Hiroshige Iwakawa

Kyodo News

TÖKYÖ — Japanese people usually say “Itadakimasu” before partaking of a meal, and “Gochisösama” after they have finished eating. These words express appreciation for the food and gratitude to the person who prepared the meal.

Seeing in this a clue to understanding Buddhism, three young priests are teaching the faith through the meals they prepare.

According to the Rev. Kakuho Aoe, Buddhism imparts the importance of “awareness,” which manifests itself most clearly while eating. Aoe, who is 38 years old, is the chief priest of Ryo-kusenji, a temple of the True Pure Land Sect in Asakusa, Tökyö. Once a month, he holds a shöjin ryöri event at the temple. Participants are blindfolded in a dark room and served shöjin ryöri — vegetarian cuisine originally eaten by Buddhist monks. Aoe cooks the food himself.

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