Loathesomeness of Food

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Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:00 am

Just wondering if anyone has had any experience with the contemplation of the loathsome aspects of food either as a daily life practice or formal meditation. I'm interested specifically as it relates to a commitment to moderation in eating. Any feedback will be appreciated. Metta.
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby pink_trike » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:11 am

I did loathsomeness practices for many years and found them to be very beneficial at that time. However, speaking from my training and experiences as a psychotherapist, I no longer consider them to be healthy or appropriate for most Westerners except in the rare situation where the practitioner has a close consistent engaging student/teacher relationship with a Buddhist teacher who is very familiar with the Western psycho-cultural mileau and who understands that extreme practices are contraindicated and potentially harmful for a great many Westerners.
Last edited by pink_trike on Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:17 am

pink_trike wrote:I did loathsomeness practices for many years and found them to be very beneficial at that time. However, speaking from my training and experiences as a psychotherapist, I no longer consider them to be healthy or appropriate for most Westerners except in the rare situation where the practitioner has a close consistent engaging student/teacher relationship with a Buddhist teacher who is very familiar with the Western psycho-cultural mileau and who understands that extreme practices are contraindicated and potentially harmful for a great many Westerns.

Agreed. They can be quite dangerous.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:37 am

Greetings,

A good middle ground, perhaps... an extract from

AN 4.159: Bhikkhuni Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.159.than.html

"'This body, sister, comes into being through food. And yet it is by relying on food that food is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk, considering it thoughtfully, takes food — not playfully, nor for intoxication, nor for putting on bulk, nor for beautification — but simply for the survival & continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the holy life, [thinking,] 'Thus will I destroy old feelings [of hunger] and not create new feelings [from overeating]. I will maintain myself, be blameless, & live in comfort.' Then, at a later time, he abandons food, having relied on food. 'This body, sister, comes into being through food. And yet it is by relying on food that food is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said."


There is also the following extract from...

SN 12.63: Puttamansa Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.063.than.html

At Savatthi... "There are these four nutriments for the maintenance of beings who have come into being or for the support of those in search of a place to be born. Which four? Physical food, gross or refined; contact as the second, intellectual intention the third, and consciousness the fourth. These are the four nutriments for the maintenance of beings who have come into being or for the support of those in search of a place to be born.

"And how is physical food to be regarded? Suppose a couple, husband & wife, taking meager provisions, were to travel through a desert. With them would be their only baby son, dear & appealing. Then the meager provisions of the couple going through the desert would be used up & depleted while there was still a stretch of the desert yet to be crossed. The thought would occur to them, 'Our meager provisions are used up & depleted while there is still a stretch of this desert yet to be crossed. What if we were to kill this only baby son of ours, dear & appealing, and make dried meat & jerky. That way — chewing on the flesh of our son — at least the two of us would make it through this desert. Otherwise, all three of us would perish.' So they would kill their only baby son, loved & endearing, and make dried meat & jerky. Chewing on the flesh of their son, they would make it through the desert. While eating the flesh of their only son, they would beat their breasts, [crying,] 'Where have you gone, our only baby son? Where have you gone, our only baby son?' Now what do you think, monks: Would that couple eat that food playfully or for intoxication, or for putting on bulk, or for beautification?"

"No, lord."

"Wouldn't they eat that food simply for the sake of making it through that desert?"

"Yes, lord."

"In the same way, I tell you, is the nutriment of physical food to be regarded. When physical food is comprehended, passion for the five strings of sensuality is comprehended. When passion for the five strings of sensuality is comprehended, there is no fetter bound by which a disciple of the noble ones would come back again to this world.


I expect loathsomeness of food would most benefit one who currently had strong cravings towards food, in the hope of ultimately generating dispassion towards food and other cords of sensuality.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby pink_trike » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:45 am

Yes, but also the most harmful to people who have eating disorders that cause them to avoid food, or those who are attracted to extremes of all kinds. I probably sound like a broken record when I say this, but there was a time when these types of practices were given very selectively by teachers to those students they felt would benefit by them and withheld from those who might not benefit or who might be harmed by them. There are many practices and teachings that were never meant to be widely available to the unprepared masses regardless of their conditioning or ability.
Last edited by pink_trike on Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:52 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:47 am

Greetings Pink_trike,

pink_trike wrote:Yes, but also the most harmful to people who have eating disorders that cause them to avoid food, or those who are attracted to extremes of all kinds.


Right. The right medicine for the right illness.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby catmoon » Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:16 am

I find it difficult to meditate on the loathsomeness of food. How do you meditate on something you do not perceive? Of all the thousands of things one can stuff into one's face, I can think of maybe three that have some unpleasant qualities, and I thoroughly believe that the unpleasantness resides in me and not the food, because many people find those same foods delightful.

This meditation hits me as a completely alien concept. Food is all composed of practically identical atoms, the perception just has to do with how they are linked up and dancing today. The mathematics of a snot molecule is just as elegant and beautiful (actually much more so) than that of purest gold. I just don't get it...
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Ben » Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:04 am

Dear Khalil Bodhi
Thank you for raising this interesting thread!
Generally, i agree with what Mr Pink has said. I think its important to understand that some practices are like medicine and should only be applied in certain situations under the guidance of competant and knowledgable teacher.
Having said that, my own experience has been on some vipassana retreats the awareness of the loathsomeness of food manifested naturally. Outside of retreats I just maintain my usual vipassana practice which generates enough opportunity (I believe) to observe reality without having to directly engage in loathsomeness practices.
metta

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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby catmoon » Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:11 am

Ben wrote:Dear Khalil Bodhi

Having said that, my own experience has been on some vipassana retreats the awareness of the loathsomeness of food manifested naturally.

Ben


Oh that's a scream! :jumping:

Did you thank the chefs for their excellent instruction?
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Ben » Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:59 am

Why is it a scream?
The 'chefs' as you put it, are volunteers who are working from the same recipe book since I first began practicing in 1985. Having worked in the kitchens at Centres, the focus on the production of meals is nutrition rather than sensory experience. Most new students rave about the food on retreat but given it is the only sensory 'entertainment' of sorts, its no wonder.
Having practiced vipassana intensely for a number of years in an environment that supports one's practice, loathsomeness of food naturally arises.
The awareness of the loathsomeness of food, is not misplaced aversion due to body-image/eating disorder issues nor is it aversion as a result of food not being to one's liking. Underscoring the awareness of the loathsomeness of food is a base of equanimity.
As with anyone who serves on retreats, I share my merits with all those who served on the course, including the servers in the kitchen.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby pink_trike » Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:19 am

Ben wrote:The awareness of the loathsomeness of food, is not misplaced aversion due to body-image/eating disorder issues nor is it aversion as a result of food not being to one's liking. Underscoring the awareness of the loathsomeness of food is a base of equanimity.

Well said. I would add that it is also a heightened awareness (but as you point out - not an aversion) of food substance itself, and the relationship between food and bodily processes.

Does anyone know if "loathsome" is a precise translation?
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Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:46 am

I agree that in our culture at this time trying to develop aversion to food could be unwise. An abundance of every kind of food has brought with it a host of associated eating disorders as has already been mentioned. Some of them obvious, some of them more subtle, to dwell in aversion to food per se, without a context of wider Dhammic practice, is as unskillful as any other kind of aversion. Those countries where the loathsomness of bodily functions was practiced among Dhamma practitioners, paradoxically, had a far more narrow range of choice in terms of food in both quantity and type.
It can be helpful to envisage with neutral emotion the passage of a mouthful of food, from chewing, to bolus, to digestion and eventual elimination. To see this as simply part of the process of Anicca . But we have a culture that reinforces aversion in ways not intended by the Buddha's Sangha. They did not I suspect intend a situation whereby a section of the population is phobic about food.
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:02 am

Ben wrote:The awareness of the loathsomeness of food, is not misplaced aversion due to body-image/eating disorder issues nor is it aversion as a result of food not being to one's liking. Underscoring the awareness of the loathsomeness of food is a base of equanimity.

I agree. On retreat, eating mindfully, it becomes clear how tedious all this eating, excreting, cleaning that the body requires really is. And how weird chewing and swallowing is if you really pay attention to what the tounge, teeth, etc, are doing. Not in an aversive way, it's just the way it is...

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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:16 am

http://www.yellowrobe.com/pali-canon/sutta-piaka/majjhima-nikaya/255-sabbasava-sutta-all-the-taints.html wrote:Taints to be abandoned by using
13. “What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by using? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, uses the robe only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of concealing the private parts.
14. “Reflecting wisely, he uses almsfood neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for ending discomfort, and for assisting the holy life, considering: ‘Thus I shall terminate old feelings without arousing new feelings and I shall be healthy and blameless and shall live in comfort.’15. “Reflecting wisely, he uses the resting place only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of warding off the perils of climate and for enjoying retreat.
16. “Reflecting wisely, he uses the medicinal requisites only for protection from arisen afflicting feelings and for the benefit of good health.
17. “While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not use the requisites thus, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who uses them thus. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by using.


It is a standard practice in this form, i.e. everyone is to do it - it is for everyone to wisely reflect why they do and do not use the requisites, for what reason, and is that reason conductive to health, to well being, to survival. is it enough, is it not enough, is it an appropriate quantity.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby catmoon » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:23 am

Ben wrote:Why is it a scream?

Ben


Oh sorry. I thought you had just found an extremely polite way to say that on some retreats the food was really truly awful. Maybe I read a tone of voice into what you were saying that you never intended.
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:34 am

pink_trike wrote:Does anyone know if "loathsome" is a precise translation?

It is and isn't, Asubha is a compound of

A = a negative prefixed to nouns, adjectives; and participles. so could be 'not x'
&
Subha = Beauty / beautifull

so i could be "that which is not beautiful"
but it should be mentioned that words such as loathsomness etc which are used as a translation are a match, but the problem is they do seam to lend themselves to be used in a extream way by some characters such as those who tend to hate things which is why there is a sort of argument about how to translate the word so it is accurate and benefiscial in all its forms of practice when used appropriately, suh as the practice of using the four requisites which is a standard one and part of the asubha practice
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Ben » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:04 am

catmoon wrote:
Ben wrote:Why is it a scream?

Ben


Oh sorry. I thought you had just found an extremely polite way to say that on some retreats the food was really truly awful. Maybe I read a tone of voice into what you were saying that you never intended.


No problems Catmoon.
Online text-based communications are a minefield because we can't read body language or vocal intonation. It sometimes makes for interesting discussions!

Manapa wrote:so i could be "that which is not beautiful"

In Bhikkhu Nanamoli's translation of the Visuddhimagga, the rendering is "Perception of repulsiveness in nutriment"

Here is Nyantiloka Thera's rendering of 'asubha'
Asubha

Asubha (adj.) [a + subha] impure, unpleasant, bad, ugly, nasty; nt. ˚ŋ nastiness, impurity. Cp. on term and the Asubha -- meditation, as well as on the 10 asubhas or offensive objects Dhs. trsl. 70 and Cpd. 121 n. 6. -- S iv.111 (asubhato manasikaroti); v.320; Sn 341; Sdhp 368. -- subhâsubha pleasant unpleasant, good & bad Sn 633; J iii. 243; Miln 136.
-- ânupassin realising or intuiting the corruptness (of the body) It 80, 81; DhA i.76. -- kathā talk about impurity Vin iii.68. -- kammaṭṭhāna reflection on impurity DhA iii.425. -- nimitta sign of the unclean i. e. idea of impurity Vism 77. -- bhāvanā contemplation of the impurity (of the body) Vin iii.68. -- saññā idea of impurity D iii.253, 283, 289, 291. -- saññin having an idea of or realising the impurity (of the body) It 93.
-- http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :2462.pali


BTW, the section on 'Perception of repulsiveness in nutriment' in the Visuddhimagga is at the beginning of Chapter 11.
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:10 am

Thank you everyone for the excellent replies. I don't intend to deeply cultivate the perception of loathsomeness of food on a regular basis (I can certainly appreciate the dangers that would arise from doing so without the guidance of a qualified teacher) but am interested in using it as a tool to prevent my mind from being consumed by sensual pleasure while eating. I do find that simply reflecting on the process of mastication and digestion helps to reframe the experience of eating and gives me enough space to disentangle myself from the sticky strands of sensuality when I'm eating a particularly tasty food. Anyway, thank you all again. Be well. :anjali:

Mike
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby catmoon » Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:27 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Anyway, thank you all again. Be well. :anjali:

Mike


You are most most welcome, and may you also be well.

Did I mention I still just don't get it? :toast:
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Annapurna » Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:19 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Thank you everyone for the excellent replies. I don't intend to deeply cultivate the perception of loathsomeness of food on a regular basis (I can certainly appreciate the dangers that would arise from doing so without the guidance of a qualified teacher) but am interested in using it as a tool to prevent my mind from being consumed by sensual pleasure while eating. I do find that simply reflecting on the process of mastication and digestion helps to reframe the experience of eating and gives me enough space to disentangle myself from the sticky strands of sensuality when I'm eating a particularly tasty food. Anyway, thank you all again. Be well. :anjali:

Mike


Dear Mike,

ask yourself what you're really hungry for. Food for pleasure is often a substitute, a compensation for something else that you miss, in contrast to eating because you're hungry.

A good method is this:

hang this image at the fridge (etc)

Image

Drop a coin in a box each time you resist to eat, and donate it after a while.

I can promise you this will make you feel truly good.

Just so long you don't starve yourself to death or go bankrupt, of course. ;)

Best wishes for your efforts.

A

edited for typos
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