“Wisely reflecting, I use this food not for fun, not for pleasure, not for fattening,
not for beautification, but only for the maintenance and nourishment of this body, for keeping it healthy,
for helping with the Spiritual Life;
Thinking thus, I will allay hunger without overeating, so that I may continue to live blamelessly and at ease.”
– Theravada Buddhist prayer before meals.-about buddhism
I’ve been giving my lunch to people who seem to be living on the street near my office in Chicago. As I hand it over, I remember to say a quick blessing for the people, animals and resources used in the growth and delivery of this nourishment.
As a young monk in training, Bhante Sujatha did not eat any food, other than a bowl of broth and some tea, after lunch, which was served at 11:30 am. My heart hurt when he told me this. I thought of my son when he was 8 years old, and I could not imagine withholding food from him all evening.
There is a method to this madness of course. The Buddha, who never made rules for no reason, (even though one might assume he did considering monastics are expected to follow 227 Rules), realized that monks begging for alms in the evening was a bad idea. They tripped into thorn bushes, ran into hooligans and sometimes frightened villagers when they knocked on their doors in the dark evening. Also, the Buddha noticed that if he did not eat after noon, he had more time to meditate, he slept better and he was able to lessen his attachment to food.
Monks can engage in this beneficial habit in large part because of their practices around eating. They eat silently, slowly and prayerfully. Eating is more satisfying when we slow down. We don’t need to eat so much when we are mindful.
I love these chants and lately, I’ve been trying to remember to say at least a part of a chant or a prayer before I eat.
The beautiful part about praying before meals is you don’t need faith or a religious practice of any kind. At it’s heart, “to pray “can be translated directly as “to ask.” They are the same words, said in different ways.
Here is a beautiful, short version of the Buddhist prayer before eating. If you have a favorite prayer or tradition that you like to engage in before you eat, I’d love to hear about it.
“May all beings who were involved in the growth, the delivery and preparation of this food be happy, well and peaceful.”
I hope you enjoy and appreciate your meals as much as you relish any bona fide miracle.
“First, let us reflect on our own work and the effort of those who brought us this food.
Second, let us be aware of the quality of our deeds as we receive this meal.
Third, what is most essential is the practice of mindfulness, which helps us to transcend greed, anger and delusion.
Fourth, we appreciate this food which sustains the good health of our body and mind.
Fifth, in order to continue our practice for all beings we accept this offering.”
– Zen prayer before meals