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A Buddhist Cosmology in Food

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The Buddhist cosmology of the Pali texts comprises 31 realms reaching from beings in hell at the bottom of the scale to the gods of the formless realms with humans somewhere in the middle. In practice, however, the relationship between humans and non-humans in Southeast Asia finds its expression more often than not by way of food offerings or feasts, which are prepared in the still largely female domain of the kitchens.
Food is offered to beings in all five (or sometimes six) forms of existence accepted by all Buddhist schools: full meals for the Buddha(s) at temples in the morning and on special occasions; a pūjā of fresh fruits and coconuts for a deity at the local shrine; a plate of food for a deceased relative after the funeral; food scraps collected from monks’ plates and taken out for the hungry ghosts (pretas); alms food for monks; funeral feasts for friends, relatives and neighbours; food given to the “seven mothers” (kiriammas) to avert misfortune and special food stalls on Buddhist festival days. The film explores the relationship in a series of mini documentaries grounded in ethnography.
Filmed by Rita Langer; edited by Rita Langer and Azita Ghassemi. Original music by Kostas Andrikopoulos and Stathis Kampylis. This film is in HD.
Date made available19 Jun 2015
PublisherUniversity of Bristol

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