Caveat: Baru Gongyang

Korean Buddhism has a tradition called 바루공양 (sp? = baru gongyang), which is the idea of eating in a very structured, formalized manner and making sure that absolutely no food is wasted.  It's a bit similar in concept to a Japanese tea ceremony, I suppose.

So for breakfast this morning we had a baru gongyang meal.  There were four bowls.  Food between the bowls should not be mixed during eating, and the sound of chopsticks and spoons against the bowls should be minimized.  Also, bowls should be held while eating so that the mouth is hidden from others around you as much as possible.

Before eating, there is a chant:

Where has this food come from?

My virtues are so little that I am hardly worthy to receive it.

I will take this as medicine, to get rid of greed in my mind and to maintain my physical being so as to be able to achieve enlightenment.

The following etiquette rules are given:

Sit cross-legged

No speaking except for chants or recitations

Be careful not to make noise while eating

Always hold bowl while eating

Do not mix food from separate bowls

Do not let your eyes wander while eating

Be mindful of equlity, purity and tranquility

After the chant, we bow, and begin eating.  There are four bowls:

Rice (Buddha) bowl

Soup

Water

Side dish (kimchi, radish, some greens)

After finishing, place chopsticks in bowl 2, receive warm water in bowl 1.  Clean bowls with the water and a piece of radish that you've reserved, and drink this water – this ensures that no food goes to waste.  A second washing is performed and the water is placed into pots.  The monk told us that there are hungry ghosts who will drink this cleaning water, but that if there are particles of food in the water, the ghosts will choke and disturb the peace of the monastery.

Finally, you wipe the bowls dry and wrap them up again.  You bow and put the bowls away.

I did all this, this morning.  It was very interesting.  [This is a "back-post" written 2010-02-24]