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Thread: Do you 'say grace' before meals?

  1. #1

    Do you 'say grace' before meals?

    Ok, ok, I know that Zen buddhists don't generally pray or chant too much, but I was wondering...

    Do you have some ritual or a habit that you do before meals to show compassion and respect to the sacrifice the various plants and animals have done by giving their life so that you can nourish yourself?

    Even though most of my family are Christians they, like most of the Finnish people who are members of the Church, don't have the religion as very visible part of the daily life so we never - for example - said grace or anything like that before partaking in meals when I was a kid (or when visiting them these days).

    As a buddhist however I think it is important to practice mindfulness all the time (doing that in practice is harder than it sounds though! :roll and that includes being aware of what has gone on to put the stuff on your plate. I'm not saying that we should chant some sutra to the boiled veggies, but perhaps some kind of a ritual could help being more mindful about the food too?

    So what's your take?

  2. #2
    Honestly I don't say "grace" at meals (though I get asked from time to time). I talk to myself enough as it is. A little atheist humour.

    I look at it as such. Life sustains itself with itself. It is natural law.

    A brief reflection on this and on impermanence and then I eat.

  3. #3
    I recite a short gatha "mindfull verse" I learned from Thih Nhat Hanh. There is a lot of them, but the one I really like goes like this:

    "With the first taste, I promise to offer joy.
    With the second, I promise to help relive the suffering of others.
    With the third, I promise to see others' joy as my own.
    With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of non-attachment and equality."

  4. #4
    I will sometimes have a silent reflection at meals something like:

    “I am grateful for the food that I eat and for the blessings of nature and the work of those who help to provide this food" or simply "For this food, I am truly grateful."

    I believe some people offer grace at meal times to be mindful of the first precept.

    From reading some of the Jodo Shinshu literature, I know that others say:

    “May I eat with mindfulness and may the energy in this food help to transform my unwholesome qualities into wholesome ones.”

    From my limited understanding, it seems like “prayer” in Buddhism is not in the form of a petition – it is not a tool to gain anything. Instead the recitation is reflection of gratitude in awareness of what we have received.

  5. #5
    Hi,

    I like Janice and Agata's comments and little rituals very much.

    For Oryoki at our Retreats, I adopted the following set of Meal Chants. In keeping with the approach of Treeleaf, I removed or recast many elements of esoteric and Pure Land Buddhism and the like which had come to be mixed into Soto Practice over the centuries. While I can appreciate all of those on a symbolic and philosophical level, I am trying for a Buddhism without much of the magic, superstition and hocus-pocus that was added in centuries past and, I think, often are uncomfortable additions to the original teachings of both Master Dogen (sometimes called the "Mystical Realist") and the Buddha too.

    For example, where the traditional version of a Meal Verse states:

    Ten Buddha Names
    (jūbutsumyō)

    In the midst of the Three Treasures
    which verify our understanding,
    entrusting ourselves to the sangha,
    we recall:

    Vairochana Buddha,
    pure Dharmakaya;

    Lochana Buddha,
    complete Sambhogakaya;

    Shakyamuni Buddha,
    myriad Nirmanakaya;

    Maitreya Buddha, of future birth;

    All buddhas
    throughout space and time;

    Lotus of the Wondrous Dharma, Mahayana sutra.

    Manjushri Bodhisattva,
    great wisdom;

    Samantabhadra Bodhisattva,
    great activity;

    Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva,
    great compassion;

    All honored ones,
    bodhisattvas, mahasattvas;

    Wisdom beyond wisdom,
    maha-prajnaparamita.


    We chanted:

    In the midst of the Three Treasures
    which verify our understanding,
    Entrusting ourselves to the Sangha,
    we recall:

    All Buddhas, Awakened Ones and Great Teachers
    throughout space and time;
    All Honored Ones, Compassionate Ones,
    Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas;
    Wisdom beyond Wisdom,
    Maha-Prajna-Paramita.



    For ordinary meals at home or outside, I use an abbreviated version:

    This food comes from the efforts
    of all sentient beings past and present,
    and is medicine for nourishment of our Practice.
    We offer this meal of many virtues and tastes
    to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,
    and to all life in every realm of existence.
    May all sentient beings in the universe
    be sufficiently nourished.


    I will put a link at the bottom if you want to compare to a more traditional set of Meal Chants.


    TREELEAF ZENDO CHANT BOOK


    Formal Meal Verses
    (Gyōhatsu nenju)



    Passages in underlined italics are chanted by chant leader only


    BOWLS SHOULD BE YET UNOPENED:


    Verse upon Hearing the Meal Signal (Clappers)
    (Montsui no ge)


    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) Buddha was born in Kapilavastu,
    enlightened in Magadha,
    taught in Varanasi,
    entered nirvana at Kushinagara.

    OPEN BOWLS, WITH CARE. DO NOT YET SERVE FOOD OR PLACE SPOON INTO BOWL YET:

    Verse for Setting Out Bowls
    (Tenpatsu no ge)



    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) Now we set out Buddha's bowls;
    may we, with all living beings,
    realize the emptiness of self-clinging, and of the three wheels:
    giver, receiver, and gift.



    Verse of Buddha Names
    (Butsumyō)


    CHANT LEADER ONLY:
    (Hands in Gassho) In the midst of the Three Treasures
    which verify our understanding,
    Entrusting ourselves to the Sangha,
    we recall:

    EVERYONE:

    (Hands in Gassho) All Buddhas, Awakened Ones and Great Teachers
    throughout space and time;
    All Honored Ones, Compassionate Ones,
    Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas;
    Wisdom beyond Wisdom,
    Maha-Prajna-Paramita.

    Food Offering Verses
    (Sejiki ge)


    CHANT LEADER ONLY:
    (Hands in Gassho) This food comes from the efforts
    of all sentient beings past and present,
    and is medicine for nourishment of our Practice.
    We offer this meal of many virtues and tastes
    to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,
    and to all life in every realm of existence.
    May all sentient beings in the universe
    be sufficiently nourished.


    FOOD IS NOW SERVED. DO NOT PLACE SPOON INTO EATING BOWL YET.

    PRIOR TO EATING, THE FOLLOWING VERSES ARE CHANTED:


    Verse of Five Contemplations
    (Gokan ge)


    EVERYONE:

    (Hands in Gassho) First, we reflect on the labours that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.
    (Bow in Shashu) Second, as we receive this offering, we should consider whether our virtue and practice deserve it.
    (Hands in Zazen Mudra) Third, we regard greed as an obstacle to freedom of mind.
    Fourth, we regard this meal as medicine to sustain our life.
    Fifth, to attain our Way, we now receive this food.


    Verse of Food Offering
    (Saba ge)



    REMOVE A FEW MORSELS, AND PLACE ASIDE ON SMALL DISH
    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) For all creatures who hunger, and to nourish this world, now we present you this offering. This food is for all of you in the ten directions.




    Bowl Raising Verse
    (Keihatsu no ge)


    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho)First, this is for the Three Treasures;
    (Bow, put spoon in main bowl, handle facing away from you) Second, it is for our teachers, parents, planet, and all sentient beings.;
    (Hands in Gassho)Third, it is for every being in all realms of existense.
    (Bow, hold main owl above eye level) Thus we eat this food with everyone. We eat to end all suffering, to practice the harmless, helpful and healthful, to save all sentient beings, and to accomplish our Buddha Way.
    (Place bowl down, Gassho) The first portion is to end all evil;
    the second is to cultivate every good;
    the third is to free all beings.
    May everyone realize our Buddha Way.
    (When the preceding verses have been chanted, begin eating.
    Remember to leave some tea or water in glass at end)

    * * *

    (Wait for all to finish, and all should finish promptly. When leader indicates, pour remaining tea/water into largest bowl, sponge, then repeat for smaller bowls. Squeeze sponge into last bowl, drink contents.
    When finished washing bowls, chant the following).


    Verse of Rinsing Water
    (Sessui no ge)


    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) The water with which we wash our bowls
    tastes like ambrosia.
    We offer it to all who thirst, that they may be satisfied.
    And may the fires of greed and our excess desires be quenched.



    REWRAP BOWLS, WITH CARE AND IN PROPER ORDER:


    Verse of Purity While Abiding in the World
    (shose kaibon no ge)


    CHANT LEADER ONLY:
    (Hands in Gassho) Abiding in this ephemeral world
    May we exist in muddy water with purity like a lotus
    Nothing escapes the boundless mind
    Thus we bow to Buddha.


    (Rise from seat, place bowls aside, straigten Zafu, bick up bowls, bow toward Zafu and room while holding bowls,, retire with bowls)
    A more traditional set of meal chants can be found here:

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/scbs/sztp ... nenju.html

    Gassho, Jundo, Mystical Realist (Pragmystic)

  6. #6
    There's a blog posting today on "Teaching children reverence in Buddhism" that touches on the issue of saying grace. It is at http://buddhanerd.wordpress.com/2008/01 ... -buddhism/

    In part, this posting says: "In Japan, before eating you are supposed to say itadakimasu, which is a very humble form of the word “I am receiving”.* . . . * - the more neutral word would be moraemasu."

    I don't know Japanese. So I can't comment on the choice of terms.

  7. #7
    in addition to itadakimasu prior to the meal we also say Gososama after eating. I am not a real nice Japanese speaker, (I do know some really rude Japanese phrases though) but that is what my wife says and it has become a habit in my house. I think it means something like “Thanks for the meal.”

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan
    in addition to itadakimasu prior to the meal we also say Gososama after eating. I am not a real nice Japanese speaker, (I do know some really rude Japanese phrases though) but that is what my wife says and it has become a habit in my house. I think it means something like “Thanks for the meal.”

    Gassho,
    Jordan
    Hi,

    "Itadakimasu" means "I humbly receive", and may have more a social meaning (I humbly receive from the chef and host) than a religious one. It has both really, I suppose, depending on the speaker's state of mind. On the other hand, "Gososama" is slang for "Gochisosama Deshita", which just means "That was a feast!"

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

  10. #10
    This sounds like a great practice, I'm going to try and incorporate it into my life.

  11. #11
    Thanks for posting that Agata. Nice verse.

    I usually put one hand in Gassho and hold my bowl with the other, (I don't have a table) do a little bow and reflect a bit on being grateful.

    Gassho Will

  12. #12
    Hey,

    My wife corrected me (not the first time, even just today) based on something she had read on word derivation. Although "Gochisosama" means "Thank you for the feast", the literal meaning and derivation is "Thank you for all your running around (making the feast)", and is likely addressed to the host or cook.

    There is your useless bit of trivia for the day! I know Jun and a couple of others will appreciate it.

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13
    Itadakimas! Yes we do that too. It was nice to start our own family rituals having a two year old, with one foot in Japan and the other here. I think we give it both a Bon Appetit and grace connotation. So we do Christmas and New Years as the big celebrations. More generally, we are respectful of the traditions of all three (Mexicano-Tejano American Japanese) cultures.

    In response to another thread, my morning cup of coffee is a big ritual. I remember an old Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire in which Peter Faulk plays himself. Or rather himself as a former Angel whose desire to know what it was to be human lead to a decision to give up being immortal. There is a scene, a cold morning in Berlin drinking a hot cup of coffee from a street vendor, being in the moment. So yes, like that. I get up before everyone else, make the joe, walk the dog as it brews, then appreciate the morning from the kitchen window as I cradle it warm and fragrant. It never gets old.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hey,

    My wife corrected me (not the first time, even just today) based on something she had read on word derivation. Although "Gochisosama" means "Thank you for the feast", the literal meaning and derivation is "Thank you for all your running around (making the feast)", and is likely addressed to the host or cook.

    There is your useless bit of trivia for the day! I know Jun and a couple of others will appreciate it.

    Gassho, Jundo


    It's common courtesy to shout out "Gochisosama deshita" to the chef when leaving a restaurant.

    An equivalent term used after work (said to your workmates) is "otsukaresama deshita." It means something like "thanks for working hard together." It can be said any time some form of work has been done in unison to say thanks.

    Gassho

    Ps. Perhaps a section on Japanese/Sanskrit/Buddhist terminology would be good? For those who are interested in such?

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    TREELEAF ZENDO CHANT BOOK


    Formal Meal Verses
    (Gyōhatsu nenju)



    Passages in underlined italics are chanted by chant leader only


    BOWLS SHOULD BE YET UNOPENED:


    Verse upon Hearing the Meal Signal (Clappers)
    (Montsui no ge)


    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) Buddha was born in Kapilavastu,
    enlightened in Magadha,
    taught in Varanasi,
    entered nirvana at Kushinagara.

    OPEN BOWLS, WITH CARE. DO NOT YET SERVE FOOD OR PLACE SPOON INTO BOWL YET:

    Verse for Setting Out Bowls
    (Tenpatsu no ge)



    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) Now we set out Buddha's bowls;
    may we, with all living beings,
    realize the emptiness of self-clinging, and of the three wheels:
    giver, receiver, and gift.



    Verse of Buddha Names
    (Butsumyō)


    CHANT LEADER ONLY:
    (Hands in Gassho) In the midst of the Three Treasures
    which verify our understanding,
    Entrusting ourselves to the Sangha,
    we recall:

    EVERYONE:

    (Hands in Gassho) All Buddhas, Awakened Ones and Great Teachers
    throughout space and time;
    All Honored Ones, Compassionate Ones,
    Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas;
    Wisdom beyond Wisdom,
    Maha-Prajna-Paramita.

    Food Offering Verses
    (Sejiki ge)


    CHANT LEADER ONLY:
    (Hands in Gassho) This food comes from the efforts
    of all sentient beings past and present,
    and is medicine for nourishment of our Practice.
    We offer this meal of many virtues and tastes
    to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,
    and to all life in every realm of existence.
    May all sentient beings in the universe
    be sufficiently nourished.


    FOOD IS NOW SERVED. DO NOT PLACE SPOON INTO EATING BOWL YET.

    PRIOR TO EATING, THE FOLLOWING VERSES ARE CHANTED:


    Verse of Five Contemplations
    (Gokan ge)


    EVERYONE:

    (Hands in Gassho) First, we reflect on the labours that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.
    (Bow in Shashu) Second, as we receive this offering, we should consider whether our virtue and practice deserve it.
    (Hands in Zazen Mudra) Third, we regard greed as an obstacle to freedom of mind.
    Fourth, we regard this meal as medicine to sustain our life.
    Fifth, to attain our Way, we now receive this food.


    Verse of Food Offering
    (Saba ge)



    REMOVE A FEW MORSELS, AND PLACE ASIDE ON SMALL DISH
    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) For all creatures who hunger, and to nourish this world, now we present you this offering. This food is for all of you in the ten directions.




    Bowl Raising Verse
    (Keihatsu no ge)


    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho)First, this is for the Three Treasures;
    (Bow, put spoon in main bowl, handle facing away from you) Second, it is for our teachers, parents, planet, and all sentient beings.;
    (Hands in Gassho)Third, it is for every being in all realms of existense.
    (Bow, hold main owl above eye level) Thus we eat this food with everyone. We eat to end all suffering, to practice the harmless, helpful and healthful, to save all sentient beings, and to accomplish our Buddha Way.
    (Place bowl down, Gassho) The first portion is to end all evil;
    the second is to cultivate every good;
    the third is to free all beings.
    May everyone realize our Buddha Way.
    (When the preceding verses have been chanted, begin eating.
    Remember to leave some tea or water in glass at end)

    * * *

    (Wait for all to finish, and all should finish promptly. When leader indicates, pour remaining tea/water into largest bowl, sponge, then repeat for smaller bowls. Squeeze sponge into last bowl, drink contents.
    When finished washing bowls, chant the following).


    Verse of Rinsing Water
    (Sessui no ge)


    EVERYONE:
    (Hands in Gassho) The water with which we wash our bowls
    tastes like ambrosia.
    We offer it to all who thirst, that they may be satisfied.
    And may the fires of greed and our excess desires be quenched.



    REWRAP BOWLS, WITH CARE AND IN PROPER ORDER:


    Verse of Purity While Abiding in the World
    (shose kaibon no ge)


    CHANT LEADER ONLY:
    (Hands in Gassho) Abiding in this ephemeral world
    May we exist in muddy water with purity like a lotus
    Nothing escapes the boundless mind
    Thus we bow to Buddha.


    (Rise from seat, place bowls aside, straigten Zafu, bick up bowls, bow toward Zafu and room while holding bowls,, retire with bowls)
    This is what we used to chant at the zendo where I stayed whenever we used the bowls-- usually at lunchtime For less formal meals, we used different verses from Thich Nhat Hanh, which were much shorter.

  16. #16
    Oops, sorry. Somehow I ended up posting the same thing twice (edited, was the same as the post above).

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