I) Meaningful Consumption
The world has long been confronting with food crises and its causes are very varied from war and climate change to unequal distribution of wealth and resources. There are many people affected by famine. For example, the Great Vietnamese Famine of 1945 that left a million dead or an incident of Rohingya and Bangladesh migrants fleeing poverty at home in May 2015 and were subsequently killed in fight for food on boat. While in many countries, the growth of food production industry and media stimulating excess consumption as well as food waste become a big problem. Therefore, the world economy is in need of rebalancing and the meaningful consumption becomes a new focus.
Food brings senses of pleasure (Sukhavedana) through eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. Due to a joy of Sukhavedana, people are struggling with attaining material well-being. The meaning of food, actually, is not just being eaten regularly and supply a major proportion of person’s energy and nutritional needs but it can be used as a medicine to cure many diseases. The most terrifying disease is hunger.
Food has different meanings in various cultures including giving an energy for healthy living and a means to ending the sufferings through the practice of mindful eating. Mindful eating involves bringing one’s full attention to the process of eating to all the tastes, smells, thoughts, and feelings that arise during a meal. It attempts to end the suffering resulting from pleasant feelings in order to attain the state of ultimate happiness.
II) Food Heritage
Food in Vietnam has a deeper story. To Vietnamese people, food represents a victory over famine and heritage. Especially, vegetarian food is the best representative of a nation’s identity. Vietnam continue to position themselves as one of the best tourist destination of the world. Food heritage has become a strategic tool to generate new tourism and development for local communities including monasteries. Vietnamese eatery is the new nation’s greatest source of income.
Since the monastery is where the food heritage is kept, therefore, Vietnamese eateries residing in the Buddhist Temple have become a new type of tourist attraction. Chua Vinh Nghiem Monastery has initiated the transformation of temple into attractions for the international tourists and food hub for local communities. Chua Vinh Nghiem Temple offers ranges of food from fried rice to best soups. Food can develop strong ties between visitors, temple and local communities. The uniqueness of vegetarian food from Chua Vinh Nghiem Monastery’s eatery is to serve best food for the poor. Vegetarian food is, subsequently, an integral part of Vietnamese everyday experience.
III) Chua Vinh Nghiem Monastery
Chua Vinh Nghiem Monastery is a popular sacred destination in Ho Chi Minh City. The monastery could attract over hundred thousand spiritual tourists annually who are willing to find peace, inspiration, comfort and energy.
The eatery is a result of market economy policy to modernize the country. Chua Vinh Nghiem Monastery also play a dominant role in the parliament and policy implementation that triggers economic and social movement at local level. The income gap between urban residents and the rural workers, in particular, during the post-harvest period, poses a new treat to the economy. There are a number of city migrants looking for jobs in big cities after the harvest. Many industries are still at infancy stage, therefore, unemployment rate is obviously high.
During economic transition and ASEAN integration, monasteries and Buddhist monks play an ever-increasing role in order to develop a happiness society. It is characterized by the progress of life of the people, refraining from misconduct against the parliament and the nation. Buddhism emphasizes on the purification of mind and giving loving-kindness as well as compassion to all beings.
The space within the monastery is multi-use platform. The allocation of space for local communities to sell their local products offers an income-generation opportunity to urban poor. Their products are cultural, dharma and tourism-related including dharma book, photographs and frames, flowers, souvenir and vegetarian food. The rental fee will be collected and sent to the parliament for the growth of the country. The government will later provide education funds for the monks to continue their educations at high levels or in abroad.
IV) Vegetarian food
The development of an eatery aims at promoting vegetarian food to the Vietnamese public and tourists, encouraging people to refrain from animal killings when realizing the value of life, and generating an income to support the monastic affairs and an education of the monks.
Human life possesses dignity and value. People would discover the value of life from vegetarian food. It is a practice of Metta to send messages of loving and kindness to all sentient beings, i.e., we are inter-related and would like to live a long and healthier life without sufferings. A practice of Metta is a method of developing compassion to protect lives of others and its diversity. An increasing population live happily in the unity within a clean environment. Modern hunting tools and technology, particularly fish hunting, have harm those young ones and the environment which is necessary for human survival.
The vegetarian food is well-known due to the health promotion and knowledge exchange among the people. This is a joint investment between the temple and the private investor. Their aims are to enhance the quality of life and improve health condition of the public.
With happiness and metta, it helps develop the taste of food. Tasty food has trained our minds about the art of merit-making and giving, particularly the forgiveness and living peacefully with all other beings.
Chua Vinh Nghiem Monastery’s eatery promote the nation’s healthy post-war diet of rice and vegetable. Eating out in the monastery’s eatery is cheaper due to good “heart to hear” management. Lowering the price is considered to be an act of merit making. They believe it will produce an effect to their future generations to live wealthy.
Part of the income will be reserved for future investment (30%) and the rest will be allocated for labor wage, rental fee, raw materials and minimal margin. The owner emphasize on increasing quantity of food and redesign the menu every 3 to 6 months. Up to now, there are more than 100 dishes available on the menu. Updating the menu with many new dishes coming frequently make clients feel like they are food shopping for their own food and needs.
New dishes is considered to be a new technique to enhancing the eatery’s reputation. The main target clients are Buddhist monks, practitioners, tourist, urban rich and urban poor. Sharing a meal makes you family. Low profit increases the ability of sharing with others and draws their attentions to come again. The real profit comes from their next visits.
The menu is designed in set, comprising of 4 dishes for the family or group of friends. The lowest price of food is fried rice which the poor can afford.
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