joy Smell

The first time I smelled joy

it came with the sound of my voice singing –

 nam myoho renge kyo

Kitchen stove simmering ginger,

glowing from my lungs in song

a thousand kalpas long.

Bringing future bodhisattvas

treasures of cinnamon bark medicine,

to dance from tongue to heart.


I awoke with a start –

gunpowder sulfur smell in the room

the scent of a candle burning 700 years.

 nam myoho renge kyo

Written by Nichiren Diashonin in sumi ink.

Gave my blind eyes their first glimpse

of lilac scented sun on telescope parchment.

Opening the door to the storehouse hidden,

even to those with two good eyes.


Medicine King whose operations leave scars of victory

shining in starlight smiles of faith –

where poison once was.

 nam myoho renge kyo

Curing the dead and the living.

Every being can benefit from its song.


Mercury streamer lantern kisses,

blessing the masses as they weave and dip along the rhythm.

 nam myoho renge kyo

The note is there within waiting for release from the lips.

Making the cause with body & heart,

directing mind beyond time & space.

To the place without beginning or end,

where the candles has been lit – waiting to start the fire

of a thousand lands of Buddha wonder,

unfolding beneath our noses,  yearning to smell joy.

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