Almost every culture and tradition has some form of communal eating and in Korean Buddhism, “The 3H Meal Practice” – Happy Meal, Humble Meal, Healthy Meal – was shared during the 2015 Seoul International Buddhism Exposition (Expo). On a bright, sunny mid-March day, our group met at the Seoul Trade Exhibition & Convention venue for the 3rd Grand Temple Food Festival. The Expo was hosted by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
The Grand Temple Food Festival is conducted for the participants to share in the temple food experience, specifically to share the spirit of over 1,700 years of Korean Buddhist tradition of “Thankfulness”, “Sharing” and “Emptiness”. The experience begins with the Pre-Meal Chant of Recalling the Five Observations. Known as “The prayer for barungongyang”, they are:
- Where does this food come from?
- I don’t deserve it with my own virtue.
- Putting down all of the desires on my mind,
- Regarding this offering as medicine to keep our bodies,
- We get it to complete the task of enlightenment.
Guided by two Buddhist Monks, the participants learn the way of eating in a Korean Buddhist Temple. The 3H Meal Practice is to bring a “Life of Health, Life of Sharing, and Life of Harmony.” The Monks guide participants through the ritual of bowl/utensil placement, eating and meditation during the course of the meal. The importance of sharing for others (by offering several grains of rice) as well as taking only what can be consumed and not leaving any food behind (avoiding over indulgence) is key to the Korean Buddhist 3H Meal.
There are three vows for 3H Meal Practice, which must be observed with every meal:
- I promise to take food with joy and appreciation.
- I promise to take appropriate portions of food in order to sustain my health.
- I promise to take natural food, without harming other beings, as much as possible.
The meal culminates with each person replacing their bowels/utensils for the next person. With focus on all participants, even the monks, being equal, each person finishes and is equal to others.
In addition to the participation in this spiritual practice, the Buddhism Expo also offered an expositional hall dedicated to temple food, special exhibits, as well as 223 companies in 404 booths over four days. The Grand Temple Food Festival, as part of the 2015 Seoul International Buddhism Expo, is one of the most unique experiences, offering a glimpse into Korean Buddhism, few may have the chance to participate in while living in South Korea.
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