Why one meal a day?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:33 am

SarathW wrote:Bhante Pesal and others
I got another few questions:
a) What is the timing for breaking the fast? Is it 7.00 am to 12.00 noon?
b) How many meals are allowed in this period? What does it mean by one meal a day?
c) Why monks do not obey all 227 rules the same way? Eg: Handling money
Time for almsround so my answers will be quick:

a) First light wherever you are — about 4:00 am to 1:00 pm BST in the Summer months here
b) Unless following the Dhutaṅga (ascetic practices), one can eat as often as one wants from first light to midday
c) There's no short answer to that one — they observe the rules that they know about, what they can, or what they must for fear of blame from their supporters.
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fabianfred
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by fabianfred » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:13 pm

Breaking the fast is allowed after dawn.... seen as.... a visible lightening of the sky on the Eastern horizon. So waking at 2.00 am and saying 'it's a new day' doesn't work.
Traditionally a monk is not allowed to start alms round by leaving the temple before he can see the lines on the palm of his hand by natural light.... going too early, the lay people will not have had time to rise and prepare food anyway. The modern practice of monks going to market places ( which open early) and hanging around is frequently seen as an opportunity to bend this rule. Many monks coming to the same market is OK as long as they do so at different times....and give the opportunity to many lay shoppers who are coming and going all the time.

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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by kilanta » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:45 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: b) Unless following the Dhutaṅga (ascetic practices), one can eat as often as one wants from first light to midday.
Does this apply to lay devotees and monks or just lay devotees?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:24 pm

It applies to monks too. There are ascetic practices such as one-sessioner's practice that require all food to be taken at one sitting, but the general rule is to eat any time between dawn and midday.

In practice, most monks will have breakfast and then lunch, but there's no rule preventing them taking tea or coffee with milk (also regarded as food) and a biscuit in between.

My usual practice is to eat most of my meal in the house where I go for alms. I then have maybe a yoghurt, or some fruit, and several cups of tea with milk before midday.
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SarathW
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by SarathW » Fri Aug 09, 2013 11:45 pm

Ven Pesala
What about the young monks who are about 12years old? Do they follow the same rule?
Will they be malnutritioned?
--------------------
I just fascinated and pleased to read that you are doing alms round? It is a rare site even in Sri Lanka!
I believe you are living in UK.
What is your experience? How people react to you at the beginning because most of the people are non- Buddhists?
:bow:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Indrajala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Indrajala » Sat Aug 10, 2013 9:41 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Your bhikkhu friend got it right. He understood how to follow the Vinaya rule without grasping. Moral discipline has the purpose of cutting off defilements.
The Vinaya rule only exists, apparently, because someone went begging at night and caused a village woman to have a frightening shock and miscarriage.

I don't see how such a rule presumably designed for practical reasons would cut off defilements to be honest. It makes sense not to go begging for food more than once a day, but if you live a settled lifestyle there is no reason for such a custom, especially when devotees are happy to cook you dinner.

An eating schedule is hardly a reflection of morality. Morality is not harming others. Not eating past noon is more a matter of institutional proscription. In certain circumstances it is quite pragmatic, but in a settled monastic environment, is it really necessary?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:24 pm

It's not just about not harrassing the lay supporters and making oneself difficult to support, it is also good for one's own practice, and good for health too.

Read the Bhaddali Sutta, where the Buddha recommended just one meal a day.
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Anagarika
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Anagarika » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:27 pm

My two baht on the subject is that, first, it's not a begging round. The Bhikkhus don't beg, anymore than the laity feels forced to offer food. The monks can't ask for anything. If no one provides alms, they go hungry. The relationship is mutual, supportive, and beneficial.

In 2013, reasonable people can always suggest that Vinaya rules don't apply anymore. Why not let Bhikkhus drive cars? Why not sleep on a big, comfy bed, or wear jewelry to look nice? As Bhante suggested earlier, these precepts cultivate moral discipline and, in practice, mitigate defilements. In my view, these practices can be inspirational to the laity. There are certain practices that the monks keep that make them mindful monks. One can always rightfully suggest that a practice or ritual does not make sense in modern times, but for me, that argument doesn't take away from the value of the practice or ritual. Is it useful that we all are mindful of what we consume, and how we view our relationship to food, our cravings, wants and desires for consumption of all things? As Gil Fronsdal puts it:

Rituals, as important elements of human life, have been a significant aspect of Buddhist practice since the time of the Buddha. Rituals are a form of language that expresses many dimensions of our human condition, including our relationships to others and to our spiritual life. As actions done with others to share our common values, rituals help create community and mutual support. As a way of being mindful, they can bring a heightened awareness to aspects of our experience needing attention. Rituals often involve symbolism and speak to our subconscious. And when they are repeated frequently, they shape our dispositions. When done whole-heartedly, they help us discover and express some of our deepest feelings and aspirations. http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org

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Indrajala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Indrajala » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:39 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:It's not just about not harrassing the lay supporters and making oneself difficult to support, it is also good for one's own practice, and good for health too.

Read the Bhaddali Sutta, where the Buddha recommended just one meal a day.
It was probably common amongst śramaṇas in Magadha at the time too, but it isn't absolutely necessary, or even desirable in colder climates where regular consumption of food is probably better for maintaining warmth and health.

I personally don't see why a rule needs to exist concerning one's eating schedule. If someone wants to eat dinner, eat dinner. There's no need to feel guilty about this or even call it immoral. Nobody is harmed in the process. One might argue the Buddha established a rule against it, but then the Vinaya literature is probably a later development and largely ahistorical, even fictional. Schopen believes that the Vinaya literature and vihāra monastic system are in fact post-Aśoka (304-232 BCE):
  • If the compilers of the various Vinayas considered it ‘highly important’ to regulate the lives of their monks so as to give no cause for complaint to the laity, and if considerations of this sort could only have assumed high importance after buddhist groups had permanently settled down, then, since the latter almost certainly did not occur until well after Aśoka, it would be obvious that all the Vinayas that we have are late, precisely as both Wassilieff and Lévi have suggested a hundred years ago.

    ...

    Even in the later inscriptions from Bharhut and Sanchi there are no references to vihāras, and they begin to appear—though still rarely—only in Kharosṭḥī records of a little before and a little after the Common Era, about the same time that the first indications of permanent monastic residential quarters begin to appear in the archaeological record for the Northwest, and this is not likely to be mere coincidence.
*Quoted in See Johannes Bronkhorst, Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism Handbook of Oriental Studies (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 18-19.

With that in mind, I don't see such prescriptions as all that necessary or even convincing.

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Indrajala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Indrajala » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:51 pm

ccc
BuddhaSoup wrote:The monks can't ask for anything.
Nevertheless they inevitably do or at least gesture strongly that they want something.
If no one provides alms, they go hungry.


According to the book this is what is supposed to happen, but prescriptive is not descriptive.

In 2013, reasonable people can always suggest that Vinaya rules don't apply anymore.
A lot of it doesn't apply any longer. In fact a lot of it never applied. Much of the Vinaya literature we have today reflects landed monastic concerns where benefactors demanded certain idealized monks to be their fields of merit. This does not really work and never has. If you know how the real world of monasticism works, you'll know the Vinaya is largely ineffective and only enforced when the powers that be feel compelled to punish someone. You might say the fault lay with the people, not the system, but pushing an unrealistic system on people is simply unreasonable.

Why not let Bhikkhus drive cars?


Why not? Plenty of bhikṣus in other traditions drive cars. In fact, the rule says a monk isn't supposed to get into a vehicle unless ill. So, flying or riding in a bus is unacceptable and a transgression, technically speaking.

As Bhante suggested earlier, these precepts cultivate moral discipline and, in practice, mitigate defilements.


With wrong view, however, they propagate the eight worldly dharmas. People become afraid of worldly scorn and shame for breaking precepts. They think of what they gain or lose by following the precepts. They might seek and enjoy praise for being well-cultivated in their precepts. They might fear punitive measures taken against them for defying ecclesiastical law and the powers that be.

Also the Vinaya based disciplinary system can be rather inhumane at times. One text, if I recall correctly from the Sarvāstivāda commentary tradition, suggests you can get a benefactor to withhold food if you suspect a monk has committed a misdeed in order to make them confess it. So, if they take food that hasn't been given, you nail them for that, but on the top of that starve them to make them confess.

That is torture in my definition. Ancient Buddhist ecclesiastical law was rather inhumane at times in my opinion after having studied the subject. However, it often reflects worldly, not spiritual, concerns, and modern scholarship often agrees with this conclusion as I've illustrated above.

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Anagarika
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Anagarika » Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:13 pm

Ven. Indrajala, respectfully, this is an interesting issue and I won't address your thoughtful comments one by one. Again, I feel reasonable people can disagree on the role of Vinaya in Buddhist practice, as well as disagree on the etiology.
If you know how the real world of monasticism works, you'll know the Vinaya is largely ineffective and only enforced when the powers that be feel compelled to punish someone.
I was in robes for a time at an excellent Wat, excellent Abbot, and in the company of good Vinaya Bhikkhus in Thailand. On the contrary, the energy and the practice was itself very positive, and this energy flowed not just through the Wat but through the laity. The Vinaya were not just rules, or "discipline sticks." They were this aspect of healthy practice that Dr. Fronsdal described. I never saw the Vinaya employed as a vehicle for punishment; there was no sense of this at all. Even in the Thai tradition, the emphasis is on the monk being accountable to him/herself and to the Sangha as a whole, vs. the Sangha acting as a judge and jury over Vinaya offenses.

There are excellent monastics on all of the major traditions. Some incorporate Vinaya and some do not, as you know. My own view is that the Vinaya practices speak to an important aspect of modern practice, in a culture that is increasingly greedy, angry and deluded. The Vinaya monk is just one way that the ordained community speak to the increasing greed and consumerism among especially the young people of the west and Asia. These practices, as Dr. Fronsdal puts it, are relevant as they are symbolic and speak to the subconscious.

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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Indrajala » Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:25 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:I was in robes for a time at an excellent Wat, excellent Abbot...
It is good that you had a positive experience, but let's not be naive and idealistic. The sangha around the world has a lot of problems. I frequently hear horror stories, both from Theravada and Mahāyāna sources.
My own view is that the Vinaya practices speak to an important aspect of modern practice, in a culture that is increasingly greedy, angry and deluded. The Vinaya monk is just one way that the ordained community speak to the increasing greed and consumerism among especially the young people of the west and Asia.
Buddhism is statistically in decline around Asia, though. In general having monks wear robes and not eat after noon doesn't impress younger generations as it did older generations. You don't address consumerism and greed through not eating dinner. There are alternative more effective approaches to dealing with modern problems. It requires that you understand the problems for what they are and speak coherently and intelligently about them.

In fact I'd argue being socially active with people is probably more conducive to long-term sustainability. That means having dinner on a Friday night with Buddhists and talking about life rather than abiding by social conventions that might have made sense in ancient Magadha.

Evolve or perish.

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Anagarika
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Anagarika » Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:45 pm

Ven. Indrajala, again, an interesting subject. My own take on the "evolution" of the ordained community away from the Vinaya is that this evolution has lead to some of the real problems in the Buddhist ordained community. I agree with you completely that every school has had its share of tragedies and crimes. So long as we keep ordaining human beings we will have sexual abuses, financial abuses, and other crimes. Yet, my argument would be that once the Vinaya was dropped in the (8-13th century?) medieval period of Buddhist migration out of India into China and Japan in the CE, some of that 'subconscious' discipline evaporated. Monks married, ate food all day long, and drank alcohol. Monks married and had families. This evolution from a Vinaya world into the fabric of the lay society may have provided political and societal benefits ( I'm focusing on Japan here) , but in my view was the start of the slippery slope toward the erosion of the respect for the monastic community.

Here in the US, I'm starting to hear the drum beat for a return to the Vinaya ethos in the wake of the Eido Shimano, et al, scandals. I'm not suggesting that Vinaya rules are a panacea for bad conduct, but argue that once in our conscious practice or subconscious the ordained community deviate from these rather useful Vinaya sensibilities, we/they set the course for further disciplinary problems, again, in a society where it's just all to easy to find corrupt behaviors.

I've followed your travels and read your scholarship, Ven. Indrajala. I respect what you do and how you conduct your life. You may be the example of the non-Vinaya monk that makes the case for a more modern ordination platform, and who does not need the Vinaya to live an unquestioned life and has the respect of the laity around you. I just see you as the exception, rather than the rule, here in the west.

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Indrajala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Indrajala » Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:04 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:Yet, my argument would be that once the Vinaya was dropped in the (8-13th century?) medieval period of Buddhist migration out of India into China and Japan in the CE, some of that 'subconscious' discipline evaporated.
I have to wonder how much discipline existed even in India. Now, granted, in the Tang you had figures like Yijing visiting and discussing how strict and pure their Vinaya was, but that might have been selective observations in the elite monasteries like Nalanda where you needed to know the Vinaya inside and out as part of the membership requirements.
Monks married, ate food all day long, and drank alcohol. Monks married and had families. This evolution from a Vinaya world into the fabric of the lay society may have provided political and societal benefits ( I'm focusing on Japan here) , but in my view was the start of the slippery slope toward the erosion of the respect for the monastic community.
Japan had no Vinaya for a number of centuries, yet still maintained celibate monasticism. I wrote an article about this:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.sg/2013/06/b ... inaya.html

You actually can have a living and vibrant monastic system without the Indian Vinaya. Japan's Buddhist degeneration was not a result of letting monks marry, but more to do with extreme secularization and rationalization of society. Up until the post-WWII period, Japanese Buddhism was thriving. Before WWII you had Chinese monks commenting how healthy it seemed. Then after the war the tables turned and Buddhism in Taiwan started to thrive while Japanese Buddhism went into terminal decline.

Some assume the Vinaya revivalism was responsible for the post-WWII regeneration of Chinese Buddhism in Taiwan, but that's not really accurate, just as it is incorrect to think the married clergy in Japan are responsible for the decay of Buddhism there. Of course married clergy come with a whole long list of problems, but before WWII the marriage wasn't as big a problem as people seem to think nowadays. The extreme secularization killed Buddhism in Japan.

You may be the example of the non-Vinaya monk that makes the case for a more modern ordination platform, and who does not need the Vinaya to live an unquestioned life and has the respect of the laity around you. I just see you as the exception, rather than the rule, here in the west.
I'm nothing special. I just want to live the śramaṇa lifestyle to pursue spiritual and scholarly aims. To me the śramaṇa lifestyle is defined not by what the Vinaya says, but what the general expectations were in ancient Magadha. To do this you just need to look at what the literature generally says and see how other schools like the Jains operated. The śramaṇa lifestyle is about celibacy, non-violence, kindness, meditation, contemplation and philosophy, plus maybe social expectations like the shaved head and robes, though those are arguably secondary. We need only recall that there was no Vinaya for the first few years of the sangha. The first monks had zero formal rules and precepts.

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Anagarika
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Re: Eating after midday.

Post by Anagarika » Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:43 pm

Even so, in ancient Magadha among the Shramana ascetics there were some generally held principles that defined what a śramaṇa was, as opposed to a Brahmin. I did a litlt e bit of study on the history of the śramaṇa movements in northern India, and it's very interesting. Expanded my (very limited) understanding of the evolution of sramana into Buddhism and Jainism.

I noted that the sramana movement was defined as "free form," and while there were generally accepted views of sramana practices, there was, as you put it, an emphasis on renunciation, non-violence, justice, scholarship. No Vinaya per se, but from what I can tell some fairly defined attributes that separated the śramaṇa from the Vedic practices and the lay folk.

Maybe the discussion is boiling down to the need for a strict set of rules, vs. a defined sensibility for a noble, ethical renunciate life. The śramaṇa movement seems to me to be the pathway that led Gautama to his eventual enlightenment and Dhamma. It lead to the founding of the Jains. To me, it looks all good, and it was certainly good enough for Gautama until his realization of the Middle Way.

I come back to my point, Ven. Indrajala, that you and the śramaṇas posses the internal fortitude to live the noble life. Maybe because I am a lawyer I have this idea that laws are part of the glue that holds societies together, and mitigates the potential for chaos. I see the Vinaya, in part, as a set of statutes that guide the practice, and create a foundation or sensibility that is all the more useful in today's world. As it has been said, if all men were noble, ethical and good, we wouldn't need the law.

Philosophically, as our societies create more laws and regulations, we are not necessarily becoming more ethical and less violent. I understand, you as a scholar and free thinker, feel that detailed and antiquated laws are just one more maladaptive societal tool for control. If only modern man in the west possessed the ethics and renunciate sensibilities of the ancient Magadhan śramaṇa.

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