The benefits and hidden pleasures of Buddhist menus - even when purely vegetarian - are an experience worth having. The colours and textures in Chinese and Japanese cooking styles can vary from steaming and stir-frying to grilling and baking. The sublime aromatics of Indian cuisine, the chromatic creativity of the Thai, the harmonious fusion of Sri Lankan and Indonesian cuisine and the rustic ruggedness of the basic Tibetan diet offer a dazzling range to choose from. From hot soups and crunchy salads to lamay, tempura, momos, and relishes to accompany rice or noodles myriad curries and desserts - the Buddhist culinary repertoire is rich and resplendent.
Even non-Buddhists can benefit from adopting and adapting the recipes from Buddhist Peace Recipes to suit their requirements. The purity of ingredients and simplicity of cooking styles make it very easy to open one's mind to the positive influences and essence of Buddhist food that can go a long way towards healing the body and mind. The only book of its kind!
About the Author:
Pushpesh Pant, born in Nainital in 1946 and educated in Nainital and Delhi, is Professor of Diplomacy at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has studied ancient Indian history, international relations, law, and ayurveda. A regular columnist for national newspapers and magazines he is also a frequent contributor to radio and television. He writes in both Hindi and English and produces documentaries for television.
Among his books of related interest are Buddhism and Ajanta and Ellora both published by Roli Books. He is also interested in the environment, traditional knowledge systems, Indian cuisine, and classical music. Currently, he is working on a book on Rasa as the key to Indian experience. He lives at present in Delhi with his son, daughter-in-law, and German Shepherd Khampa.
The Realm of Buddhist food encompasses more than half of humanity. From the land of its birth India the gospel spread to Sri Lanka when the children of Emperor Ashoka Mahendra and Sangmitra carried it with them. In subsequent centuries the new faith traveled to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Intrepid monks and scholars conveyed the message of the Enlightened one to china via Tibet wherefrom it reached Mongolia Japan and Korea.
In one of his sermons the Buddha compares the human body to a string in the musical instrument veena if it is stretched too tight imposing on it a hard ascetic discipline of self denial it may break and it is allowed to hang loose, following the path of least resistance it cannot create any music. An individual aspiring to nirvana blissful liberation cannot afford to forget this.
The essence of the Buddha’s teachings in encapsulated in Majibina patipada the middle path. If desire the root cause of all distress and misery is to be conquered we must lead perfectly balanced lives avoiding all excess and ensuring that nothing disturbs the tranquility of our mind. The body according to the Buddhists must be properly nourished and kept free from painful diseases that can only distract the mind from sadhana (practice). This can only be ensured if the body is healthy and the mind free from fear and other negative emotions like lust greed, and anger. Emotional disturbances are often caused and always aggravated by inappropriate food. For the Buddhists food is an integral part of their sadhana. Like right thought and right livelihood right food can complement and facilitate right contemplation.
This is the foundation of the Buddhist culinary philosophy. Buddhism does not preach denial or forced abstinence. It is true that the monks are expected to lead austere live but their dietary regimen is not supposed to be followed by the lay.
The Buddhist culinary philosophy is rooted in the teachings of Ayurveda the ancient Indian science of life. According to Ayurveda all of us represent a physical and personality type displaying the predominance of a particular guna (property). There are three basic properties satva, and tamas that may be roughly translated as tranquil energetic and inert. These properties are also discernible in ingredients of food. Another concept that is crucial is of tridosha the three basic impurities kapha (phlegm) pitta (bile) and vatat (nervous energy). These correspond in a loose manner with the elements earth fire and air. These key ideas are also found in the texts of Tibetan medicine and the Chinese yin and yang. In Tibetan medicinal texts the three dosha are referred to as nyes-pa elung, mkhris-pa and Bad kan corresponding with vata pitta and kappa respectively.
It is not just Ayurveda that has provided the base for Buddhist thinking on food indigenous tradition and dietary practices in different lands it traveled to have mediated and spurred on its evolution. The inheritance of Buddhist food is truly pan Asian.
All physical disorders the Buddhists believe result from impaired digestion and faulty distribution of nutrients to different vital organs. The cure often entails consumption of special foods to redress the imbalance. Tibetans believe it is essential to make a lifelong commitment to a healthy dietary regime.
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