Year of the Sheep

The Lamb kneels when receiving in grace

When the lamb drinks milk from its mother, it kneels down to drink, and when people of old in China saw this, they said that even the lamb kneels in thankfulness for receiving milk. Before each meal in a Zen place of training, we recite the following words:

First,  let us reflect deeply on our true efforts

and the efforts of those who brought us this food.

Being thankful for all the efforts which were put into this food before it reaches us, from the farmer to the producer.

Second,  may we live in a way

that makes us worthy to receive it.

We can reflect upon ourselves whether we really have made enough efforts to receive this food.

Third,  what is most essential is the practice of mindfulness

which helps us transcend greed, anger, and delusion.

Let us all let go of desires and judgements of like and dislike and purify our minds.

Fourth,  we appreciate this food which sustains

the good health of our body and mind.

We receive this food in thankfulness to support our physical well being from where we can continue our training of mind.

Fifth,  we accept this food to complete the awakening

of the pure mind of all beings.

The food is what supports us to realize our true vow. We do not live separated and alone, but receive the light and warmth of the sun everyday. All beings are surrounded by air, receive rain and water which gives life to nature. And what really needs to be looked at is how many people and how much effort is involved in preparing our food. Life has become so comfortable, just with one switch, the water flows, the light goes on, and disperses the darkness of the night.Even if we pay for the work which is being done for us with money, we also need to remember that thankfulness of heart for what we are receiving. The Buddha is teaching us this deep feeling mind that realizes that we cannot pay simply by money, but that a thankful receiving mind is what is important. That is why before each meal, we place our palms together in Gassho and recite the five reflections which were written by Hyakujo Zenji who also gave the words: one day of no work is one day of no food. Showing respect and thankfulness for what others are doing for us. This is being observed in the tea world as well as in the Zen monasteries. After the meal we say: Gochisosama, which shows our respect and thankfulness. Returning our mind with every meal to these words, this is the base of how a society can have fewer frictions and can start to be filled with true harmony and support for each other. This is how the Buddhist path is taught, giving life to our efforts during the day. 

(Calligraphy by Shodo Harada, Sheep drawn by Jiko Daishi)

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