Experiencing a Formal Zen Meal (Baru Gongyang)

no. 36 and no. 37

Watching this video, you may think this process is peaceful. But for someone new, it can be quite stressful, especially when there are 4o other people involved. It’s all about figuring our strategies. With the silent help of my neighbor — I was assigned bowl no. 37, I assume she was no.36 — it took me about three days to adopt the skills for eating faster and cleaning my bowl on time. A process testing your ability to stay in the moment.

If you don’t have your strategies down, you could be the person everyone is left waiting for. When they say, “Make sure not to take too much food”, it’s because if you do, you could be the last one eating. Although monks and meditators should be pretty cool about waiting, being the last one cleaning your bowl still isn’t a fun feeling.

And that bowl must be clean! Once you quietly pour your bowl cleaning water into the pot, it must be clear. The water goes to the hungry ghosts, and their necks are too thin to accept even the smallest kimchi chilli flake. We don’t want to choke them.

by Timothy Wright (http://timothyssketchpad.blogspot.com)

Minus the murder investigation, while at Musangsa, I often imagined I was in a surreal movie. The formal meal truly added to the surrealism.


8 thoughts on “Experiencing a Formal Zen Meal (Baru Gongyang)

  1. Reminds me of the intense ceremoniousness of chado, tea ceremony, in Japan. But it’s clear that actually drinking the tea is incidental to the ceremony. It is a different level of rigor when actual eating of food is so subordinated to the ceremony. I think I understand the reasons for doing so. When I was younger, I would perhaps have risen to the challenge (or collapsed from the stress). Being old, no longer.
    But where can one find Zen Noir? That preview clip is amazing!

      1. haha, not really, but it’s not a serious question… It reminds me of Fina’s corn utensils. It just made me wonder of the temple was using the same ones…

  2. Chong Go Sunim shared a story on his blog about cleaning bowls during monastic training. If even a fleck of chili or a single sesame seed was found floating in the water, the monks in training had to drink all of the water in the bucket together. He said after the third time, it didn’t happen again!

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