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Reference on the Buddha tasting food?

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:48 pm
by Sati1
Dear Dhamma Friends,

I was wondering if anybody knows the reference, probably from the Commentaries, of the following story:

The Buddha and Ven. Ananda are invited for a meal at a palace. After the Buddha tastes some of the food, Ven. Ananda tells him how marvellous it is that the Buddha can eat so many different dishes, and yet that they all taste the same to him. The Buddha then corrects Ananda, telling him that this is not so, then handing him a morsel of his food and inviting him to taste it. The way this will taste to him now is how the Buddha usually experiences flavours. Ananda then puts the food in his mouth and experiences a powerful explosion of flavours, nothing like what he had experienced before. Rather than having no sense of taste, the Buddha therefore seems to have a highly refined sense of taste. The point of the story seems to be that enlightenment does not obliterate the capacity to experience pleasure and pain, only the subsequent reaction of attraction or aversion.

Has anybody heard this story before? Ajahn Chah seems to have mentioned it in one of his talks. Any reference would be highly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance for your help, with mettā,


Re: Reference on the Buddha tasting food?

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:44 pm
by Nicolas
Hi Sati1,

I found this, from A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras, Selections from the Maharatnakuta Sutra, pp. 461-462: ... kuta-Sutra

Re: Reference on the Buddha tasting food?

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:58 pm
by Dhammanando
Sati1 wrote: Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:48 pm Has anybody heard this story before?
It's from a Mahayana narration of the Verañja famine episode. The Pali version is preserved in the first pārājika section of the Vinaya Piṭaka and the Atthakathā to Dhammapada 83, but neither of these contains the particular story that you're enquiring about. ... /06-08.htm
At that time Verañjā was short of food and afflicted with hunger, with crops blighted and turned to straw. It was not easy to get by on almsfood. Just then some horse-dealers from Uttarāpatha entered the rainy season residence at Verañjā with five hundred horses. In the horse-pen they prepared many portions of steamed grain for the monks.

After dressing in the morning, the monks took their bowls and robes and entered Verañjā for alms. Being unable to obtain anything, they went to the horse-pen. They then brought the portions of steamed grain back to the monastery, pounded them, and ate them. Venerable Ānanda crushed a portion of steamed grain on a stone, took it to the Master, and the Master ate it.

The Master heard the sound of the mortar. Buddhas sometimes ask knowing, and knowing sometimes do not ask; they ask knowing the right time to ask, and they ask knowing the right time not to ask. Buddhas ask when it is beneficial, not when it is unbeneficial; in regard to what is unbeneficial, the Buddhas have destroyed the bridge. Buddhas question the monks for two reasons: to give a teaching or to lay down a training rule.

And so the Master said to Ānanda, “Ānanda, what is this sound of a mortar?” Ānanda informed the Master.

“Good, good, Ānanda, you who are superior people have conquered the problems of famine; later generations will despise even rice and meat.

Then Venerable Mahāmoggallāna approached the Master, bowed down to him, and sat down to one side. He then said,

“At present, Venerable Sir, Verañjā is short of food and afflicted with hunger, with crops blighted and turned to straw. It’s not easy to get by almsfood. Venerable Sir, the under-surface of this great earth is abounding with food, which tastes just like pure honey. It would be good if I could invert the earth so that the monks may enjoy the nutrition in those water-plants.”

“But what will you do, Moggallāna, with those creatures who are living there?”

“I’ll make one of my hands broad, like the great earth, and I’ll make those creatures go there. and I’ll make those creatures go there. Then with the other hand I’ll invert the earth.”

“Please don’t invert the earth, Moggallāna. Those creatures might lose their minds.”

“In that case, Venerable Sir, it would be good if the whole Order of monks could go to Uttarakuru for alms.”

“No, Moggallāna, please don’t pursue this.”

Re: Reference on the Buddha tasting food?

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:38 pm
by Sati1
Dear Ajahn Dhammanando and Nicolas,

many thanks for the reference. I think that Mahāyāna Sutra is indeed the one that he was referring to. Interesting also that Ajahn Chah would quote a Chinese Sutra... I wasn't aware that he was also well versed in that domain.

Best wishes,

with mettā,

Re: Reference on the Buddha tasting food?

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:33 pm
by paul
In the years after returning to Australia from studying with Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm used to quote this story to illustrate the precariousness of relying on feelings of the flesh, such as desire and fame:
"a man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung ...he sipped drops of honey falling from a bees nest hanging there... Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the root..."
I found out years later it was from a Mahayana sutra, but at the time was convinced it was a standard Theravada text. I think AB and Ajahn Chah are firstly communicators, and would utilize stories according to their ability to graphically illustrate a point rather than any question of purity of textual source.

Re: Reference on the Buddha tasting food?

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:22 pm
by Volo
Although the particular story is from Mahayana, Buddha did have a perfect sense of taste:
DN 30 wrote:he has a perfect sense of taste. Whatever he touches with the tip of his tongue he tastes in his throat, and the taste is dispersed everywhere.