Usually we dive into a plate of food with great attachment, little mindfulness, and even less real enjoyment. Instead, we can pause before eating and reflect on our motivation. Here we think that we are not eating for temporary pleasure or to make our body attractive. Rather, we eat to keep our body healthy so that we can practice the Dharma and benefit all beings. Reflecting on the kindness of those who planted, harvested, transported, and packaged our food, we feel interconnected with them and want to repay their kindness by using the occasion of eating to create merit for their benefit. For this reason, we offer the food.
For an expanded commentary and explanation of these prayers please see the series Buddha at My Table.
Five contemplations before meals1
- I contemplate all the causes and conditions and the kindness of others by which I received this food.
- I contemplate my own practice, constantly trying to improve it.
- I contemplate my mind, cautiously guarding it from wrongdoing, greed, and other defilements.
- I contemplate this food, treating it as wondrous medicine to nourish my body.
- I contemplate the aim of Buddhahood, accepting and consuming this food in order to accomplish it.
Offering verses before eating
Imagine the food as blissful wisdom nectar inside a vast jeweled vessel, and recite om ah hum three times to consecrate the food. Offer it to a small Buddha visualized at your heart chakra.
Great compassionate Protector,
Field of merit and good qualities vast as an ocean—
To the Tathagata, I bow.
Through purity, freeing from attachment,
Through virtue, freeing from the lower realms,
Unique, supreme ultimate reality—
To the Dharma that is peace, I bow.
Having freed themselves, showing the path to freedom too,
Well established in the trainings,
The holy field endowed with good qualities—
To the Sangha, I bow.
To the supreme teacher, the precious Buddha,
To the supreme refuge, the holy precious Dharma,
To the supreme guides, the precious Sangha,
To all the objects of refuge we make this offering.
May we and all those around us never be separated from the Triple Gem in any of our lives. May we always have the opportunity to make offerings to them. And may we continually receive their blessings and inspiration to progress along the path.
By seeing this food as medicine, I will consume it without attachment or hatred, not to increase my arrogance, strength, or good looks, but solely to sustain my life.
Verses offering food
- Recorded by the Sravasti Abbey Sangha, April 2010
Verses offering food (download)
As you eat, imagine that Shakyamuni Buddha at your heart experiences bliss. He radiates light that fills your entire body.
Bahasa Indonesia version: Gatha sebelum makan
The five contemplations are from the Chinese Buddhist tradition. ↩