Here is some food for thought 😉
There is plenty of delicious food being brought to the Buddhist hermitage Lunas. And when I speak of plenty, I actually mean abundance. It is organised like a potlatch. It’s all donated by devotees. That is, local families with their children and all – every day of the week a different Dāna groups brings food to the hermitage. So there is all kinds of food and the devotees emphasize ‘it is a pleasure to serve you’. But only before noon. After that, no food.
It’s sometimes impossible to tell if something is meat or sweet, and since we are supposed not to open the mouth (except to eat mindfully) it is not possible to ask if this samosa is filled with potatoes or tuna or if that bun is sour or sweet. Take a guess. Hey captain! If you want something, take it! Reach out and put it on your plate mate. Before it’s gone. Or don’t. The next dish is already in front.
I have stopped trying to make nice arrangements. It all gets mixed up on the plate anyway. (Well, actually the arrangements just naturally become nice) In the course of the week, I have also given up my conviction – it sounds like convict, anyway, a prisoner of views! – to be a vegetarian person around here. Some of you who know me might be aghast. Some of you who really know me will understand. Alms bowl offerings, it’s special circumstances. The offerings file past in front of me in the dining hall – quite similar to thoughts of past and future filing past in the meditation hall. In both cases, there is not much time to choose. Once I grab it, it’s on my plate and I feed on it. Yes, sometimes it’s fish, shrimps, meat, egg, dairies are mixed into the dish. I have resorted to eating everything again, to live like an omnivore for ‘a good week’ (in myspeak meaning approx. 10 days). Yes, sometimes it’s greed, anger, jealousy, fear, lust. I am resolved to let everything come and pass by for ‘a good week’. In case I feel exhausted afterwards, I know I’ve had too many thoughts on my plate, too much food on my mind. Whatever. Neither am I here to judge any experience nor am I here to make it mine. I am here to observe. Observe objectively what is happening while it is happening.
Let it go.
Today is Sunday, for instance, and the dining hall is crowded with devotees. First they queue to serve the monks. Then yogis and yogīnis, samaneras (novice monks) and sayalays are served. More than 50 or so different types of food file past us. I just take what seems agreeable. As mentioned before, once I go for it, it’s on my plate. No time for close examination. No chance of being picky.
So I’m gonna make a resolution. I’m gonna deal with it later: As soon as everything (cuz maybe something reeeeal good is coming along in a minute…) has been offered. I’m gonna try to remain equanimous when I realise: I took too much too much, man. I’m gonna remember: Three things on the blue planet truly challenge a man’s common sense and prove his dignity or lack thereof: An ether binge with a paranoid lawyer at your side. A beautiful young woman offering her virginity. The thoughtless rapid ingestion of piles of food.
So the real work starts in the dining hall. What happens in the dhamma hall is merely preliminary. A preparation for the task of beingmindfully aware of holding the spoon and lifting it to the hole in your head, noting ‘chewing, chewing’ and ‘tasting, tasting’. In other words, it is difficult not to overeat. So many delicacies. After lunch, there is always the opportunity to practise generosity by handing over the leftovers to the stray dogs and cats that live here, too. Food is taken in silence, by the way. An Italian’s nightmare, I suppose. A prejudice based on nationality, I suppose.
Just as everything else, so too the intake of food is done in silence. There are two or three signs pointing out that ‘Speaking is the greatest hindrance to the progress of insight.’ So it’s definitely not what you’d call a social event, exactly.