Technically, those gray specks in my rice weren’t supposed to be there. Perhaps if they’d been millet, added to give the rice a nice multi-grain taste. Or maybe a little wild sesame. Alas, they were neither.
Tongdo Temple, where we were undertaking our ordination training, is beautiful. Ancient and sprawling, it is one of the few large temples to survive the destruction of the Korean War.
Situated in a green valley with a soaring mountain range behind, Tongdo Temple is truly a treasure of Korean Buddhism. It also has the worst food of any large temple in Korea!
Normally, Korean housewives will soak and wash rice before boiling it. This ensures the rice is clean and also rinses away any rice weevils that may have been enjoying a meal before they were interrupted. With an extra 300 mouths to feed for our training session, it appeared the kitchen monk had skipped this step.
Picking the steamed weevils out of the rice wasn’t even an option: every last morsel had to be consumed, down to a single flake of red pepper or sesame seed. We would wash our bowls afterwards, and if even the tiniest bit of food was found in the bucket that collected the water, the twenty postulants in my row would have to drink the entire bucket of wash water.
“Well,” I thought, as I looked at the gray specks in my rice, “eating these won’t kill me. And actually, it won’t even kill them.”
With that I began to eat, letting go, as best I could, of my fixed ideas of right and wrong, which are more often than not manifestations of ego.
Daehaeng Kun Sunim had once gently confronted my vegetarian moral superiority, saying about the beings whose cooked flesh was sometimes served to me, “Don’t hate them because they are poor and unfortunate. Become one with them and let them experience the human level of consciousness.”
Bugs in my rice! (at the Dharma Folk blog)