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Oryoki

Oryoki

Postby Jugglesaurus on Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:11 pm

We practice oryoki at sesshins and zen days. I've only ever seen one bowl used at UK events, but when I went to France I saw several people with three.
Do you guys do it? Do you like it? Are you as addicted to toasted sesame salt as I am, or does it just make you want some bacon and eggs?
I quite appreciate the way cloth is folded to make it easier to unfold and place quickly, and refold afterwards. The physical coordination of it all reminds me a little of contact juggling. However, I get super nervous about messing up and serving out food at the wrong time or something.
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:41 pm

Jugglesaurus wrote:We practice oryoki at sesshins and zen days. I've only ever seen one bowl used at UK events, but when I went to France I saw several people with three.
Do you guys do it? Do you like it? Are you as addicted to toasted sesame salt as I am, or does it just make you want some bacon and eggs?
I quite appreciate the way cloth is folded to make it easier to unfold and place quickly, and refold afterwards. The physical coordination of it all reminds me a little of contact juggling. However, I get super nervous about messing up and serving out food at the wrong time or something.


Yes, I have a great fondness for the "gomasio" toasted seseme seed salt. It is easy to make at home. The two variables are to get the seseme seeds toasted to just the right darkness without overdoing it and to get just the right ratio of salt that you like. I use a small coffee bean grinder to grind it after toasting, though a blender can be used as well as a hand grinding bowl like the Japanese suribachi.

grinding bowl.jpg

###

Oryoki is now even adopted in some Tibetan practice centers in the West such as Shambala.

Oryoki sets typically come in nested sets of 3 bowls, 4 bowls, or 5 bowls and either number can also have an optional lid that acts like an additional dish when turned upside down. Soto seems to prefer the 3 bowl and Rinzai the 4 or 5 bowl sets.

oryoki 4 bowls.jpg


Different Zen centers will have more or less formality when eating by oryoki. Usually the Soto style is to eat in the sitting hall (sodo, dojo, or zendo) at one's cushion, and in the West this usually means with the bowls laid out on the wrapping cloth used as a place mat on the floor.

soto style oryoki.jpg


In a monestery with a raised tan platform for sitting, the bowls would be on the tan ledge in front of the cushion (zabutan).

oryoki on a tan.jpg


In Rinzai style, the usual is for the eating to be done in a separate dining room, so the oryoki is done with the bowls on a bench if sitting is on the floor or at a table if sitting is on a bench or chair. In this style, since the bowls are on the bench the wrapping cloth usually is not laid out under the bowls but is kept in one's lap. This helps in wiping the bench or table. But sometimes, depending on the Zen center, when the bench or table is used, the cloth place mat is still used.

oryoki on a bench.jpg


Some Western Zen centers seem to have forgotten (or just let it lapse) the system for which foods go into which bowls. The traditional rule is that the first bowl, or "Buddha bowl" holds the grain dish, on the general principle that grain is the staff of life. This would mean the oatmeal or gruel in the morning, and rice or other grain (pasta, polenta, quinoa, etc.) at the other meals. The second bowl would hold the soup or sauce dish, And the third bowl would hold the vegetable or fruit dish. The fourth bowl or lid would hold the pickles or cookies if any. The first bowl is on the left from the diner's view with each smaller bowl to the right.

oryoki servings.jpg


Here's a demonstration at a table using the wrapping cloth as the place mat.



Note that the style presented in the video is just one style, and though it is generally applicable it is not necessarily followed in this exact manner by all Zen centers. Some Zen centers, typically Rinzai, don't use the cleaning spatula tool and instead use a pickle with chopsticks for cleaning the bowl. Also, in the video the bowls are wrapped without tying the ends, but in some Zen centers the bowls are wrapped with tying the knot in a very particular way.
oryoki bowls wrapped.jpg

oryoki_shelf.jpg


Obviously you will have to learn the style of the Zen center where the oryoki is done.

_/|\_
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Pedestrian on Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:16 pm

The timing of this couldn't be better, as I'm going to be going on my first overnight retreat in a couple of months. Thanks for all this information, Gregory!

Does anyone have any suggestions for where to obtain an oryoki set? They seem quite pricey out there on the internet....
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Carol on Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:59 pm

I hate Oryoki!

Sitting in an uncomfortable position on the floor while eating is bad for the digestion and unhealthy. Food should be consumed in a relaxed but attentive manner. Oryoki is not a practice that makes sense for Westerners. It's cultural baggage carried over from Japan that should be jettisoned.

I've attended retreats at a Chinese Chan place (Dharma Drum Retreat Center) where meals were taken buffet style (serve yourself from a table with the food on it) and people sat in chairs at tables to eat. My first Zen sangha also took meals this way at sesshin. Meals were in silence, with meal gathas beforehand. For the last three years, however, I've been with a sangha that eats meals Oryoki style. I put up with it because I really like the sangha and teacher.
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Pedestrian on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:17 pm

Is there a range of oryoki practices or does "oryoki" by definition indicate a commitment to the multiple bowls, sitting on the floor, etc?
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Nonin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:17 pm

Carol wrote:I hate Oryoki!

Sitting in an uncomfortable position on the floor while eating is bad for the digestion and unhealthy. Food should be consumed in a relaxed but attentive manner. Oryoki is not a practice that makes sense for Westerners. It's cultural baggage carried over from Japan that should be jettisoned.

I've attended retreats at a Chinese Chan place (Dharma Drum Retreat Center) where meals were taken buffet style (serve yourself from a table with the food on it) and people sat in chairs at tables to eat. My first Zen sangha also took meals this way at sesshin. Meals were in silence, with meal gathas beforehand. For the last three years, however, I've been with a sangha that eats meals Oryoki style. I put up with it because I really like the sangha and teacher.

If you hate oryoki, then you should do it more often, Carol, until you make peace with it! Oryoki meals are an essential practice in Soto and other forms of Zen Buddhism. If sitting on the floor is not possible because of injury or other physical issues, most places provide chairs and small tables for the person.

Also, Oryoki practices makes sense to me and many, many other practitioners on a variety of levels, which I won't get into here. It is hardly Japanese cultural baggage, for it's practiced in China, Korea, and throughout the West as well as in Japan. It's also practiced in some Tibetan centers. During sesshins at Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, we eat three oryoki meals a day, and we sit on chairs around a table.

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Re: Oryoki

Postby Pedestrian on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:21 pm

So, Nonin, when you sit around a table in chairs and eat, what is "oryoki" about it? I mean this with all respect in a spirit of inquiry. For example, at all-day retreats I've attended we eat on our own respecting the principles of the retreat itself (silent, no eye contact, etc.) but are encouraged to do so in a manner that clearly reflects components of this practice, I think.
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Nonin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:31 pm

We use exactly the same forms for eating oryoki style whether we sit around a table, on the floor, or on tans. As I mentioned before, it's a specific form for taking meals that arose in Zen Buddhist temples in China and was eventually transmitted around the world. To understand what oryoki style meals are about, one has to practice them, for every aspect of them is precise and proscribed. They are highly ritualized and their practice goes far beyond eating in silence and avoiding eye contact, etc.

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Re: Oryoki

Postby Pedestrian on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:34 pm

So the forms don't include where or how you sit but rather the other components, then. OK, gotcha!
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Nonin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:02 pm

Pedestrian wrote:So the forms don't include where or how you sit but rather the other components, then. OK, gotcha!

The proper form of sitting for oryoki can be on the floor, on a tan, or in chairs, just as the proper form for zazen can be full-lotus, half-lotus, quarter-lotus, burmese, seize on cushions, seiza on a bench, zazen in a chair, and varieties of all of the above!

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Re: Oryoki

Postby Carol on Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:04 am

Pedestrian wrote:So the forms don't include where or how you sit but rather the other components, then. OK, gotcha!


At our sangha, sitting on the floor without a table is the practice. Chair sitting would probably be permitted, if absolutely necessary. But that is quite awkward, as the bowls are on the floor.

I have heard of another sangha where sitting seiza style (on your knees) is required. I was thinking of attending a sesshin there until I heard about that. I cannot sit seiza style at all.
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Carol on Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:08 am

Nonin wrote:
Carol wrote:I hate Oryoki!


If you hate oryoki, then you should do it more often, Carol, until you make peace with it!


:lol2: Oh, I know you are right, Nonin. I just wanted to say it and get it out there.

I won't debate the "cultural baggage" issue. But I found mindful meals at sesshin sitting at a table to be quite profound.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Jugglesaurus on Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:38 am

I've only tried oryoki on the floor once - the rest of the time we sit at tables. This actually adds an extra element - when it's done dojo style, the people on service come around and dish up. When it's at tables, then service puts the large serving bowls right on the table and the people sitting there have to dish up. However, you need to not start doing it before the godo is served, but get it done in a timely enough manner that the meal isn't really slow. Also, whoever happens to have the serving bowl and ladle needs to measure out quantities sensibly.
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Nonin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:16 am

Carol wrote:At our sangha, sitting on the floor without a table is the practice. Chair sitting would probably be permitted, if absolutely necessary. But that is quite awkward, as the bowls are on the floor.

At Tassajara, when someone is sitting in a chair for oryoki, there's a small table brought out that comes up to over the person's knees. I've also sat in places where a tv-table size folding unit is brought out for the person sitting in a chair. There are tables this size made of wood that are quite nice.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Carol on Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:36 am

Nonin wrote:
Carol wrote:At our sangha, sitting on the floor without a table is the practice. Chair sitting would probably be permitted, if absolutely necessary. But that is quite awkward, as the bowls are on the floor.

At Tassajara, when someone is sitting in a chair for oryoki, there's a small table brought out that comes up to over the person's knees. I've also sat in places where a tv-table size folding unit is brought out for the person sitting in a chair. There are tables this size made of wood that are quite nice.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin


Ooo, la la! That is fancy sounding. I think I'd feel reallllly old if someone had to bring out a special table for me. I'll put up with sitting on the floor -- and as you say, I'll do more of it until I make my peace.

Thanks, Nonin.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Nonin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:06 am

Carol wrote:
Nonin wrote:
Carol wrote:At our sangha, sitting on the floor without a table is the practice. Chair sitting would probably be permitted, if absolutely necessary. But that is quite awkward, as the bowls are on the floor.

At Tassajara, when someone is sitting in a chair for oryoki, there's a small table brought out that comes up to over the person's knees. I've also sat in places where a tv-table size folding unit is brought out for the person sitting in a chair. There are tables this size made of wood that are quite nice.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin


Ooo, la la! That is fancy sounding. I think I'd feel reallllly old if someone had to bring out a special table for me. I'll put up with sitting on the floor -- and as you say, I'll do more of it until I make my peace.

Thanks, Nonin.

Harrumph! Vanity, thy name is Carol!

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Carol on Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:16 am

Nonin wrote:
Carol wrote:
Nonin wrote:
Carol wrote:At our sangha, sitting on the floor without a table is the practice. Chair sitting would probably be permitted, if absolutely necessary. But that is quite awkward, as the bowls are on the floor.

At Tassajara, when someone is sitting in a chair for oryoki, there's a small table brought out that comes up to over the person's knees. I've also sat in places where a tv-table size folding unit is brought out for the person sitting in a chair. There are tables this size made of wood that are quite nice.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin


Ooo, la la! That is fancy sounding. I think I'd feel reallllly old if someone had to bring out a special table for me. I'll put up with sitting on the floor -- and as you say, I'll do more of it until I make my peace.

Thanks, Nonin.

Harrumph! Vanity, thy name is Carol!

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin


Nailed! :blush:
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:21 am

Pedestrian wrote:Is there a range of oryoki practices or does "oryoki" by definition indicate a commitment to the multiple bowls, sitting on the floor, etc?

Some Zen centers where I have attended sesshin have oryoki at table sitting on chairs or benches, and another Zen center sat on the floor with benches used as tables.

I see the most common generic aspects that make it "oryoki" as these:

1) A bowl set where the bowls, eating utensils, napkin and cleaning cloth are wrapped together.
2) The person keeps the set with them throughout the retreat (zazenkai or sesshin) at one's sitting place.
3) The chanting, unwrapping, serving, offering, eating, cleaning and wrapping are all done in collective coordination for a harmonious dining event.
4) As a formal Buddhist meal it is done in general silence (except for the chanting) and the food is meatless.
5) Hot tea water is used for cleaning one's own bowls by oneself.

Beyond these general features, the details--for example, where one sits on the floor or at table, how many bowls in a set, whether one serves onesself or is served by another (service by another is preferred), whether to eat when the immediate neighbor is being served, etc.--can vary. It is one of the interesting experiences in Zen to sit with different groups and see how the details can vary but the essence of the oryoki is there.

_/|\_
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Hosei on Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:11 pm

Our lot mostly do oryoki sitting at tables with chairs - particularly at our head temple, where there can be over 200 folks, and the meditation hall is a hundred metres from the kitchen :-) - Also, while 3,4 or 5 bowls is not UN common, we mostly reduce it to 1 bowl. This is probably because up till about 13 years ago or so,we didn't really do it. Since then they've gradually started introducing the bowls, cloths, setsu stick - and now in smaller subsections of our greater sangha, the full 3 or 5 bowl deal.

One bowl works well for us in general, because we tend to serve our meals in courses - starter/main/dessert - if we served all the parts at once, then 3 or more bowls would make a lot of sense.

I forsee us gradually moving to 3 bowls being the most common

here's me clapping the clappers (or 'claquettes' as we call them in France) to such a meal at our head temple, La Gendronneire in France.
Image
other people's faces have be obscured to protect the innocent ;-)
this is only half the dining hall.
-hs

Ps: well done jugglesaurus for breaking the ice in the practitioner's forum !
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Re: Oryoki

Postby Hosei on Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:18 pm

Here's another shot showing our lot at a mostly 1 bowl table - though the person on the left in the front is laying out his hattan and looks like he has 3 nested bowls - the rest are singles. Faces have again been obscured .. so my friends don't hurt me for posting their photos on the internet :-)
Image

-hs
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