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Gatha for Meal offerings, the First Step to Learning How to Live Happily Together

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Writer Jogye Date24 Dec 2019 Read6,539 Comment0


Gatha for Meal offerings,

the First Step to Learning How to Live Happily Together

When we do not finish the food served to us, leftovers are the least of our problems. Disposal of food waste is expensive, costing 800 billion won a year in Korea. Food left uneaten is already a waste of valuable resources, but since we have to spend an enormous amount of money to get rid of it, it causes double damage.

Let’s consider what we could have spent the money for. There are people who cannot afford to pay Korea’s national insurance premiums and therefore are unable to receive medical treatment when they are ill. There are also senior citizens to whom a small monthly stipend would make a huge difference in their lives. It is a tragic loss, for there are so many other ways the money we spend on food waste disposal could have been used to benefit so many people, including education and social welfare programs. On top of it all, food waste is toxic to the environment.

There are several reasons food waste continues to increase. People are eating more and more processed foods, which generates a great quantity of waste even before the finished products hit the retail shops. The market economy also regards foodstuff as merchandise, which means perfectly edible vegetables or fruits are scrapped without ever leaving the farm because they do not meet a predetermined set of standards or just because they are not pretty enough.

Leaving a restaurant without finishing everthing on your table leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but it is hard to eat all the small side dishes, especially when they are not your favorite. Some of them are even left untouched. Leftovers thus produced are destined for the dumpster.

How often people shop for groceries at a big supermarket may be related to the amount of food waste a society generates. We all have done our share of impulse buying, especially on sale items. We think we are saving money, but because they are not what we originally planned to buy, they are more often than not left forgotten in a corner of the pantry. By the time you remember them, it is already past their shelf life so they go straight into the garbage.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Given the fact that half the earth’s population is starving, the least we in richer countries can do is to prevent food waste as much as possible. In that sense, the gatha for meal offerings, the Buddhist mealtime prayer, is part of the‘ancient futures,’ one of the lessons from our ancestors we must re-learn to create a new future. The gatha starts by reflecting on where the food in front of us came from, and how the whole universe works together to create a single grain of rice. It also advises us to let go of our greed and be grateful.

By reciting this gatha, we recognize how precious food is, how it nourishes and heals us and sustains our Buddhist practice, after which we should vow to use this body for a worthy cause. Reminding ourselves of this mealtime gatha whenever we eat can be an important first step to establishing a solid foundation for our spiritual practice as well as creating a world where everyone can live happily together.

〈Aspiration Before Meal〉

The grace of the whole universe imbues every drop of water,

The labor of ten thousand people infuses every grain of rice.

I will sustain my body with this precious food,

So that I can put my body and mind on the right path, free from defilements.

〈M ealtime Gatha〉

Reflecting on the effort that went into making this meal

I feel that I am not virtuous enough to take this food.

Casting aside desire and delusion

Regarding it as medicine for my body

And working to attain awakening, I accept this food.

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