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Ōryōki (Japanese: 応量器) (Chinese: 鉢多羅, Japanese: はったら, romanizedhattara), is a transliteration of Sanskrit pātra, also called 應量器 (pinyin: yìng liàng qì), means "vessel that contains just enough"[1] is a set of nested bowls and other eating utensils for the personal use of Buddhist monks. Ōryōki also refers to a meditative form of eating using these utensils that originated in Japan and emphasizes mindfulness awareness practice by abiding to a strict order of precise movements.

The term "ōryōki" is mostly used in the sōtō-shū (曹洞宗) sect of Zen Buddhism. In the rinzai-shū (臨済宗) and ōbaku-shū (黄檗宗) sects, the utensils are called jihatsu, which is written as 持鉢 according to rinzai-shū and 自鉢 according to ōbaku-shū. Jihatsu is also used to refer to the bowls alone [2]

The bowls usually made of lacquered wood, and utensils all bundled in a cloth.[2] The largest bowl, sometimes called the Buddha Bowl or zuhatsu,[2] symbolizes Buddha's head and his wisdom. The other bowls are progressively smaller. In describing the form of ōryōki used at John Daido Loori's Zen Mountain Monastery, author Jack Maguire wrote:

The cantaloupe-sized bundle consists of three black plastic nesting bowls, two chopsticks, a wooden spoon, a small rubber spatula, a gray napkin, and a wiping cloth, all of which are wrapped tidily in a gray cloth with a topknot resembling a lotus blossom.[1]

This is the formal style of serving and eating meals practiced in Zen temples.[2]

Buddhist tradition states that after Huineng received the monk's robe and bowl as evidence of his having received Dharma transmission, the bowl itself was considered a symbol of transmission from teacher to student.[3]

Ōryōki have evolved in vihāra in East Asia over many years and are part of the Buddhist tradition that has now been transmitted to the West. Both monks and laypeople use ōryōki to eat formal meals in Zen monasteries and places of practice. A lineage was also transmitted from Kōbun Chino Otogawa to the Tibetan Buddhist sangha of Chögyam Trungpa and is now practiced at all Shambhala International retreat centers.[2]

Zen teachers say that taking meals with ōryōki cultivates gratitude, mindfulness, and better understanding of self.[4] (In this regard, it is not unlike zazen.) The intricacies of the form may require the practitioner to pay great attention to detail.[4]

Meaning of Japanese word[edit]

According to Shohaku Okumura:

The initial ō in ōryōki means "in proportion to", ryō means "amount" or "quality," and ki means "container."[3]

In Japanese, three Sino-Japanese characters comprise the word ōryōki:

  • ō, the receiver's response to the offering of food
  • ryō, a measure, or an amount, to be received
  • ki, the bowl.


  1. ^ a b Maguire, Jack (2000). Waking Up: A Week Inside a Zen Monastery. Skylight Paths. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-893361-13-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kain, John (Fall 2003), "Eating Just The Right Amount", Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, 13 (1): 62
  3. ^ a b Okumura, Shohaku (2012). Living by Vow: A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-61429-010-0. OCLC 760977623.
  4. ^ a b Maguire, Jack (2000). Waking Up: A Week Inside a Zen Monastery. Skylight Paths. pp. 108–109. ISBN 978-1-893361-13-3.

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