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Moderation in eating

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:16 am
by phil
Hi all

It seems there is always a lot of discussion about vegetarianism in the online Dhamma groups, but I don't recall every having seen a thread about the aspect of eating that the Buddha mentions so often, moderation in eating. (For just one example, this verse from Dhammapada, "whoever lives contemplating pleasant things, with senses unrestrained, in food immoderate, indolent, inactive, him verily Mara overthrows, as the wind a weak tree." (verse 7)

I would appreciate discussing this a bit. It's ironic that I get such self-satisfaction about being a vegetarian, but wolf down food the way I do.

We have an expression here in Japan, hara hachi bu which means that one should ideally eat to 80% of the stomach's capacity, and then stop. I am currently incapable of this, but discussion with Dhamma friends would be a helpful conditioning factor!

metta,

phil

p.s worth noting that the Buddha teaches this to lay followers, not just monastics. One of the best examples is a short sutta in SN when he helps a king who eats "bucketful measures of curries" and is always huffing and puffing. The king overcomes this unwise way, and ...I forget the end of the story, but it is happy. :smile:

Re: Moderation in eating

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:25 am
by DNS
At the following topic there was some discussion about One meal a day (what the monks and nuns do) and some lay people also follow that too:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=604" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

That can be 'one' way to do some moderation in eating.

Re: Moderation in eating

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:04 am
by Cittasanto
I think the Vinaya rules have the most to say on this matter besides the sutta you mention, I will have a look through later and paste the relevant rules here

Re: Moderation in eating

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:05 am
by phil
TheDhamma wrote:At the following topic there was some discussion about One meal a day (what the monks and nuns do) and some lay people also follow that too:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=604" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

That can be 'one' way to do some moderation in eating.
Thanks David.

As a monthly observance I can see lay people taking the 8 precepts, but doesn't seem reasonable for an ongoing lifestyle for working people. (Though who knows for sure?)

I think some people struggle with this more than others. I suspect it has something to do with the caritas , the way people are born with different predominant roots of character. There is certainly a lot of lobha/raga at work in me, that plays out in various ways. Some would say that one should just see this with a kind of wisdom and accept it, but I disagree. We have to stand firm against the defilements even as we accept that as deeply rooted as they are, progress in gaining freedom from them takes time.

Moderation in eating can be good for reflection on the middle way between excessive austerity and indulgence in sense objects. If one were to say "no more ice cream for me, period" it would be silly, but if one finds oneself indulging one's sweet tooth several times a day, it is a sign of a lack of moderation, that kind of thing. Of course that applies to the sheer amount of food as well, the number of calories etc.

Also seems that there can be citta nupassana at times, mindfulness of the state of mind. You can catch yourself, catch the lustful mind state that is at work when one is devouring food. And you can see it in the bodily intimation, the way those cittas contort the facial features. One becomes aware of this sort of thing gradually...there can be satipatthana there at times....too late to put down the oily, salty delight that is already smeared all over one's face though...it's tough.

Is vowing "no empty calories" a reasonable way for lay followers, or would that be an excessive austerity? Thich Nhat Hahn and others have prescribed eating only what plays a role in maintaining health. (i.e abstaining from junk food.) And I guess the Buddha did as well, saying that eating should be for the purpose of putting away the unpleasant feeling that is caused by not eating enough, and that it should be to maintain one's health. He did say that didn't he?

Metta,

Phil

Re: Moderation in eating

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:31 am
by Cittasanto
here is some of the stuff I found from the vinaya rules index which may be of use, it is any of the rules directly related to Food or Bowl. I think the food chapter may be too big to post directly but what I could see from the index I have posted here

Taking what is not given

Making use of cloth or a bowl stored under shared ownership — unless the shared ownership has been rescinded or one is taking the item on trust — is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 59)

Killing

Intentionally bringing about the death of a human being, even if it is still a fetus — whether by killing the person, arranging for an assassin to kill the person, inciting the person to die, or describing the advantages of death — is a pārājika offense. (Pr 3)

Pouring water that one knows to contain living beings — or having it poured — on grass or clay is a pācittiya offense. Pouring anything that would kill the beings into such water — or having it poured — is also a pācittiya offense. (Pc 20)

Deliberately killing an animal — or having it killed — is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 61)

Using water, or getting others to use it, knowing that it contains living beings that will die from that use, is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 62)

Food

Eating any of the five staple foods that a lay person has offered as the result of a bhikkhunī's prompting — unless the lay person was already planning to offer the food before her prompting — is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 29)

Eating food obtained from the same public alms center two days running — without leaving in the interim — unless one is too ill to leave the center, is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 31)

Eating a meal to which four or more individual bhikkhus have been specifically invited — except on special occasions — is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 32)

Eating a meal before going to another meal to which one was invited, or accepting an invitation to one meal and eating elsewhere instead, is a pācittiya offense except when one is ill or during the time of giving cloth or making robes. (Pc 33)

Accepting more than three bowlfuls of food that the donors prepared for their own use as presents or as provisions for a journey is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 34)

Eating staple or non-staple food that is not left-over, after having earlier in the day finished a meal during which one turned down an offer to eat further staple food, is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 35)

Eating staple or non-staple food in the period from noon till the next dawn is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 37)

Eating food that a bhikkhu — oneself or another — formally received on a previous day is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 38)

Eating finer staple foods, after having asked for them for one's own sake — except when ill — is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 39)

Eating food that has not been formally given is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 40)

Eating staple or non-staple food, after having accepted it from the hand of an unrelated bhikkhunī in a village area, is a pāṭidesanīya offense. (Pd 1)

Eating staple food accepted at a meal to which one has been invited and where a bhikkhunī has given directions, based on favoritism, as to which bhikkhu should get which food, and none of the bhikkhus have dismissed her, is a pāṭidesanīya offense. (Pd 2)

Eating staple or non-staple food, after accepting it — when one is neither ill nor invited — at the home of a family formally designated as "in training," is a pāṭidesanīya offense. (Pd 3)

Eating an unannounced gift of staple or non-staple food after accepting it in a dangerous wilderness abode when one is not ill is a pāṭidesanīya offense. (Pd 4)

Bowls and other requisites

Keeping an alms bowl for more than ten days without determining it for use or placing it under shared ownership is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense. (NP 21)

Asking for and receiving a new alms bowl when one's current bowl is not beyond repair is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense. (NP 22)

The Etiquette of a Contemplative

Handing food or medicine to a person ordained in another religion is a pācittiya offense. (Pc 41)

Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:41 am
by alan
Monks have to follow the rules, but why would anyone else take up the unhealthy practice of restricting your food?
Is there some inherent virtue in this practice?
Thanks

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:17 am
by Paññāsikhara
alan wrote:Monks have to follow the rules, but why would anyone else take up the unhealthy practice of restricting your food?
Is there some inherent virtue in this practice?
Thanks
Always check the historical context:

Because for monks and nuns who walked into the towns and villages from the forest edges each day, which may take a couple of hours for the round trip, and also because they rely on devotees, who may not exactly have a huge amount of foodstuffs around the house, this became the tradition.

For those involved in full time meditation practice, not much physical food is required to keep the body healthy, and over eating easily leads to mental and physical torpor which are definite obstructions to meditative absorption.

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:52 am
by poto
For monks they have those rules. Although, I have thought that nutritional science might one day be allowed to replace the one meal a day rule with something more scientific.

For lay people I don't see it as being important.

I've lived on an extreme ascetic diet for periods of time before. I do understand from personal experience that during full time meditations it's possible to subsist on very little. I'm not trying to disrespect tradition. I understand that one meal a day does seem to work well for a lot of monastics. If they are happy with it and it works for them, then they should be allowed to continue it.

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 9:16 am
by acinteyyo
alan wrote:Monks have to follow the rules, but why would anyone else take up the unhealthy practice of restricting your food?
Is there some inherent virtue in this practice?
Thanks
I made it. see here. I tried to explain the reason why I took the one-sessioner's practice. Ordinary work and the laylife itself makes it difficult, in my opinion. But for me it brought the results I wanted to accomplish.

best wishes, acinteyyo

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:22 am
by Bhikkhu Pesala
The Buddha recommended one meal a day for health reasons. It is untrue that this practice is unhealthy.

In the Bhaddāli Sutta of the Majjhimanikāya the elder Bhaddāli was reluctant to follow this training rule.

In fact, the body can get accustomed to all manner of different routines. While in Burma, I ate two good meals daily — at 5:15 am, and again at 11:00 am. In the Thai forest tradition they eat only once, at about 9:00 am after returning from alms round. It was hard at first, but one soon gets used to it. Nowadays, I usually eat my main meal at about 7:00 am, then take some fruit at 11:00 am.

Eating only in the mornings is no hardship at all once one becomes accustomed to it. The food is thoroughly digested by the following day, and regular bowel motions ensure good health.

This training rule is easy to keep in a monastic environment as food is simply not available after the meal time. For lay people, it is much harder to keep this precept, as they may see food or see others eating, which can make you feel hungry although you have already had sufficient food for nutrition.

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:24 am
by Khalil Bodhi
Hi Everyone,

I've just completed a week of the one-sessioner's practice while following the 8 precepts. The great thing about the precepts, whether they be 5, 8, 10 or 227 is that they are all optional. You don't have to follow them. If you take the Lord Buddha as your guide and have saddha that he was fully enlightened and the incomparable teacher of gods and men then it would follow that the practice he devised (or allowed in the case of the uposatha) is conducive to the goal. Although I don't believe this practice is harmful to one's health let's remember that (even in the case that it is) the Buddha's Dhamma-Vinaya isn't about increasing one's lifespan or looking pretty, it's about complete and total liberation from dukkha. Anyway, I apologize for the rant but I wonder why people want to question the Dhamma-Vinaya before they question their own resistance. Be well.

Mike

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:58 am
by alan
Because it seems pointless, and I see no inherent virtue in it.

(As for health, it is well established that several small meals spaced regularly throughout the day is optimal, along with some vigorous exercise).

Rules written to deal with the needs of a group of wanderers and the people they depended on in a totally different era--sorry, I'm going to question them.

Cheers!

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:02 pm
by Paññāsikhara
alan wrote:Because it seems pointless and is certainly unhealthy, and I see no inherent virtue in it.
Then don't do it. It's that simple.

Have you ever lived a lifestyle of full time meditation practice, or full time Dhamma study?
If not, then it may be a bit early do declare outright that it is unhealthy and of no virtue.

Because an awful lot of Dhamma practitioners have certainly found both good health (physical and mental) in it, and also found that it is a support for a great range of virtues too (when used as a basis for proper Dhamma practice).

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:11 pm
by Khalil Bodhi
Paññāsikhara wrote:
alan wrote:Because it seems pointless and is certainly unhealthy, and I see no inherent virtue in it.
Then don't do it. It's that simple.

Have you ever lived a lifestyle of full time meditation practice, or full time Dhamma study?
If not, then it may be a bit early do declare outright that it is unhealthy and of no virtue.

Because an awful lot of Dhamma practitioners have certainly found both good health (physical and mental) in it, and also found that it is a support for a great range of virtues too (when used as a basis for proper Dhamma practice).
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

Re: Why one meal a day?

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 4:46 pm
by DNS
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Buddha recommended one meal a day for health reasons. It is untrue that this practice is unhealthy.
:thumbsup:

I have been practicing the one-meal a day program for several years and have no problems with it. My weight stays normalized (most of the time), I am healthier, more fit, relaxed, sleep better, and have more free time. The only times my weight has gone up is actually when I briefly go off the one-meal program, for example, for social reasons, holidays, family reunions, etc. When I stay consistently on the program, my health is all the way better, in every way.

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... meal_a_day" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;