Buddhist nun shares art of eating mindfully
  • venynxvenynx May 15

    Thubten Damcho stood before a half-dozen garden beds bursting with leafy vegetables and thought back to her life before becoming a Buddhist nun, when she was so busy as a Singapore professional that she rarely took time to eat well.To get more buddhist food, you can visit shine news official website.

    Damcho would eat between meetings, she said, or late in the evenings to socialize and network. Besides ramen noodles, she didn’t really know how to cook.

    Now, though, she’s cooking for a whole community. She regularly helps prepare healthy, simple, vegetarian meals for about 30 people at Sravasti Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located about an hour north of Spokane, Wash.

    Damcho credits her abbess, Thubten Chodron, with transforming both her way of eating and of living. Chodron, who founded Sravasti Abbey 15 years ago, brings food into many of the values lessons she teaches to the 16 full-time residents of the abbey. She has compiled these insights in her forthcoming book, “The Compassionate Kitchen: Buddhist Practices for Eating with Mindfulness and Gratitude,” offering advice on using mealtimes to develop compassion and gratefulness. It comes out in December from Shambhala Publications.

    According to Buddhism, all earthly struggles stem from attachment, and food is no exception. Chodron is careful to explain, however, that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying eating.

    “Enjoyment is a feeling of pleasure,” said Chodron. “Attachment is that you’re not just content with enjoying it, you want more, you want better; so there’s craving, there’s grasping, there’s clinging, and that’s what brings difficulty.”

    In her book, she teaches the Five Contemplations, which are aimed at fostering mindful eating. They’re short verses designed to inspire reflections on the kindness of those who made the meal possible, how a meal and the preparation that goes into it can help improve one’s practice, guard the mind from thoughts that lead to wrongdoing, see food as medicine and seek enlightenment.Christian Wedemeyer, associate professor of the history of religions at the University of Chicago, said vegetarianism plays an essential role in most Buddhist traditions, though that wasn’t always the case. He explained that in the 5th century B.C.E. when the Buddha lived, monastics would eat whatever lay people offered, even if it was meat that wasn’t intentionally killed for them.

    “At a certain point, Buddhist thought evolved,” Wedemeyer said. “It seemed having compassion for all beings and not eating them began to come to the fore, so any consumption of meat violated their practice to benefit all beings.”

    Lunch is the main meal at Sravasti, honoring a custom that dates to the Buddha’s time. The 15 nuns and the one monk who live there take turns preparing food for the residents and about 15 guests on average. Many guests are Buddhists; others are curious to learn about the tradition.

    Before the meal, a dharma talk, or public teaching from a Buddhist leader, is given. Chodron explains in the book that it’s a Buddhist tradition to offer a teaching in exchange for the meal.

    During a recent Exploring Monastic Life retreat, two nuns, Thubten Semkye and Tenzin Tsepal, were on kitchen duty. On the menu was rice, quinoa, tofu skins, stir fry, cannellini beans, salad, guacamole and peach cobbler with ice cream.

    Before they began prepping the food, they chanted, “How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to prepare and cook this food. The food will nourish their bodies, and the love we put into preparing it will nourish their hearts.”

    Chants, many of which are included in Chodron’s book, are recited before and after meals, when receiving and offering food, and when working. Chodron also published a chant for grocery shopping for readers who gather their food this way; the monastics only eat what they grow themselves or what is offered to them.

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