What are the food rituals of Buddhism?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a number of rituals within Buddhism resolving around food. Within Zen buddhism, a common ritual is to offer food from your plate to ghosts.

This is often done during a sesshin (a period of intense meditative focus) where a bowl is passed between those who assemble to eat. Each person will take a piece of food from their plate, place it onto their forehead for a short time and then into the bowl. 

This is done to as the hungry ghosts symbolically represent our greed, our disappointment and all the unhappiness this brings. By giving away a piece of their meal, the Zen monks remove themselves from the wanting of food.

Alms-giving is also a common food ritual. At the birth of Buddhism, Buddhist monks did not live together in monasteries but instead were travelling beggars who relied on others for food.

Whilst this is no longer the case, Buddhist monks in Theravāda areas walk from their monastery with bowls, where they will continue to silently walk single file whilst local people fill those bowls with food and other offerings, such as incense.

When out walking, these monks will often wear hats which obscure their vision so that they cannot see who gave them the alms. This is done because it removes the notion of a giver and receiver and simply focuses all attention onto the acts of actually giving and receiving. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial