A set of bowls used in a Zen eating ceremony. Ōryōki is a meditative form of eating that originated in Japan that emphasizes mindfulness awareness practice by abiding to a strict order of precise movements.
An ōryōki set consists of nested bowls called a jihatsu, usually made of lacquered wood, and utensils all bundled in a cloth. The largest bowl, sometimes called the Buddha Bowl or zuhatsu, symbolizes Buddha's head and his wisdom. The other bowls are progressively smaller. In describing the form of ōryōki used at John Daido Loori's Zen Mountain Monastery, author Jack Maguire wrote.
The cantaloupe-sized bundle consists of three black plastic nesting bowls, two chopsticks, a wooden spoon, a small rubber spatula, a gray napkin, and a wiping cloth, all of which are wrapped tidily in a gray cloth with a topknot resembling a lotus blossom.
This is the formal style of serving and eating meals practiced in Zen temples.
Buddhist tradition states that after Huineng received the monk's robe and bowl as evidence of his having received Dharma transmission, the bowl itself was considered a symbol of transmission from teacher to student.
Ōryōki have evolved in Buddhist monasteries in China and Japan over many years and are part of the Buddhist tradition that has now been transmitted to the West. Both monks and laypeople use ōryōki to eat formal meals in Zen monasteries and places of practice. A lineage was also transmitted from Kobun Chino Roshi to the Tibetan Buddhist sangha of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and is now practiced at all Shambhala retreat centers.
Zen teachers say that taking meals with ōryōki cultivates gratitude, mindfulness, and better understanding of self. (In this regard, it is not unlike zazen.) The intricacies of the form may require the practitioner to pay great attention to detail.