Leek and Potato Soup

Annie Spratt

Annie Spratt

Leek and potato soup

Many years ago, I ran an experimental retreat in Finland. If you want to do something a bit wacky I can recommend doing it with the Finns, they will match and raise your game every time. 

It’s quite usual to have some kind of ritual in the evening on a Buddhist retreat. Along with the meditation there’s some chanting and readings from the Buddhist sutras (traditional texts). On this retreat we were going to do the same, but with a twist. 

Everyone understood English though they had come from Estonia, Sweden and the UK as well as from Finland. The English, as usual, only understood English. The Swedes understood English. The Finns understood everything except Estonian. The Estonians understood Finish, English and some even Swedish. Nobody other than the Estonians understood Estonian. That’s what happens when you are a small country that keeps getting invaded. 

That night there was going to be a reading in the ritual. We decided we’d hear it in all the different languages. 

After a period of meditation one of the Estonians starts to read. No one other than the Estonians knows the theme of the reading, but it doesn’t seem to matter. The words are beautiful, the context adds meaning, the quality of the listening is deep, some profound truth beyond language seems to come through. 

There are just 3 or 4 Estonians there, smiles of recognition on their faces. 

Then in Finnish. What can this reading be about? In Estonian it was the beauty that came through the words but now it sounds deeply mysterious. There’s laughter coming with the realisation that this teaching brings. 

Then we hear it in Swedish. Now half the room knows what the reading is about, the other half just seeing it’s effect. Something is opening up, lifting the mood, a kind of energy being released. 

Finally, we hear it in English – 

Leek and Potato Soup
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large pan. 
Add one finely chopped onion and allow to soften. 
Add two, well cleaned, sliced leeks. Cook for a few minutes.
Add two potatoes, cut into cubes. 
Pour over 2 pints of vegetable stock and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. 
Blend to a smooth consistency with a little cream. 
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

The secular and the sacred 

There’s lots of talk about a new sort of Buddhism, secular Buddhism, as opposed, I guess to ‘sacred Buddhism’. I can relate to this desire to strip Buddhism of it’s more religious aspects, especially those that relate to cultures that are not my own. To strip it back to the essential teachings and learn how to apply them to our own every day, ordinary, life. 

But maybe we can also find ways of imbuing ordinary life with a sense of ‘sacredness’? What would that mean? Exploring this is has been something of an ongoing theme for me and it continues. 

If you want to join in the exploration come along to the Rivendell retreat next year, ‘The Life of Objects’.