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01. October 2019

Oryoki is a meditative form of eating which evolved many centuries ago in the ancient Buddhist monasteries in Japan and China. The practice emphasizes mindful eating thankfulness, and virtues...


By Grace Denker

oryoki is a meditative form of eating which evolved many centuries ago in the ancient Buddhist monasteries in Japan and China. The practice emphasizes mindful eating thankfulness, and virtues.

The formal practice of Oryoki is often observed as an elaborate and beautiful ceremony, with simple non-spicy food served in small bowls in successions.

The word Oryoki in Japanese symbolises three things – the receivers response to the offering of food, the amount to be received, and the bowl itself.

In the early Buddhist tradition, the usual practice was for monks to obtain their food regularly by begging and Oryoki bowls were used for the purpose. The receiver will then pay back the giver with teaching and guidance.

Oryoki is a Zen tradition but a lot of people also practice Oryoki as a way of eating with awareness and managing health.


Peter Göttler, during his retreat in a Zen monastry, observed that Zen-practitioners who wanted to buy such bowls relied on plastic or melamine products produced in the Far East. This discovery inspired him to start creating Oryoki bowls out of ceramics. He was finally able to put the knowledge acquired from his ceramic art course into practice. Now he has a  studio for painting and pottery in Berlin-Lichtenberg. In our interview with him, he talks about the oryoki concept and his pottery.


ACL: What’s your professional background? Apart from creating pottery, are you also involved in other art forms?

PG: I visited the art college in Kassel and studied painting there. I am still working in the fine arts and published a catalog about the works of the last 10 years in 2018.


ACL: What was it like when you first started out with pottery? How did you learn the craft?

PG: Apart from the basic knowledge in dealing with clay, temperatures, consistencies, many experiments are needed to find your own way. In addition, you have to exchange with other ceramists. You can not possibly know everything.


ACL: How has the journey been so far?

PG: Working with clay and especially with the bowls is a very quiet activity. One must not be in a hurry but be aware of the single steps and actions. I enjoy that.


ACL: What makes your pottery stand out?

PG: The shape of Oryoki bowls is strongly related to the way they are used. One should know the Oryoki ritual when making the bowls. For example, the Oryoki bowls are moved with a special handle, which requires that the outer wall of the shells not run too shallow, otherwise the handle does not work. Finally, they are dried according to the ritual with a cloth. In the beginning, I made bowls that were too rough at the top to be dried without friction. And finally, when you make Oryoki bowls, you always have to remember that Oryoki means "that which contains just enough".


ACL: Have your customers had any unique experiences you would like to share with us?

PG: I make one set of bowls at a time. I do not do any form of streamlining or systematization and I know every set exactly, know where it was sold, who uses it. I think that's something that has become very rare. Of course, this creates connections and stories to those who have acquired the bowls.


ACL: Where are most of your customers based? Where can one buy your pottery?

PG: I ship bowls all over Europe and North America. Most people can find the page, there is also a shop at ETSY (, sometimes I post works on facebook ( The Pacific coast of North America marks a border to the west. I'd like to ship bowls to Hawai one day, there are two Zen communities there. If someone lives in Berlin, she or he can just drop by in the studio.


ACL: Do you also offer custom-made pottery or can one only buy ready-made pottery from you?

PG: I like it when customers describe their ideas. Recently, I made a 5-piece oryoki-set of stoneware, with the customer wanted to have the fifth, the smallest bowl of white porcelain. Stoneware and porcelain behave very differently in the kilt. But it tempts me to make it possible.


ACL: Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?

PGI would like to point out an event in Berlin:

“Tasting Zen” Zen+Food; Sunday, October 13, 11:00 –14:00 h


My Zen teacher Bernd Bender gives an introduction to Zen meditation, mindfulness training, and Zen practice. After a joint meditation, the monastic eating practice of Zen -Oryoki- will be discussed as inspiration for the food movement. Subsequently participants are invited to enjoy a vegan oryoki meal.

ACL: Thank you Peter for the interview.


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