Dogen

‘When taking up or putting down bowls, and also when picking up your spoon or chopsticks, do not make any noise. Do not dig out rice from the middle of the bowl when you eat [to rush or make it appear that you need more]. Unless you are sick, do not seek after extra food or rice for yourself. Do not cover the soup with rice hoping to get more [by making it appear less]. Do not look into other monks’ bowls, arousing envy. Just eat with your attention focused on your bowls. Do not try to eat balls [or mouthfuls] of rice that are too big. Do not throw bowls of rice into your mouth. Do not take food and leave it uneaten to be thrown away. Do not make noise when chewing your food. Do not [loudly] slurp your food. Do not lick your food.’ (Eihei Shingi Fukushuhanpo)

Dogen’s Pure Standards can be an entertaining read, and this section on The Dharma for Taking Food is no exception. It also covers why Japanese monks don’t eat with their fingers in the way that was the norm in Buddha’s time, as well as how to sit down respectfully while wearing an okesa, the various forms for an oryoki meal, and ‘the suchness of ultimate identity from beginning to end.’  Some of what he writes about oryoki is still observable in the forms used at Zen Center, especially at Tassajara, where the monks currently in practice period will be eating all their meals in the zendo four days out of five. It is also a reminder, as are the section on behaviour when meeting senior monks in this volume, and the fascicles in the Shobogenzo on cleanliness, that he was doubtless having to deal with some fairly uncouth young men in the community, and trying to instil his notions that enlightenment is only manifested in our practices – those of eating as much as any other.

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