Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Role of Burmese Food in the Dhamma

In the Food chapter in the upcoming Shwe Lan Ga Lay book, we take a look at the role of food and drink within Burmese Buddhist society. Cuisine in other cultures can take on a variety of roles: it may be prepared with the aesthetic touch of the artist, commented on by the refined critique of the gourmand, used as a means of rich socializing—and in modern industrialized countries, sometimes abused with excessive craving which leads to its own health risks—yet in Myanmar, food tends to play a somewhat different function. In this devout country, some of the most important duties of lay supporters revolve around food preparation, for much of the monks’ code of discipline is related to when they may eat and how they may accept nourishment. And even for the yogi intent on secluded meditation in some forest hut, the daily meal becomes the height of sensual pleasure in a day—for this reason, much has been written by Myanmar’s great monks and meditation teachers on how to find the Middle Way when it comes to food. Additionally, there are regularly stories of meditators having to leave the Golden Land earlier than expected primarily due to problems with diet. For this reason, we take the time to explore the issue of food in Myanmar, and prepare the foreign yogi for a productive stay that will allow them sufficient health to delve into the Dhamma up until their heart’s content.