Companion Site for In Buddha's Kitchen by Kimberley Snow

Being Cooked

Being a dharma student is a process in which you start out raw and (hopefully) end up cooked. And grateful for it, too.

Rumi's poem, "Chickpea to Cook," quoted in the following chapter from In Buddha's Kitchen, describes this process in a classic manner.

from In Buddha's Kitchen

One night, I re-read my favorite Rumi poem:

Chickpea to Cook *

A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it's being boiled.

"Why are you doing this to me?"

The cook knocks him down with the ladle.

"Don't you try to jump out.
You think I'm torturing you.
I'm giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this."

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.

Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
"Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can't do this by myself.

I'm like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn't pay attention
to his driver. You're my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love your cooking."

The cook says,
"I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.

My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,
and became your teacher."

During the next few days, I’d read this poem to so many people that everyone started calling me Chickpea.
"That’s it, that’s your dharma name," Diane announced one day.
Most of the people who came to Dorje Ling adopted or were given a Buddhist name. Some even shaved their heads when this happened, but I thought that was carrying things a bit far.
"No, no it’s not." Ever since my friend Linda had been dubbed Palden Lhamo after one of the Tibetan protectors, I’d wanted to be given a dharma name as well. I’d been secretly hoping for Tara like the female Buddha or Khandro which means sky-dancer. But Chickpea?
Lama P.—to whom I’d read the poem twice—paused on his way through the kitchen. "It’s perfect."
"Suits you," he said, raising his cup in a little toast. "Chef Chickpea."
Diane and Lynn raised their cups as well, beaming. So much for being named after a deity or a bodhisattva. As my hopes for being high and holy dissolved once again, I recognized Chef Chickpea as my true name.

*quoted by the kind permission from the translator Coleman Barks.



Companion Site for In Buddha's Kitchen by Kimberley Snow