Oryoki: The Zen Retreat Meal

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A friend just posted this video.

I laughed.

But, I realized perhaps this is only really funny for those of us who have done this ritual. It certainly can be fussy. And, yes, controlling. But, then within the confines of the Zen retreat, something else is also going on. Kind of a both and, and, and…

Oryoki means “just enough.” For most practicing here in the West it is a central aspect of Zen retreats. If one does monastic training it, or an adaptation is likely to be a daily experience.

I’ve felt so many different emotions over the years around oryoki. I suggest that alone is worth doing this ceremonial way of eating. There are aspects to criticize. (Back to that and, and, and…) But, it is also an invitation. To turning the light within. To letting go of the things we cling to. If we learn the processes and then just do them, surrender into the moment, it can be something amazing.

Here’s a dharma talk on Oryoki by Mary Stares, a priest at the San Francisco Zen Center.

And, me, I like visuals. Here’s a little more accurate than that first video description of how to do it with Chozen Bays, abbess at Great Vow in Clatskanie, Oregon.

And, for this moment, I found this just kind of sweet.

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