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SOTOZEN.COM > Archivio > Glossario (Inglese) > Verse of Five Contemplations

Glossario (Inglese)


Verse of Five Contemplations (Gokan ge 五觀偈)

Verse chanted after food is served, before beginning to eat:

First, considering how much effort produced this food, we reflect on its origins.
Second, mindful of the deficiencies of our own virtue and practice, we strive to be worthy of this offering.
Third, we take restraining the mind and avoiding faults such as greed as the essential principle.
Fourth, we use this food properly as good medicine, to keep our bodies from withering away.
Fifth, for the sake of attaining the way, we now receive this food
hitotsu ni wa, kō no tashō wo hakari, kano raisho wo hakaru
futatsu ni wa, onore ga tokugyō no zenketsu wo hakatte, ku ni ōzu
mitsu ni wa, shin wo fusegi, toga wo hanaruru koto wa tontō wo shū to su
yotsu ni wa, masa ni ryōyaku wo koto to suru wa gyōko wo ryōzen ga tame nari
Itsutsu ni wa, jōdō no tame no yue ni, ima kono jiki wo uku

In this verse, monks are asked to reflect on the fact that the food they eat comes to them as donations from lay supporters. If they are not "worthy of offerings" (ōgu 應供), a term that was used in Chinese to translate the Sanskrit arhat, then the gift of food given by the laity will not generate much merit, and accepting it will amount to misappropriation. The most important thing when eating is to avoid "greed, etc." (tontō 貪等), meaning the three principle mental afflictions (bonnō 煩惱, S. kleśa): greed (ton 貪), anger (jin 瞋), and delusion (chi 癡). One should not be motivated by gourmandise or gluttony, but should look upon food as if it were medicine: something necessary to sustain the body as one strives to attain awakening, not something to take pleasure in. The English translation of the third contemplation given here follows the original Chinese. The Japanese rendering used in Soto Zen today contains a grammatical error which, if translated directly into English would read, "Third, as for restraining the mind and avoiding faults, we take greed and the like as the essential principle."