Itadakimasu

Before eating at our temple, we always say, “itadakimasu.” This isn’t necessarily a “Buddhist” practice, but more a Japanese tradition. It is also an opportunity to stop and reflect on all the causes and conditions that made this meal possible. But as Rev. Harry Gyokyo Bridge explains in this dharma talk, the origin of the word comes from Japanese society and its respect for hierarchy.

It is the humble form of morau, the verb for “receive.” This implies that we are receiving something from a superior. At a ceremony, when you receive a certificate or something, then you hold it up to your head. This demonstrates in a physical, bodily way that you are “receiving it from above.” An example of this in Buddhism can be seen when we open sutra books: we lift the book to about chest level, then raise it up to our heads, before opening it. This is because the sutras are the sacred words of the Buddha, and by holding them above our heads we symbolically and physically receive them from something or someone greater than us. When we say “itadakimasu” before a meal, we are acknowledging in a similar way, but this time with our speech, that we are “receiving something from above.




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