But shortly after I began my Buddhist practice, I attended a Vietnamese temple in rural Michigan. At the time, the temple was run by two nuns who were lovely, gentle people. Each Saturday after a morning of meditation and dharma talk, we would have a bountiful Vietnamese lunch cooked by one or two women from the Vietnamese sangha. At the start of the meal, someone would say the following grace:
This food is the gift of the whole universe -- the
earth, the sky, and much hard work.
May we live in a way that makes us worthy to
May we transform our unskillful states of mind,
especially our greed.
My we take only foods that nourish us and prevent
We accept this food so that we may realize the path
The first four mouthfuls:
With the first taste, I promise to offer joy.
With the second taste, I promise to help relieve the
suffering of others.
With the third taste, I promise to see others’ joy as
With the fourth taste, I promise to learn the way of
non-attachment and equanimity,
From the first time I heard this grace, I took it very much to heart as presenting a way of life for me both consistent with the positive aspects of the life I had led, and yet in important respects a new way of life with a new awareness. That was 16 years ago.
Today, I still carry the text of this grace in my wallet so that I have it with me always. When I pull it out and read it before a meal, it always has the effect of centering me, of bringing me back to the moment, and providing an awareness of the food I am eating that otherwise I am sad to say is often lacking. I love and appreciate good food and am always very aware of the food I eat in that sense. But unless I am eating in silence ... a wonderful practice that I highly recommend ... I am not aware of the spiritual aspects of the meal nor its dedication.
In the future I will stop at the beginning of each meal and before I start eating focus on my breathing to be mindful of the moment and the food that I am about to consume. Regardless whether I am in company or alone, talking or in silence, I always want to be mindful of the spiritual nature of my meals. Another step towards 24/7 mindfulness.
Another lesson in practical Buddhism.