21 April 2012

Ōryōki Time

In our lineage we eat with forks and plates, spoons and bowls for our formal meals.  We use paper napkins.  We sit at low tables; we do not sit at our places in the zendo.   Nested bowls, chopsticks, lap cloths, utensil pouches, and a setsu are not part of our practice environment at all.

When I heard that a Zen place in town was giving an ōryōki class as prep for one of their all-day sittings, I got the contact information and asked to take part.  For me, I thought it was something I needed to learn how to do.  I have this notion that I should, as an ordained, be able to move about in the wider Zen world with at least a passing familiarity with and competence at the forms that have come down through the tradition.

So today I had my first lesson.   My dharma brother, who had practiced for three months at a center that did ōryōki, texted me beforehand that it would be "soul crushing."  I expected to develop a strong headache as the lesson progressed.  To my surprise, I actually enjoyed the experience, though part of that, I'm sure, stems from the fun I had getting to know a couple other priests in town as they gave the demonstration.

I can see why some teachers might hold on to it, and I can see why some teachers might opt instead for the forks and plates.  It is quite East Asian (I'd say Japanese, but I'm given to understand that there is a form of this in China as well), and I wouldn't say one is losing out on the Dharma for not doing it; it is certainly not going on in the Southern Tradition, for example.  In the end, it's one of those things that's just "one of those things," and that's just fine with me.

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