It’s 11:45 AM at the Mahindamara Buddhist Temple. In one of the few temples in Malaysia where the Buddha's relics are stored, people of all ages (and even other religions) are waiting in a long line. At the tip, a group of volunteers turns, placing on an equally long table, plates of all colors and flavors.
Ang, the first friend I had in Malaysia, speaks with some volunteers and then turns to me saying that I can grab my camera and go to the main hall. Inside, a group of monks lunches in silence as more volunteers divide to serve them. I take off my shoes and go inside. I want to look invisible and not get in the way. But as soon as the volunteers see me with the camera, they give me big smiles.
Everyone is proud to be there. And they want to explain to me about each of the dishes that are served and the care they have in preparation. "All food is part of Sri Lankan cuisine," explains one of the volunteers, showing each of the delicacies. I just couldn't resist, so I asked them to pose for a picture.
Inside the hall, people are very kind and invited me to join everybody for lunch, which will be served later outside. The monks, who eat in silence, seem to me to be extremely nice figures, even without smiling.
At the end of dessert, all dishes are quickly collected by volunteers. One of the monks picks up the microphone and starts praying. Everyone comes into their knees and in silence they pray, while I sit quietly with my camera in the corner, thrilled by that beautiful scene. I cannot hold my eyes with such touching scene.
I remember a little bit of Jerusalem, where human faith has so many colors and sounds ... Even if you do not believe anything, I think it is impossible not to feel touched with respect for something that is greater than our simple existence.
The prayer is to bless the food, which is prepared and served for free every Sunday at the temple. The variety and abundance are impressive. But what makes me more aware is the joy with which people serve and share the same food. And the way they treat food as something truly sacred.
No one leaves anything on the plate and everyone is encouraged to repeat as many times as they want. Wasting food when you considered that it is sacred is even more reprehensive. Everyone seems to know exactly what effort it takes to get the food to the table and the value it has. And at the same time, no body miss the act of enjoying food.
I spend most of my life on diets. When I was around 12, I become obese. Food for me change from an obsessive pleasure to the worst form of guilty. So, I learned to understand food first as calories and then as macros. I disconnect from the sense of hungry first, and then I forgot that food is mainly to nourish ourselves... Until that day when I saw people falling on their knees just to remind me that food is also sacred.
There's a big chain of people and efford just to make food come into our tables. And we just forget that... We forget that just to eat for our bodies fit into crazy paterns of beauty. We forget that to put food inside the emptyness we carry. We forget to simply feel grateful for food.
I go to the same line where everybody is waiting to be served. I smile and put on my plate everything that I want. I sit to eat and I bless my plate. After a long time I feel grateful for food. I accept its also sacred.
Having lunch in a Buddhist temple makes me rethink the way I see the food and the value it has. Curiously, after that I lost some weight.