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The taste of altruism and love, to nourish the body and elevate the mind

Culture / -

Lama Rinpoche
Alessandro Cremasco © Expo 2015

The Buddhist faith considers the body as a vehicle of awakening. This is why the production and consumption of food are always accompanied by spiritual practices such as blessing, thanksgiving to those who have produced the food, dedication of merits and ceremonial offerings.

In many of his books and public conferences, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama explains that every individual has a precise responsibility towards the human race and towards the planet, and says that words and good intentions are not sufficient to guide the global family in the right direction, so everyone must actively and personally commit themselves to working towards this end.
 
These teachings fit closely with the themes outlined in the Milan Charter, and likewise Tibetan Buddhism’s attitude to food and the ideas expressed in the Charter share the same perspective.
Our tradition holds that adequate nourishment for everyone is deeply important, not least because it offers people the physical wellbeing which can allow them to focus on the kinds of prayer and meditation that lead to spiritual wellbeing.
 
The act of sharing food is deeply valuable both from a lay and a religious viewpoint, and this has always been so: it is the foundation of all relationships and helps to nourish fraternal feelings. Food is a potent factor of cohesion between individuals and can contribute to aggregation in moments of difficulty. This is demonstrated by the project “Go green & Go organic”, in operation for over a year now in Ladakh, in the Jangthang region in the foothills of the Himalayas where, thanks to the initiative of the monks, the inhabitants of ten villages have united to cultivate trees and vegetal products in a natural way, using them to satisfy the needs of their families and then selling the rest on the market at low prices.
 
We should not forget that this type of natural cultivation has a positive effect on the ecosystem because – due to the law of interdependence – a tree is not only useful to mankind but also to animals, birds and insects and also, as we know, produces life-giving oxygen.
 
Buddhism teaches that the human body is a vehicle of awakening. This is why the production and consumption of food are always accompanied by spiritual practices such as blessing, thanksgiving to those who have produced the food, dedication of merits and ceremonial offerings. From the origins of Buddhism, when monks take their vows they promise to respect the environment, and in particular the purity of watercourses, and to be moderate in their food consumption.
 
Equanimity and equality in producing, distributing and consuming food in the world, as the Milan Charter proposes, can lead to a harmony which will only become real if basic human rights are respected, if people are correctly nourished physically but also coherently nourished with spiritual values. The concrete implementation of the Milan Charter can certainly encourage people to find a new awareness, and the defense of the right to food is one of the key rights which need to be promoted by everyone through a serious investment of faith and energy.
 
While it is true that the principal solution of the problems of the near future will lie in making of food available to everyone, it is equally true that the right kind of education on moderate and healthy consumption of food will be indispensable for encouraging conscious growth on the part of the world’s new citizens.
 
In order to develop towards a better future for coming generations, issues like educating to encourage respect for the environment, moderation in consumption and elimination of waste must occupy a fundamental space in the way people live, but if we wish to help children and adults achieve concrete aims we must also educate them in harmony and loving kindness. And here we would do well to remember that among the social actors in this educational process, a notable role needs to be assumed by the mass media, whose influence on public opinion is universally acknowledged.
 
In this context, the role of religions becomes important, because wherever there is a person of good faith there will be morality, love and care for others. Valuable inspiration can grow from the encounter between different religions, aimed at activating everyone’s sensibility towards ideals based on human solidarity. Religions, therefore, have the potential to act as a priceless resource in constructing a future where spirituality provides nourishment for the mind and the body.
 
Since we believe that a world without hunger is possible, and that a fair distribution of food can be the foundation for a path of freedom and peace, we who are part of the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition – driven by our own altruistic interest in the Earth and the beings which inhabit it – are happy to sign the Milan Charter, in faith and with conviction, because we share its underlying project.
 
http://www.expo2015.org/en/news/all-news/-food-is-spirit---this-morning--the-expo-centre-witnessed-the-moving-encounter-among-the-planet-s-religions--concluding-with-the-signing-of-the-milan-charter-and-the-blessing-of-food
 

Rav Elia E. Richetti: What we eat belongs to God, who allows us to eat it on certain conditions.

Culture / -

Rabbino imm rif
@newpress

These are the words of the Rabbi from Milan, interviewed during the inter-religious round table held in Milan on April 23 focused on The Menu of Happiness and The Ethics of Food.

Elia E. Richetti is Rabbi of the Synagogue in Via Eupili in Milan, member of the Rabbinical Tribunal of Northern&Central Italy, and Reference Rabbi for the Jewish Communities of Merano and Vercelli.
 
 
In your religious beliefs, what is the definition of happiness and what kind of diet contributes to feeding it?
Happiness for Jews consists of living within the harmony intended by God when he created the universe. This harmony is part of the rules which regulate the relation between mankind (in this case, Jews) with food.
 
What significance does fasting have in your religion?
Fasting is a method for separating the mind from its relationship with the body, allowing it to concentrate above all on spiritual considerations.
 
How is food represented, what are its most important characteristics, and what values is it connected with?
What we eat belongs to God, who allows us to eat it on certain conditions. It has its own dignity as a creature of God, not inferior to that of the human being. The only difference is the origin of the soul, a physical necessity if the animal is to live, a spiritual breath of divine origin and therefore eternal in the human being.
 
Today’s agricultural systems for producing food threaten to severely damage the planet. How important is it for your religion that food be produced in an ethical manner or that it not be wasted?
The Hebrew religion teaches us that we have no right to consider creation as being our absolute property. This can be deduced from the rules on diet, the Sabbath day of rest, the sabbatical year and all the agricultural rules present in the Pentateuch… all concepts which teach a profound respect for every part of creation, and therefor for the whole system.
 
 
 
 

Everybody pauses for a moment of prayer, for food

Culture / -

Preghiera per il cibo
© Lindsay Hebberd/Corbis

Every culture in the world and every religious tradition have formulas and moments for giving thanks for the food on our table, as a sign of our union with our fellow diners. The event ‘Food for the spirit’ at Expo Milano 2015 reiterated a message of brotherhood and reconciliation, in full respect of the differences which exist between the various religions on our Planet.

When travelling all over the world, it is possible to encounter populations that are very different, in terms of their traditions and lifestyles. Some of them have not even discovered writing yet, while others are hyper-connected and constantly wired up to technology. Some are ultra-rich, others are desperately poor. However they all have one thing in common: at least once in their histories they have been used to pausing for a moment before eating their meal to bless their food, saying a prayer or even just remain silent for a few seconds. 

Gratitude for food, an inter-religious sentiment 
A short pause, but one that embodies a deep meaning: gratitude for the food that we need to survive. 

Sometimes it is a religious habit; in other cases it is a small gesture of the lay person that simply acknowledges the food. Even pronounced atheists have their own rituals (for instance they may stop for a few seconds before taking their knife and fork). 
In each case, regardless of the words that are said (if indeed any are said), this is a moment we need if we are to regain consciousness of what we are doing, and avoid trivializing a daily practice that should never be taken for granted. 

Wealthier populations appear to have lost this habit: when food appears directly on the tables of those accustomed to more, after being cultivated, farmed, processed and delivered by someone else, it is much easier to forget just how valuable it is. 

‘The food for the spirit’ in the Charter of Milan 
During the inter-religious meeting held on May 21 to mark the UN Day of cultural diversity, those in attendance experienced a symbolic moment charged with strong emotion: each representative blessed the food with a prayer chosen from their own religious tradition. And then this same “superfood” was eaten by all the participants. The Jewish rabbi ate the food blessed by the Islamic imam and by the Buddhist monk, the Catholic priest ate the food also blessed by the Hindu and Protestant traditions… and so on for all the attendees, including the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, a non-believer, but nonetheless touched as were his fellow diners.

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

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