Food Offerings and Bowls

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Food Offerings and Bowls 

Food offerings (onjiki kuyoo 飲食 供養)

giving alms for nuns and monks, the offerings are usually rice, soup, rice cakes (mochi 餅) or nuts and sweet cakes. Rice is usually freshly cooked or in form of rice gruel. Soup should be sweetened or contain beans. The offering in form of the fruits from trees, the nuts, is an old habit in Buddhist food offerings.

The bowls used for these offerings have their origin in the normal food containers.

Food Offering at a Temple



Bowls for food offerings, onjiki ki 飲食器
These bowls are used to offer the food on the altar in front of a Buddha statue. In the beginning, the begging bowls where put there on a special tray. In esoteric Buddhism, two bowls where offered as a pair, usually in the same decoration as the other ritual items on the altar.
These bowls are also used in the private home altar.

They have a high foot (takatsuki, koshidaka, koodai). They are sparcely decorated, sometimes just a band of lotus flowers or Chinese arabesques. At the bottom of the foot there can be eight lotusflowers showing toward the ground.

Gold, iron or other metals.


Begging Bowl (ooki, ooryooki 應量器 応量器, hatsu, Sanskrit: paatra)
Also called Iron Bowl (tetsubachi, teppatsu 鉄鉢) or Buddha Bowl (buppatsu)


Their origin is in the normal bowls used by monks and nuns on their daily round of begging (takuhatsu) in India. Nowadays in Japan we can still see the monks on certain days walking through a neighbourhood, chanting their sutras in front of the door and waiting for an offering (usually money these days).

The begging bowl is a symobl of the vow of non-possession. Apart from the cloths it was the only personal belonging of a monk or pilgrim.

A round bowl, the shoulder a little wider than the opening. It is carried in a kind of scarf (hatsufuku, hattai, hatsunoo), which the monk has around his shoulder during the begging walk. Sometimes the bowl is covered by a special cover (hachigai), to keep the food clean.

Usually iron or simple pottery (gahatsu), usually green, red and blue. Other colors were not allowed.
According to Hamada the following materials should NOT be used for begging bowls, since they do not agree with a monk's vow of poverty: bronze, silver, wood, dry laquer (kanshitsu 乾漆) and stone.

Here is a set of six for sale:
(see below)



.. .. .. .. .. .. Special types of begging bowls

Buddha Bowl (buppatsu 仏鉢)

The legend knows this:
The four heavenly gods (shitennoo) wanted to present Shakyamuni with four golden begging bowls, but he refused. He also refused to take bowls with emaille covering. Finally they brought him simpel bowls of stone which he accepted, but miraculously changed into one so that none of the gods would be offended.
He simply put the four bowls one into each other and held his hand above them, so they changed into one.


Nowadays a begging bowl should be of a simple material. The one on the picture are of simple laquer, with spoon, chopsticks and chopstsick-holder for the daily use in a Zen temple.

Monks also use four or six bowls, one smaller then the next to hold each other, sometimes even eight bowls are used (yae mari 八重鋺). The smallest one is called "Eating Bowl" (kenshi, kenji, kunsu) in the Zen sect. They can also be used to measure rice and beans.


Bowl for washing rice, busshoobachi 仏餉鉢(ぶっしょうばち)
Schale zum Reiswaschen

These bowls are often seen in Northern Japan in temples of the mountain ascetics (yamabushi).
They are used to hold offerings or to wash rice. Sometimes they are small buckets with three feet or a high foot (koodai), about 20 cm high.



Food Offering Bowl for the home altar 仏飯器



Support for a begging bowl (hasshi 鉢支 , rindai 輪台,
Sanskrit: kattamaalaka)

Untersatz fuer Bettelschale

To support a round begging bowl on the altar, so that it does not topple over.
It has a wide rim, short body and one shoulder. It is just a little smaller than the corresponding begging bowl.

Bronze, iron, ivory, horn, pottery, stone, bamboo or wood, sometimes with a laquer finish.


Takuhatsu, Ritual Begging 托鉢
In Kamakura we could see the monks from the great Zen temples often, walking in the neighbourhood, chanting sutras in front of a home and waiting for a while. If they did not get an offering, they would bow quietly and walk over to the next.
At the exit of the station, they would stand all day almost motionless and hold the begging bowl in their hands. If they got an offering, again, thay chanted the Heart Sutra and bowed deeply.

In many Asian customs it is a much more common sight. The perishable food must be eaten on this day before noon, since monks are not allowed to eat after midday and can not keep food in the heat. They also get cloths and other necessities on their begging trip.

Doing Takuhatsu at Year End to collect money to help the poor
全額 千葉日報福祉事業団へ寄付

. . . CLICK here for TAKUHATSU Photos !

Ryokan doing Takuhatsu

An American Monk doing Takuhatsu
Some of the Japanese monasteries still send out their monks to beg in the streets on a monthly or weekly schedule , and I had found it an important practice to me when I was in Japan...more in harmony with my spirit then sitting still endless hours ..


Look at an outfit of a wandering monk
(unsui 旅装の雲水) Unsui ... Clouds and Water)


. . . CLICK here for UNSUI Photos !

Unsui (Japanese: 雲水), or kōun ryūsui (行雲流水) in full, is a term specific to Zen Buddhism which denotes a postulant awaiting acceptance into a monastery or a novice monk who has undertaken Zen training. Sometimes they will travel from monastery to monastery (angya) on a pilgrimage to find the appropriate Zen master to study with.
The term unsui, which literally translates as "cloud, water" comes from a Chinese poem which reads,
"To drift like clouds and flow like water."
Helen J. Baroni writes, "The term can be applied more broadly for any practitioner of Zen, since followers of Zen attempt to move freely through life, without the constraints and limitations of attachment, like free-floating clouds or flowing water."
According to author James Ishmael Ford, "In Japan, one receives unsui ordination at the beginning of formal ordained practice, and this is often perceived as 'novice ordination.'"
itinerant monk
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

.komusoo 虚無僧 Komuso wandering begging monks .


Himalayan Singing Bowls are a different matter.
Our friend Geert Verbeke has written a book about it. He explains almost anything you would like to know in alphabetical order.


Most of the information quoted above is from my book on Buddhist Ritual Tools.

.. .. .. Buddhistische Kultgegenstände Japans
.. .. .. Ein Handbuch



.............. H A I K U

kore ya yo no susu ni somaranu furu gooshi / goosu / gabushi

well - this old set of bowls
is not colored by the soot
of this world

Written in December 1689, Genroku 2 元禄2年12月, In Zeze 膳所.
For Haikai Kanjin Choo 俳諧勧進牒 compiled by Yasomura Rotsuu 八十村路通 Rotsu.

Rotsu had left his bag with a set of five bowls at a lodging in Osaka. The proprietor of the inn delivered it seven years later to Awazu (Shiga) and its owner was overjoyed.
When Basho heard this story, he wrote this hokku. It is a rare story of kindness and goodwill, even at the time of Basho.

The cut marker YA is in the middle of line 1.
The kigo here is suzuharai 煤払ひ wiping of the soot for New Year preparations.

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. - Yasomura Rotsuu 八十村路通 Rotsu - .

Another item called gooshi, gōshi :
. gooshi, gōshi- goosu 合子 incense container .


nagusami no hatchi-hatchi ya akibiyori

chanting for alms
in consolation ...
fine autumn day

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. Gabi Greve

hatchi-hatchi, the shorter form is hachi-hachi
(Begging Bowl, the prayer at the gate of a believer to get some food alms)


One Robe, One Bowl
The Zen Poetry of Ryokan

A Bowl of Rice
Haiku of Taneda Santoka

Poetry and a Bowl of Tea
Lee Gurga


yamamori no hana no fubuki ya inu no wan

cherry blossoms
blown in the dog's bowl -
a real heap full

Tr. Gabi Greve


Speiseopfer, Wasseropfer Deutscher Text

. . . . . TEXT
Buddhistische Kultgegenstände Japans

. WASHOKU - Food Offerings
Umi no Sachi, Yama no Sachi



Anonymous said...

For more info about my book Singing Bowls an ABC: PILGRIMS BOOK HOUSE
P.O. Box 3872, Kathmandu, Nepal

MaTri2061 said...

Dear Gabi san,

Thanks a lot for this wonderful pictures and informations.

I have learned to use Oryoki by a sesshin with Kobun Chino Roshi, but I must say, that I have forgotten the right form.

The Pictures from Sogenji enjoyed me too, because I will meet Shodo Harada Roshi in June 2005 in Germany.

Many heartly thanks to you for this wonderful work.

Gasshou with a deep bow

Gabi Greve said...

OO, the receiver's response to the offering of food

RYOO, a measure, or an amount, to be received

KI, the bowl

Read more about it here:

Thank you, Mario, for bringing this to my attention.

Gabi Greve said...

begging monk haiku
by Gabi Greve


Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

kono kokoro suiseyo hana ni goki ichigu

this my heart
you will know - with this flower
and this begging bowl

Written in the spring of 1692 元禄5年春 for Kagami Shiko

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho at Temple Kanei-Ji in Ueno

yotsu goki no sorowanu hanami gokoro kana

my begging bowl set
is not complete but my mind enjoys
cherry blossom viewing . . .

Gabi Greve - Kappa said...

- buppan 仏飯 Buddhist rice offerings -
and the Kappa water goblin