Temple Meal: First Chant, Then Eat [ video ]

This is just a regular daily lunch in the Zen Center Regensburg today with the meditation family (a Bavarian-German, Korean-Korean, Palestinian-German, Cretan-Greek, and an Irish-Germanic American gathering), as we slowly begin to open back up again our deep communal life from the depths of lockdown: Lentils and fresh wild greens from the local farmer’s market, rustic German bread slightly crusted three-days-old, Irish butter laid on in thick slabs, tart Greek olive oil chafing the back of the throat — and silence. The ancient bells of Regensburg ring out, swarming our wall of windows, flooding our sunlit kitchen space. We hover over our feast of wild, grassy scents and sparkling nutrition wordlessly: there is no chit-chat, no filling-of-spaces, only the sound of rapturous chewing and breath.

Zen.

Which means “Observation”.

Seeing.

Seeing clearly what is.

Moment-world.

Yet when food is self-served, we also pause, even with the natural pang of desire hanging in the air. We pause to chant. Through mindful chant, we return to this moment, from wandering in the foreign lands of accidental thinking.

In Buddhist temples in Asia, we often chant the Heart Sutra before a meal. The soft chest-and-breath vibration of the rolling chanting together harmonizes us with ourselves and with each other, cutting off the scattered wavelengths of previous discursive thinking, so that we enter the sights/smells/tastes of the silent meal together at 0.

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