In a Temple and Zen Dojo there is a special way of taking the meals, called Oryoki (応量器). The details differ from place to place, but basically one has five bowls (called jihatsu 持鉢), of which three to all are used (depending on the meal) together with chopsticks and some wrapping and cleaning cloth. The whole procedure is pretty complicated, consisting of Sutra chanting, a specific way to unpack and later clean and pack the bowls … and also eating itself is formalised and usually very fast!
I had a hard time learning the Oryoki procedure, so I asked T-san where I could buy such bowls in Kyoto to practice back home. He replied that he maybe can ask the Roshi where to find a specialised shop.
The next day the Roshi talked to me about the bowls, and offered to buy them for me in a shop near Myoshinji Temple. I first thought I must have misunderstood his Japanese … just a stranger, a passer by to his Temple and Dojo, not even his student, he offers to go and buy Jihatsu bowls for me ? “Very unusual!” K-san remarked later … I agree, the Roshi really is an unusually kind person.
I feel much embarrassed that I completely messed up the Oryoki procedure again during today’s supper … maybe I should start practising with just one bowl for the next decade or so…?