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Thread: Oryoki

  1. #1
    Senior Member Bunny's Avatar
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    Oryoki

    I found oryoki to be a really rich part of doing sesshins. I'm wondering if anyone makes oryoki part of their home practice in any way? It's something that crosses my mind every once in awhile.

  2. #2
    Hi Bunny,

    Some old Japanese traditions, though old and often exotic to Western eyes, are still beautiful and of great value to our Practice. Oryoki is such a Practice. I have thought to organize an "online" Oryoki Practice group for awhile, for people with an interest (I assume that will only be particular folks), but it has not gotten off the ground yet.

    We will do an abbreviated form, with all the heart (but not all the moves) for our online Rohatsu Retreat in December. Participants will make a "do it your non-self" Oryoki kit for that ... out of such items as a pillow case and bowls from around the kitchen.

    Details on that as we get closer to the Retreat ...

    The meaning of Oryoki and the Tea Ceremony share much in common. For those who don't know, traditional Oryoki practice consists of scores of set movements for eating, each of which must be learned and mastered, much like a ballet. I once wrote this ...

    True Oryoki practice is very traditional, and very Japanese, but that is neither reason to accept or reject the practice. Many parts of our Practice are worth keeping, even if they strike someone as strange at first. Bowing, statues, incense and, yes, weird talks about Koans all fit in that category. They may seem like unnecessary "Japanese" or "Esoteric" elements at first, until you understand the role they serve....same for Rakusu/Kesa sewing. And I think Oryoki formal meal ritual is a great practice, and worth keeping.

    ... Although a bit rigid and formal to many Western eyes, the practice of comformity to form, finding liberation in rigidity, has endless depth.

    To truly 'master' Oryoki, dozens and dozens of set movements, like a ballet, must be memorized with the 'body memory' (much like learning a dance). Oryoki is a form of moving Zazen, teaching freedom amid the confining actions. It can NEVER be done right, without mistakes. Like life. Still, we strive to master the form.

    Oryoki is a dance, a ballet ... Oryoki is one of those additions that Zen practice picked up on its way through Japan that is worth keeping. It is a shame that a large number of "foreigners" never try to do it right, and that most teachers don't teach it that way to their non-Japanese students. I am no different in how I teach it ... I will cut corners for our retreat by necessity, although I will encourage folks to try to get as close as possible to the "right" way.
    Here is a small sample, this merely for wiping and repacking the spoon, chopsticks and settsu (bowl washing stick) at the end of the meal ...

    1) Pick up spoon in right hand with the handle pointing toward you. Put it in your left hand. Pick up setsu with right hand; put bowl of spoon into water in middle bowl and clean it with setsu. Do both sides. Hold spoon straight.

    2) Put setsu in middle bowl, pointing straight out. Put spoon in right hand. With left hand, fold the exposed corner of the drying cloth over the bowl of the spoon without taking the cloth out of the Buddha bowl. Wipe bowl of spoon; turn spoon 180 degrees so bowl is pointing toward you and push it through cloth.

    3) Spoon is now in your right hand, bowl down and pointing left. Without picking up utensil holder, slide spoon into it. (The opening in utensil holder should be on your right, with the fold on the left.)

    4) Repeat steps 1) and 2) above with chopsticks.

    5) In left hand pick up folded utensil holder that contains spoon. Slide sticks into utensil holder, toward you. Work utensils to bottom with right hand. Do not let utensils drop of their own weight.

    6) Fold over the utensil holder and replace it in front of you, this time with the opening on the left. The pointed half is on top, with the opening down (not visible). Fold is now on the right.
    Here are longer, but still ABBREVIATED!! written instructions, with some photos, explaining some of the several hundred set gestures that must be learned to do Oryoki "right" ... Notice the delicate and precise hand placement in each photo ...

    http://terebess.hu/zen/szoto/oryoki.html

    Here is a lovely video showing an Oryoki ritual in Japanese style, in great detail from ZMO ...



    We will be doing a simplified, sometimes improvised and creative version for our December Retreat but, I hope, no less mindful. The attitude and spirit are the most important.

    I did make some training materials to teach Oryoki to our novice Priests in training, including a "How To Non-Do" film. Maybe we can have a training course here online for folks who are interested. Hmmm. something to consider.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-25-2013 at 10:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Edward
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  4. #4
    Hey there Bunny,

    Like Jundo has said, we do some in Rohatsu, but sometimes I try and fumble my way through it here at home. Just the simple action of being present in every movement is beautiful!

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  5. #5
    Hello everyone,
    thanks for your contributions. I do some Oryoki during Ango, its never boring ...and its preventing me from getting stressed during our rohatsu when I try to follow Jundo's speed.
    Gassho
    Myoku

  6. #6
    Well, Bunny, you inspired us!

    It looks like we will have an "Oryoki Practice Circle" sometime after the new year, for any folks interested in learning and Practicing formal, traditional Oryoki. Myozan will likely be the facilitator. We will wait until after the new year as so much going on now with Jukai, Ango etc.

    Oryoki may only suit and attract a few folks, but I believe such folks will enjoy and benefit from the Practice.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    I am doing it at some meal times - coincidentally I did it this morning - during Ango. I would not say I am adept however, I did quite a bit of it during my stay at Kanshoji and I found it great practice and would certainly join the circle.

    Gassho

    David

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Well, Bunny, you inspired us!

    It looks like we will have an "Oryoki Practice Circle" sometime after the new year, for any folks interested in learning and Practicing formal, traditional Oryoki. Myozan will likely be the facilitator. We will wait until after the new year as so much going on now with Jukai, Ango etc.

    Oryoki may only suit and attract a few folks, but I believe such folks will enjoy and benefit from the Practice.

    Gassho, J
    Inspiration indeed - I would very much like to partake in formal Oryoki.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bunny's Avatar
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    Hooray for an oryoki practice circle!! I am intrigued by the improvised, creative version that will be at the retreat. As a newbie will I be able to do the retreat?
    Many thanks to all who posted and the community in general.
    With Loving Kindness-
    Bunny

  10. #10
    Senior Member Heishu's Avatar
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    It will be very nice to have an Oryoki Practice Circle.

    Bunny, I would think that you would be most welcome to participate in our online Rohatsu Retreat in December. If I am wrong I am sure that someone will correct me on this matter.

    The retreat was a very good experience for me last year and I am hoping to be able to participate again this year. You will be able to participate live or recorded or even partially live and recorded.

    Gassho,
    Heishu


    “Blessed are the flexible, for they never get bent out of shape." Author Unknown

  11. #11
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Hi all,
    I'll be happy to facilitate this in the New Year. Better dust off my oryoki before then, however!

    Also, I believe everyone is welcome to participate in our retreats.

    Gassho
    Myozan

    PS: you can always ask for an oryoki set for Christmas!
    Last edited by Myozan Kodo; 09-25-2013 at 11:12 PM.
    Myozan Kodo
    Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
    Dublin, Ireland

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.
    "Here the way unfolds."

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    PS: you can always ask for an oryoki set for Christmas!
    Oohhh good idea! Dear Santa ...

    Gasshi
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Bunny's Avatar
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    Santa will be wondering why he's getting so many requests for oryoki sets this year-LOL!

    Quote Originally Posted by Heishu View Post
    The retreat was a very good experience for me last year and I am hoping to be able to participate again this year. You will be able to participate live or recorded or even partially live and recorded.
    Gassho,
    Heishu
    Great to have so many options! I think a retreat will be very beneficial for my practice.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Sekishi's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone for this. I would love to join the Oryoki Practice Circle when it happens. It is something I've have long been interested in, but sort of put it in the "do it right or do not do it at all category". Having some guidance and support is most welcome indeed!

    Deep gassho,
    Eric

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post

    PS: you can always ask for an oryoki set for Christmas!
    Or with a bit of ingenuity, and a little sewing (our specialty around here), one can find pieces in the local cookware stories enough to come incredibly close to "the official version". I don't mean what we use for our December Retreat, which is really improvised from simple items around the house, but the "full kit". Myozan and I will get together on the pieces.

    In fact, be cautioned: Many of the Oryoki sets that are available online in the West (even sets sold by various Zen Centers) are stripped down versions, and not "fully kosher" or that complete at all. Myozan, remember that when folks start asking how and where they can find their set.

    For example, here is the "official Soto set" from Japan (and even in this photo, I do not spot a few pieces that should be there):





    And here is a set sold by a large Zen Center in the US, not really appropriate for doing this "right":



    They can be made of wood and delicate lacquer, costing the equivalent of hundreds of $dollars, but even many Soto priests in Japan these days use a kind of plastic bowl that is washable and practical (and cheaper) and really hard to tell from the original (even for Japanese people). You can also sometimes purchase, for example, the tools, bowls or wrapping cloths separately.

    But as I said, with some hunting and a little work, folks can probably make one very close to the "real thing".

    Just something to keep in mind next year when you get started.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-26-2013 at 03:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  16. #16
    As I said, a few pieces seemed to be missing from the picture of the "official" Soto set. Here are all the bowls (some are not actually bowls, but a bowl holder that the bigger bowl rests on) but without the wrapping cloths and other soft items.



    And, yes, absent some physical limitation to require a fork, one should best use chopsticks.
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-26-2013 at 04:15 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    So true Jundo, I still have mine that I created last year - actually sewed the napkin and wrapping cloth as well. The new item I did buy was a little spatula for the cleaning, 0.95 cents ... a bargain.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Bunny's Avatar
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    I very much appreciate the fact that cost is being considered for our oryoki practice group. Being disabled and on a teeny tiny income, I don't have much room in my budget for "extras". I like the idea of "building" my own set from low cost items rather than purchasing a set. The frugality appeals to me, but also I like the idea of mindfully gathering items to create a set. I am looking at the pics Jundo posted of oryoki sets. The set I have already is the "stripped down" version, so I'm excited to learn how to put together a set that is "official". I have a sewing machine and will be glad to learn how to sew the napkin, wrapping cloth, etc.

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