Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yum, Let's Eat

I'm thinking about the little mealtime prayer that is said in the Soto Zen order that I have experience with.  It is a lovely little prayer.  I don't always remember to say it before I eat but it is a really nice reminder of many things.  It reminds us to think about where our food comes from, how many lives touch it before it gets to us, that it is a precious offering from many sources.  It makes me think of our connectedness.  It can be like one of those little stories when you see the loaf of bread on your table, how you can see all the way back to the wheat growing in the field and all it took to get to our plate.

The verse reminds us to think of our training.  Have we been training with integrity or have we been hanging out with our big hairy friends, sloth and torpor?  

It asks us to think about greed when we sit down to eat.  It is so easy to slip into the wonderful tastes and eat more than we need.  Then it reminds us that we are eating so that we can train and point ourselves toward compassion and wisdom.   

There are many variations of the mealtime verse from various traditions and schools of Buddhism & specifically Zen.  Some are much longer.  At some point someone printed this verse out and laminated it.  It is really nice to just keep in the kitchen, especially when you are just learning it..  There is also a closing verse which I will print here and then I must hurry off to turn the lights off from 8:30-9:30 for Earth Hour.  So without further adieu here is the mealtime verse:

I must think deeply of the ways and means by which this food has come
I must consider my merit when accepting it
I must protect myself from error by excluding greed from my mind
I will eat least I become lean and die
I accept this food that I may become enlightened 
Homage to the Buddha
Homage to the Dharma
Homage to the Sangha

This closing verse can be used at the end of a meal but also for transitions from one activity to another to help remind us of our training.

The universe is as a boundless sky
As lotus blossoms above unclean water
Pure and beyond the world is the mind of the trainee
Oh Holy Buddha, I take refuge in Thee.
Homage to the Buddha
Homage to the Dharma
Homage to the Sangha

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