Saturday, January 31, 2009

Taking a Meal in Awareness

Taking a meal is a very happy occasion.
It gives us great satisfaction particularly when we are very hungry.
Good meal gives energy and strength in keeping our lives.
Eating with family and friends promote good conversation and bonding.
But it gives us much more. Taking a meal is also a precious opportunity of awakening.

Last year, I had a chance to visit the Mt. Hiei, near Kyoto, Japan, for the Tendai “Shi-Kan” meditation retreat. I appreciate generous support of Rev. Kojitsu Kobori, of Enryakuji-Temple. Without his support, this could not have happened.

Daishi-Do Temple on Mt. Hiei, where we stayed for 3 days.
This is the temple for the great master, "Ganzan Daishi Ryogen" (912 - 985 AD)

One of the most inspiring practices was meditation in taking a meal. As you may know, meditation is practiced not only in the sitting mode, but should be practiced in all occasions, including taking a meal.

Before we ate during the retreat on Mt. Hiei, we recited “the Five Contemplations When Taking A Meal”;
1. I consider the work required in producing this food, and I am grateful for its source.
2. I evaluate my virtues and examine any spiritual defects. The ratio between my virtues and
defects determines how much I shall deserve this offering.
3. I guard my heart cautiously from faults, particularly greed.
4. To strengthen and cure my weakening body, I consume this food as medicine.
5. As I continue on the spiritual path, I accept this offering with appreciation and gratitude.

Then, we started eating without any chatting or conversation. We kept eating in silence. It is a very awkward experience but I actually was able to feel and touch the presence of each food I took and also I was able to contemplate the source and life of the food. When I was able to appreciate each food more deeply, I had realized my habitual unconsciousness in food taking. Whenever I eat, I do appreciate food and also people who are involved in producing the food. But I was not truly touching the life of each food deeply. I would eat food basically unconsciously.

When we are hungry, we eat; when we are full, we stop.
When we are thirsty, we drink; when we are no more thirsty, we stop.

Our senses control our actions, when we are unconscious.
Internal and external conditions affect our senses, and our senses lead to actions.
For example, someone cuts in front of the car, and the driver gets angry and starts the road rage…

Full recognition and appreciation of food we take is a practice of awakening from unconscious.
Then instead of our senses controlling ourselves, we are able to control ourselves.

Since my family now lives in Japan, I take a meal alone at apartment in Irvine.
It sounds sad, but this gives me a chance to take a meal in awareness.

What do we do when I eat with family and friends?
Then I enjoy both eating and talking.
I am happy anyway.

Let's continue to practice for awakening!

Silent dinner at the Daishi-Do temple


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