Oryoki Blues

I have been wanting to write about something that gets me a tad anxious every time I visit the monastery — it’s oryoki.  Oryoki is a meal served in a beautiful ceremony in the zendo.  Remember mess kits from scouts?  It’s a lot like that only Asian.  Basically you have three bowls, chopsticks, spoon, napkin and a placemat all tied into one beautiful little lotus blossom.  The reason it gets me nervous is because there is a lot to remember because it unfolds like a long choreographed dance — even down to the way the utensils and bowls are washed.  The cool thing is that it really keeps your mind focused on the activity, which is another form of practice.  People often refer to mindful eating in Buddhism, but I’ve noticed that many nutritionists and psychologists are using this idea for behavior modification for eating disorders.    In fact, Drexel University is asking for volunteers for a study lately.  You can’t help but notice how intricate even the most simplistic  food is when you eat in silence.  The flavors and textures really stand out.  I definitely joke when I say oryoki blues because in truth, I think it is amazing.  The serenade of the gongs and drums, the servers walking as a small parade with their offerings of food, the bowing in appreciation, the chanting of the meal gatha, and knowing that everyone around you is also just being there experiencing it.  It is powerful, probably in the same way people feel attending church.  I think if everyone ate this way every day there would be no more hunger because people would really realize what a gift it is to have food, and they would be motivated to help the problem.  Speaking of hunger problem, did I mention that one of my friends has a cool site where you can upload a photo of your meal and a $1 gets donated to fight hunger?  It’s called http://www.shareurmeal.com and there is even an Iphone app. available.  It’s fun and it is an easy way for young people to help.  Just another way to put practice into action.  As for oryoki, I definitely need practice with that.  I heard that even once you learn it at the monastery that it changes — probably to prevent attachment LOL.


~ by zengirl1 on June 15, 2010.

2 Responses to “Oryoki Blues”

  1. What a great app! I’ll be sure to share it.

    I love the mindful eating encouraged in zen. The oryoki looks beautiful. I’d love to try it sometime.

    • I try to remember to do the meal gatha and then the photo upload after. I think they are trying to spread this abroad, so it is exciting. If you are interested in oryoki, I believe there are some videos posted on the web. They really vary depending on what group is doing them. My favorite part is the unfolding/folding of the placemat. It definitely involves the 4 directions and resembles a lotus shape. Some day perhaps you will experience it for yourself. Some local sitting groups do half day sits where this is incorporated.

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