Oryoki, often translated as “just the right amount,” is a highly choreographed ritual of serving and eating food—a ceremonial dance of giving, receiving, and appreciation. It is perhaps the most efficient, aesthetically pleasing, and least wasteful way to feed a large group of people sitting in a meditation hall, or a single person at home for that matter. Yet more specifically—and arising from Zen’s insistence on blending the sacred and the mundane—oryoki unifies daily life and “spiritual practice.”
Oryoki practice uses a set of nested bowls (jihatsu): a Buddha bowl (zuhatsu), containing three or four smaller bowls tied in cloth with a topknot resembling a lotus flower. The set also contains a spoon, a pair of chopsticks, and a small spatula-like utensil (setsu), which is used to clean the bowls. The outer cloth, when untied and refolded in an exact manner, doubles as a place mat upon which the bowls are laid in a prescribed sequence. To complete the package, there is a regular-sized cloth napkin and a smaller cleaning towel used to wipe the bowls dry after they are filled with hot tea or water and scraped clean with the setsu.
Participants sit in a meditation posture and wait to offer their empty bowls as the servers bring food and, in a series of hand gestures (beyond the chants of dedication and appreciation, oryoki is practiced in silence), fill the bowls to the requested level. The ecology of oryoki is complete: there is no waste. Participants are urged to take just the right amount of food—not a crumb should remain. The cleaning liquid, after it is used to wash each bowl, is partially drunk and the remainder collected and distributed in the garden. Each movement of oryoki is compact, subtle, and designed to unfold in harmony, demanding meticulous awareness to what is happening in the moment.
While we offer oryoki sets in Lacquerware, and Acacia wood and Plastic, our best selling oryoki bowl sets are the Plastic Oryoki Jihatsu Sets, which are made of melamine plastic.
Melamine is a very hard and durable plastic substance made from an organic, flame retardant, nitrogen-rich industrial compound created by combining melamine resin with strengthening materials. Melamine plastic is an ideal material to use for oryoki sets, especially for beginners, because it can stand up to the rigors of everyday use, and if they're dropped, they most likely will not break. Because this unique material is lighter and more durable than china, it has the advantage of being hard, and strong, and good for prolonged use. It is also lighter than the same dish would be if made in ceramic or porcelain. Melamine bowls are extremely difficult to break, but there have been instances of chipping around the edges of the bowls, if they're dropped, for example. The good news is that melamine bowls will not shatter like china or porcelain would, and is overall far more durable than any other traditional dinnerware material that could be used for oryoki bowl sets.
While it is a type of plastic, the FDA's Safety and Risk Assessment of Melamine states that it's use as tableware is perfectly safe for use. The study concludes that the chemicals in melamine will not migrate, or transfer, into food product as long your food is not heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. We would not recommend using Melamine in a microwave oven to heat food up, but it will work perfectly well as a container for food that has been heated already. It can be used for hot soup and other liquids without risk of the melamine plastic resins leaching into the food.
Melamine is an insulator, not a conductor. This means that while it may maintain temperatures longer than other types of plastic, it takes a long time for the temperature of the material to change. So, melamine stays cool to the touch when serving hot foods because the food does not produce enough heat for a long enough period of time to change the temperature of the material itself.
Unlike glazed dishes, melamine tableware is completely dishwasher safe. In fact, many lines of melamine servingware can handle heat that exceeds recommended dishwasher water temperatures. And thanks to melamine's high heat-retaining properties, it dries faster than standard dishware.
Earth conscious consumers wonder where melamine falls on the list of recyclable plastics. Melamine is categorized under Class #7 on the list of Plastic Resin Codes. This means that it is a widely used plastic that does not fit into the more commonly used #1-6 classifications and should not be thrown in your recycling bin. Melamine cannot be melted for recycling like other plastics. However, it can be ground down and used as a filler for other plastics or wood composites. So, ask your local recycling center for more details about how to dispose of your melamine bowl sets if they do break, or for whatever reason you need to dispose of them.
To extend the life of your melamine oryoki bowls, try following these simple guidelines:
Do use soft sponges when you clean your melamine bowls by hand.
Don’t use abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool on melamine, because they can scratch and cause wear.
Don’t use serrated knives or other sharp utensils, because they can nick the surface of the bowls.
Don’t put melamine in a microwave oven. Its high temperatures can cause your dishes to warp or melt.
Don’t put melamine dishes in a conventional or convection oven, either.
Do put melamine bowls in your dishwasher if you want—they’re dishwasher-safe! However, be aware that the dishwasher can fade your Oryoki Bowl’s colors somewhat.
Do inspect your bowl set every so often and throw away any cracked, warped, or melted bowls.
Do pre-soak your bowls if you have stuck-on food or a particularly stubborn stain.
We hope this information has clarified the use and care of your melamine oryoki bowls. If you have any further questions or need specific information about our products, please feel free to reach out to us directly and we will respond promptly to your inquiry. Thank you for your interest in our oryoki products.