what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby jason c » Wed May 30, 2012 11:05 pm

i was reading through the why one meal a day thread, and it raised this question. what is the relevance in eating your meals or meal before noon? it is my understanding that in the buddhas time when he created the order of monks there was no set time to go out for alms, but one day a monk went out later in the evening and a pregnant woman became scared at the presence of a stranger at her door, she miscarried and lost her child. upon hearing this incident the buddha imediately took action to prevent this from happening again, and created a specific time for the gathering of alms. if this is so (and i'm not 100 percent on this) why is this rule necessary in todays world when so few monks go on alms gatherings. why can't the monks eat at different times if it suits there own bodies needs. i understand the buddha was a practical man and i am confused with this precept.
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed May 30, 2012 11:09 pm

I figured (and read somewhere) it was so the monks wouldn't be a bother to people during the day when they're working and doing chores. Imagine if monks just kept showing up randomly. It works out better if the monks just show up once in the morning and then the lay people have the rest of the day to carry on with normal things like work and child raising
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby jason c » Wed May 30, 2012 11:30 pm

hey polar buddha,
i can totally get on board with the practicality of that reason, so if a monk is recieving his food from a devotee and the devotee has to take their kid to the doctor and drops the food off to the monks at 2 pm can the monks eat this food then?
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu May 31, 2012 12:37 am

well I think it slowly became more for tradition's sake than for practicality so they have a rule in the vinaya about it that is followed to the letter, at least in the Theravada I think. In mahayana I don't think they have the one meal in the morning rule but they have a rule about being vegetarians that Theravada doesn't. So rules vary. Also, I think that there is a sutta where the Buddha talks about sloth being associated with eating dinner but I may have just read that from some Bhikkhu, or both, I'm not sure.

Anyway, I'm sure there are other people on this forum that actually know these things unlike me, so hopefully they'll come and satisfy your curiosity.

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"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby daverupa » Thu May 31, 2012 1:26 am

It came about in stages. At first, eating morning, noon, and night seems to have been the standard. I don't think that monks would necessarily go each time every day, but who knows. Maybe bowls were smaller then.

In any event,

MN 70 wrote:I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was wandering on a tour of Kasi with a large community of monks. There he addressed the monks: "I abstain from the night-time meal. As I am abstaining from the night-time meal, I sense next-to-no illness, next-to-no affliction, lightness, strength, & a comfortable abiding. Come now. You too abstain from the night-time meal. As you are abstaining from the night-time meal, you, too, will sense next-to-no illness, next-to-no affliction, lightness, strength, & a comfortable abiding."


So here is a health reason.

Later on, Ven. Udayin recounts:

MN 66 wrote:For in the past, lord, we used to eat in the morning, in the evening, and in the day at the wrong time (the afternoon). Then there was the time when the Blessed One addressed the monks, saying, 'Monks, please discontinue that daytime meal at the wrong time.'...

So we ate both in the evening & in the morning. Then there was the time when the Blessed One addressed the monks, saying, 'Monks, please discontinue that evening meal at the wrong time.'


This Sutta then offers a number of anecdotes, including the episode of a woman being startled at night.

I expect that the Buddha began implementing this policy similarly to that of the robe policy; in the Vinaya, the Buddha puts on a total of three robes throughout the course of a night (near the Gotamaka shrine, for a helpful keyword), each time adding a robe solely as a practical measure against the cold. So too here: helping to ensure that meals were dealt with as solely practical measures against hunger seems to be the primary issue.* The social issues seem to me to be simply additional, and humorous, support for a fait accompli.


*(For what it's worth, both cold & hunger are among the asavas "to be abandoned by tolerating" per MN 2)
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby ground » Thu May 31, 2012 3:17 am

jason c wrote:why can't the monks eat at different times if it suits there own bodies needs.

Because discipline rules do not have the purpose of suiting anybody's needs but do have the purpose of exerting discipline.

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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby hanzze_ » Thu May 31, 2012 4:37 am

Maybe useful to understand Vinaya a little more:

Understanding Vinaya

This practice of ours is not easy. We may know some things but there is still much that we dont know. For example, when we hear teachings such as "know the body, then know the mind within the body"; or "know the mind, then know the mind within the mind." If we havent yet practiced these things, then we hear them we may feel baffled. The Vinaya 1 is like this. In the past I used to be a teacher, 2 but I was only a "small teacher," not a big one. Why do I say a "small teacher"? Because I didnt practice. I taught the Vinaya but I didnt practice it. This I call a small teacher, an inferior teacher. I say an "inferior teacher" because when it came to the practice I was deficient. For the most part my practice was a long way off the theory, just as if I hadnt learned the Vinaya at all.

However, I would like to state that in practical terms its impossible to know the Vinaya completely, because some things, whether we know them or not, are still offenses. This is tricky. And yet it is stressed that if we do not yet understand any particular training rule or teaching, we must study that rule with enthusiasm and respect. If we dont know, then we should make an effort to learn. If we dont make an effort, that is in itself an offense.

For example, if you doubt... suppose there is a woman and, not knowing whether she is a woman or a man, you touch her. 3 Youre not sure, but still go ahead and touch... thats still wrong. I used to wonder why that should be wrong, but when I considered the practice, I realized that a meditator must have sati, he must be circumspect. Whether talking, touching or holding things, he must first thoroughly consider. The error in this case is that there is no sati, or insufficient sati, or a lack of concern at that time.

Take another example: its only eleven oclock in the morning but at the time the sky is cloudy, we cant see the sun, and we have no clock. Now suppose we estimate that its probably afternoon... we really feel that its afternoon... and yet we proceed to eat something. We start eating and then the clouds part and we see from the position of the sun that its only just past eleven. This is still an offense. 4 I used to wonder, "Eh? Its not yet past mid day, why is this an offense?"

An offense is incurred here because of negligence, carelessness, we dont thoroughly consider. There is a lack of restraint. If there is doubt and we act on the doubt, there is a dukkata 5 offense just for acting in the face of the doubt. We think that it is afternoon when in fact it isnt. The act of eating is not wrong in itself, but there is an offense here because we are careless and negligent. If it really is afternoon but we think it isnt, then its the heavier pacittiya offense. If we act with doubt, whether the action is wrong or not, we still incur an offense. If the action is not wrong in itself it is the lesser offense; if it is wrong then the heavier offense is incurred. Therefore the Vinaya can get quite bewildering.

At one time I went to see Venerable Ajahn Mun. 6 At that time I had just begun to practice. I had read the Pubbasikkha 7 and could understand that fairly well. Then I went on to read the Visuddhimagga, where the author writes of the Silanidesa (Book of Precepts), Samadhinidesa (Book of Mind Training) and Pannanidesa (Book of Understanding)... I felt my head was going to burst! After reading that, I felt that it was beyond the ability of a human being to practice. But then I reflected that the Buddha would not teach something that is impossible to practice. He wouldnt teach it and he wouldnt declare it, because those things would be useful neither to himself nor to others. The Silanidesa is extremely meticulous, the Samadhinidesa more so, and the Pannanidesa even more so! I sat and thought, "Well, I cant go any further. Theres no way ahead." It was as if Id reached a dead end.

...read further "Understanding Vinaya - Food for the heart"
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 31, 2012 6:37 am

The rule is for equanimity, dispassion regarding food intake, to restrain oneself from over indulgence of sensual pleasures. the way the rule is in the Vinaya has to do with not being a burden on the lay supporters, or putting oneself in danger, as traveling at night can have problems such as the inability to see where ditches stones... are.

The Eight precepts are renunciation rules and why this is included there.

The rules are almost the same in the Dharmagupta and Mulasarvastivada vinayas followed in mahayana there are some slight differences and extra rules not found in the patimokkha of the theravada.

On a different topic, Jason, I sent you a message as it was rightly deleted in the other thread for being meta-discussion.
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby hanzze_ » Thu May 31, 2012 6:46 am

Cittasanto wrote:The rule is for equanimity, dispassion regarding food intake, to restrain oneself from over indulgence of sensual pleasures. the way the rule is in the Vinaya has to do with not being a burden on the lay supporters, or putting oneself in danger, as traveling at night can have problems such as the inability to see where ditches stones... are.

Dear Cittasanto,

I would not say so as it has also the task of discipline. We might think that there is no danger if we have some light traveling in the night.
The same is here, its always possible to adapt something to ones own ways but it's a different to adapt one own ways to something more secure. But of cause its a matter of what we like to become or if we feel the need to be something.

In history often there have been some, who thought it easier to adapt some rules rather then to adapt the ways, as the ways had somehow more importance for them.

Using another approach, it has its benefits stopping to work in the night or in conditions who require unneeded support. We can do it for the sake of keeping a rule at the beginning or we can understand its more-fold propose. How ever step by step, there are much condition we need to work on for a change.
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby jason c » Thu May 31, 2012 10:27 am

hi everyone,
thanks for the replies, i have often thought this precept had another lesson. the buddha lived a life of luxury he had all the food he could ever want and ate whenever he wanted, this not putting an end to his suffering he went out and began the life of an ascetic living off of bird droppings and at times 1 grain of rice per day. this only led to sickness and had no profitibility, it did not put an end to his suffering. finding the middle way, not taking too much food and not taking too little was the practice that led to his enlightenment. i believe the buddha saw many beings living with too much and he saw many beings living with not enough. so he created the order of monks , because most of us come from plentiful lifestyles we view the limited food of a monk as a restriction, but the order of monks and nuns is open to people of all backgrounds, and one coming from a life of extreme poverty would find salvation from hunger by joining, they would not view this as a dicipline but as the appropriate amount of food for survival. with this knowledge i try and live a similar lifestyle not too much but not to little. with my lifestlyle; job, kids ,level of physical activity, i cannot always follow a particular time schedule for my meals (my kids usually come first) but i do only take two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, this i have found works for my individual body and the amount of food i take depends on different factors (cold weather, hot weather, much activity, less activity etc...). i also find the empty stomach is agreeable for my morning and evening sits. i like to think that the meal i skip, the new pair of shoes i don't buy, the new bathroom that i don't install, is left for some other being that really needs these things.
this is my personal interpretation of this precept and eating at (the forbidden time) has no real benifit to practice other than a level of personal comfort in seated meditation. it seems to have great benefit with large groups of men and women begging for there meals, keeping order and not inconviencing others, but there does not seem to be any other reason one should not take a meal say at 1 pm.
there seems no reason for a layperson to adopt this precept into his or her lifestyle.

thoughts on this, metta
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby hanzze_ » Thu May 31, 2012 10:46 am

Dear jason,
maybe a "I should eat first"-reason in the daily stress? Not so much about with time and not so much about how often (for a layperson), but it has its calming value and impact on slowing down a little. I know the idea of the need to be productive and useful in it is very present today.
Things are done more consciously and to eat is something that comes first. Especial in a "fastfood" time, where it is suggested that the most less problem you have is to just your food, timely regulations have their benefit. Thought of not eating if the time is over, its a good way the discipline down the reasoning where are no reasons.

I would put timely at the first place, reducing on the second place in a step by step journey. It has more impact on livelihood as to let the first be ignored and still hurry on with a snarling belly and the though "I do it for the benefit of all beings, may I safe them all, I should not wast time"

When we look at the suttas, we will see just "timely eating" (without reference which time), especial for layman.
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 31, 2012 2:39 pm

jason c wrote:hi everyone,
thanks for the replies, i have often thought this precept had another lesson. the buddha lived a life of luxury he had all the food he could ever want and ate whenever he wanted, this not putting an end to his suffering he went out and began the life of an ascetic living off of bird droppings and at times 1 grain of rice per day. this only led to sickness and had no profitibility, it did not put an end to his suffering. finding the middle way, not taking too much food and not taking too little was the practice that led to his enlightenment. i believe the buddha saw many beings living with too much and he saw many beings living with not enough. so he created the order of monks , because most of us come from plentiful lifestyles we view the limited food of a monk as a restriction, but the order of monks and nuns is open to people of all backgrounds, and one coming from a life of extreme poverty would find salvation from hunger by joining, they would not view this as a dicipline but as the appropriate amount of food for survival. with this knowledge i try and live a similar lifestyle not too much but not to little. with my lifestlyle; job, kids ,level of physical activity, i cannot always follow a particular time schedule for my meals (my kids usually come first) but i do only take two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, this i have found works for my individual body and the amount of food i take depends on different factors (cold weather, hot weather, much activity, less activity etc...). i also find the empty stomach is agreeable for my morning and evening sits. i like to think that the meal i skip, the new pair of shoes i don't buy, the new bathroom that i don't install, is left for some other being that really needs these things.
this is my personal interpretation of this precept and eating at (the forbidden time) has no real benifit to practice other than a level of personal comfort in seated meditation. it seems to have great benefit with large groups of men and women begging for there meals, keeping order and not inconviencing others, but there does not seem to be any other reason one should not take a meal say at 1 pm.
there seems no reason for a layperson to adopt this precept into his or her lifestyle.

thoughts on this, metta
jason

You have to remember the context, being in the order of Mendicants does not guarantee food, the mendicants can not store or cook food for themselves. the rule only stipulates that they can eat at a certain time, not that they will have food then.
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby jason c » Thu May 31, 2012 7:36 pm

hey cittasanto,
i suppose the timeframe can force compassion to arise in devotees, if we dont get the food to them on time the poor folks will go hungry for the night. and if nobody gives, the monks move on or starve to death. so the timeframe could also be to solicit compassion.

hey hanzee,
i'm having a hard time fidguring out your message, i believe its the language barrier. but thanks for the reply

metta,
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 31, 2012 8:31 pm

jason c wrote:hey cittasanto,
i suppose the timeframe can force compassion to arise in devotees, if we dont get the food to them on time the poor folks will go hungry for the night. and if nobody gives, the monks move on or starve to death. so the timeframe could also be to solicit compassion.

hey hanzee,
i'm having a hard time fidguring out your message, i believe its the language barrier. but thanks for the reply

metta,
jason

No it was clearly to stop the mendicants being a neucance according to the vinaya, and as a form of restraint.
there are ten reasons the rules could be layed down for, and there are quite easy to find on Access to insight, or on here.
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby jason c » Thu May 31, 2012 11:29 pm

dear cittasanto,
if the rules were set up strictly to keep the monks from being a nuicence and as a form of restraint. how did monks travel in the old forest days when going from one monestary to another,what if they became lost should they simply die. i've read of monks searching for forest greens, herbs and roots, wild mushrooms to supliment there daily alms rice, i've even read about nuns preparing meals. if they are meant not to be a burden why not gather a weeks worth of food, prepare meals at appropriate times, eat , clean up and go back to meditating this seems less of a burdon on the laypeople and there is less likelyhood of monks and nuns becoming malnourished. this must be linked to the spreading of the dhamma, and arousing generosity in others. otherwise this forbidden eating time seems silly to me.
i was also searching for the 10 exceptions to this rule and could not find this anywhere, the answer to my question may be in this info, all i've found is that if a monk is sick he may break the eating rule.

any info you could provide would be helpful,
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby manas » Thu May 31, 2012 11:56 pm

Hi jason, all,

however the rule came about, it works. I mean, ime, if I eat the evening meal, then try to sit meditation that night, the mind is shabby at best, or dull at worst. But - if I have kept to the 'eight-precepter rule' and ate only breakfast and lunch, and nothing after, so that the stomach is completely empty by sundown - then, the mind is clearer, brighter, and is capable of sitting meditation properly.

Two other points. 1. It makes sense to have the biggest meal at lunch time, when the digestive power is strongest. 2. It is not as tough as it sounds, if you take advantage of what the Buddha allowed after mid-day such as (no pulp - filtered) juices of fruits or juices of leaves, herbal teas (there are some that allay hunger pangs), a few allowable candies if you feel desperate for the feeling of eating something...anyway, I am experimenting with gradually moving closer to this regime and so far, I just keep feeling better and better, physically and mentally. But, the first couple of days was tough, I must say. One has to get used to it.

One last thing: we really do not need three main meals a day, unless we are doing heavy physical labour as our main occupation, imo. Most of us in modern society could easily forgo the evening meal, and not starve as a result. For me, the difficulty of the first few days was all this emotional stuff coming up, that would normally have been supressed by stuffing down some food. That seems to have passed now. I will see how it goes, but I am warming to this routine, and recommend it, however: if you are sugar-sensitive, hyper or hypo glycemic, or diabetic, please consult medical advice first...just to be safe.

metta. :anjali:
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what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby GraemeR » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:34 am

Folks,

You should also remember that in Thailand you don't need to eat so much or so often due to the climate.

In a cold western country you need something in the evening to eat or you wake up cold and shivering.

With Forest monasteries in Thailand monks only eat breakfast!

Graham
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby jason c » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:56 am

hi manas,
i was not disagreeing with the cutting back of our food intake, developing a true sense of our individual bodies needs is an important step in cultivating a meditative practice, and i personally find it very benificial. i was trying to get to the heart of the importance of the strict monastic rules, in particular the no eating after noon and seeing if in todays society it would still be deemed necessary or if it is more or less followed as a tradition. i have little interest in buddhism, i do however have a great deal of interest in the teachings of the buddha. not for the monastics but for me as a layperson. i am trying to disect the teachings to their core and find the ultimate truth. i also would like to find out if it is possible to reach the ultimate truth as a layperson or if it becomes necessary to ordain at a certain level. i have personally began a process of trying to simplify my life, cutting the unneccessary out, i am however due to past karma, a husband , a father basically a family man and i have no desire to remove this aspect from my life. i find the challenges of practicing as a layperson to be seemingly limitless, but the buddha was a begger and he advocated this particular lifestyle and i would like to find out just why this is, and if it is necessary .
any arahants out there,
jason
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:57 am

Hi Jason,

As people have said, it's a monastic rule, which is also usually followed by people on meditation retreats. There are many other monastic rules for full Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis, which have various history to them.

I think that your questions are missing the point. Apart from the small number of major rules about sex, stealing, etc, the details of most of the monastic rules are arbitrary, and there is no "ultimate truth" behind eating at certain times, or, to take one of the funnier examples, the rule that a bhikkhu should not teach the Dhamma to someone holding an umbrella:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ti.html#pr
57. I will not teach Dhamma to a person with an umbrella in his hand who is not ill: a training to be observed.

On the other hand, they are (according to those who have chosen to be a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni, and are hence voluntarily taking on these rules) conducive to a mindful, blameless, lifestyle. And certainly I have that experience with taking 8 precepts on mediation retreats.

If they are arbitrary, why not change them? Partly, in my opinion because they are arbitrary. They prevent a bhikkhu/bhikkhuni/retreatant from just doing exactly what he/she wants. Which is part of the training.

:anjali:
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Re: what is the relevence of eating before noon?

Postby hanzze_ » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:47 am

Its lesser funny than sad, if a Bhikkhu teaches somebody who holds an umbrella. It's a respect of "Dhamma and Sangha comes first and do not teach to somebody who has just other problems" rule, and it looks like some Bhikkhus did not understand. I am sure there would be the need of additional rules in this group, like do tot teach somebody how has not turn of his cellphone or do not teach for the propose of broadcast... But that might be offtopic, but catches the point, that there are often deeper meanings behind as we might see at the first moment.
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