Why one meal a day?

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Anagarika
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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby Anagarika » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:30 am

I remember being in Thailand and being out at a Tesco with one of the farang Bhikkhus getting supplies for one of the refugee schools. We arrived at the Tesco at around 1130, looked around for a while and then mindlessly arrived at the Tesco cafeteria area at 1205. My Bhikkhu friend realized it was after midday, and he, in a nonplussed fashion, said he missed the deadline for lunch. I ate, and it was the guiltiest lunch I have ever had, knowing I could stuff my face while my friend sat with us very calmly watching us eat. He was a very disciplined Vinaya monk, a good Dhamma teacher, and this adherence to this rule was just one manifestation of his discipline. He also did and does a lot to help feed refugee kids in N. Thailand....perhaps he is mindful of how hungry they get sometimes. That day, no verbal complaints, no bad mood... just acceptance. I think these rules, some of which some might see as unnecessary, instill backbone in the practice. Some of the ascetic practices seem out of place in the modern world, but it is this disciplined distinction, to my mind, that makes some of these practices so important.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:37 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:That day, no verbal complaints, no bad mood... just acceptance. I think these rules, some of which some might see as unnecessary, instill backbone in the practice. Some of the ascetic practices seem out of place in the modern world, but it is this disciplined distinction, to my mind, that makes some of these practices so important.

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. We won't die if we don't eat for one day, but if we don't respect the rule then we're already dead.

In the other case, if you do fail in your discipline, don't grasp at failure either. Confess your offence, or for a lay person take the precepts again, and try to do better the next time you're faced with a situation where you might break your self-discipline. No one's standing behind us with a whip — if we don't want to train ourselves then we won't. If we want to overcome desire, then we need self-discipline, not discipline imposed by others.
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SarathW
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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby SarathW » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:43 am

Sadhu,Sadhu,Sadhu Bhante

You make it very clear for me now! :)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby lyndon taylor » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:58 am

I should be pointed out that for certain medical conditions, there is an exemption for eating after 12, however if you are a monk you have to get permission for the exemption from the Ajahn or head monk, who is not a doctor. Diabetes as an example it is highly recommended to have many small meals spread out over the day, your blood sugar can fall so low as to put you in a coma without food, also after 12 most temples allow you to drink most any liquids, which could include fruit juices, honey, or possibly even yoghurt drinks or Ice cream, don't ask me how ice cream becomes classified as a liquid, anyway, just thought I should add that.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:16 am

Zom wrote:There's one more thing stream-enterer eliminated. Grasping to rules and observances. Being horrified that you finished eating at 12.01 am is exactly this very thing, as I see it .) So, a stream-enterer is not like that. Vinaya rules are not "to be observed at the cost of your life", but they are guidelines how to do things in a right way. Keep in mind, that some of the rules Buddha offered to drop not long before final nibbana, so they are not important "by themselves".

The perfect response to wrong views regarding morality is found in the Suttanipāta: (Sn 845)
I do not say that you can attain purity
by views, traditions, insight, morality or conventions;
nor will you attain purity without these.
But by using them for abandonment, rather than as positions to hold on to,
you will come to be at peace without the need to be anything.

A Stream-winner would not be horrified after realising that he/she had broken the precept, but would not deny it, and would confess his/her offence while determining to be more mindful in the future. He/she would certainly not say, “This minor and lesser precepts are unimportant, after all the Buddha said that we might abandon them after his death if we wish.” Those were the careless words of Subhadda, a shameless monk who thought that the Buddha was too scrupulous.
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SarathW
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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby SarathW » Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:45 am

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
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby lyndon taylor » Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:52 am

We used to eat around 6am or a little later and then right at 11am so there was time for the chanted prayers and to finish eating well before 12am.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby 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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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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.

Postby 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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Indrajala
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Re: Eating after midday.

Postby 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.

Postby 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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