Loathesomeness of Food

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
Freawaru
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Freawaru » Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:42 am

Hi Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Freawaru,
Freawaru wrote:But it is not about seeing things as they are - at least not in the way it is practiced. Feeding is an instinct. A positive instinct. Even our preference for sugar is instinctual. I think to watch instincts at work is an advanced level because they are very deep. To be just mindful of them would not require to see them as loathsome, nor would seeing them as they are. But that is just my idea of it. If you don't get eating disorders afterwards it is okay, I suppose.

Well, looking at our intentions ("instincts" if you like), is a key part of the teachings that I have had. (This is the standard Mahasi approach.) I think you're over-interpreting the word "loathsome". As I said, if you eat mindfully on a retreat you start to realise the drawbacks, including the way the nice food draws your mind to it, and the not so nice repels it, the amount of time it takes, the way it makes you feel sleepy afterwards, how you have to excrete it later, etc, etc. Perhaps "Tediousness of food" would be a better translation...

I might add that I have not done this as a "primary practise", just at mealtimes. Other times it's regular walking and sitting. If I were to use it as my primary meditation practise I'd want to have the guidance of a teacher.

Metta
Mike


I agree - this is a very good practice. As you know I like the Mahasi approach.

I would also include really tasting the food into this kind of practice. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu teaches this approach in "Practical Dependent Origination" (if I recall rightly it was this book of his). Though the Thais probably suffer less in this way - but our modern fast food cultures leads us to just gore it down without really tasting. To become aware of the sense gate "taste" one has to develop it - not to destroy it, right?

It is also interesting to observe the need of the body during different situations. When I am in stress I note an increase of desire for sugar and chocolate, during the winter (less sunshine) I notice a desire for fish, but less milk, And when I do a lot of sport I need food with more substance (always say no to chocolate then).

Freawaru

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Paul Davy
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Paul Davy » Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:22 pm

Greetings,

I don't recall this being mentioned in the topic to date and can't seem to find it online, but I have a few spare minutes, so I'll type it out.

SN 54.9: Vessali Sutta (Nanamoli translation)

The Blessed One was once living as Vesali in the Hall with the Pointed Roof in the Great Wood. It was an occasion when he had talked to the bhikkhus in many ways on contemplation of loathsomeness (in the body), commending contemplation on loathsomeness and the maintenance of it in being. Then he told the bhikkhus: "Bhikkhus, I wish to go into retreat for half a month. I am not to be approach by anyone except by him who brings me almsfood."

"Even so, Lord," they replied, and they did as they had been instructed.

Then those bhikkhus thought over what the Blessed One had said in commendation of contemplating the loathsomeness (of the body), and they dwelt devoted to the pursuit of maintaining in being that contemplation. So doing, they became humiliated, ashamed and disgusted with this body, and they sought the use of the knife (to take their lives). On a single day as many as ten, twenty or thirty bhikkhus used the knife.

At the end of the half month the Blessed One rose from retreat, and he addressed the venerable Ananda thus: "Ananda, why has the Sangha of bhikkhus become so thinned out?"

The venerable Ananda told him what had happened, and he added: "Lord, let the Blessed One announce another way for this Sangha of bhikkhus to find establishment in final knowledge."

"In that case, Ananda, summon as many bhikkhus as are living in the neighbourhood of Vesali to meet in the assembly hall."

The venerabler Ananda did so, and when they had met, he informed the Blessed One. The Blessed One then went to the assembly hall where he sat down on a seat made ready. When he had done so, he addressed the bhikkhus thus:

"Bhikkhus, when this mindfulness of breathing is maintained in being and developed, it offers peace and a superior goal, it is unadulterated (by loathsomeness) and a pleasant abiding, and it causes evil unwholesome mental objects to vanish as soon as they arise, just as when dirt and dust are blown about in the last month of the hot season, a great shower out of season makes them vanish at once as soon as they arise."

Metta,
Retro. :)
“I hope, Anuruddha, that you are all living in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes.” (MN 31)

What is the final conviction that comes when radical attention is razor-edge sharp? That the object of the mind is mind-made (manomaya). (Ven. Ñāṇananda)

"If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today." (Thomas Sowell)

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pink_trike
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby pink_trike » Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:40 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

I don't recall this being mentioned in the topic to date and can't seem to find it online, but I have a few spare minutes, so I'll type it out.

SN 54.9: Vessali Sutta (Nanamoli translation)

The Blessed One was once living as Vesali in the Hall with the Pointed Roof in the Great Wood. It was an occasion when he had talked to the bhikkhus in many ways on contemplation of loathsomeness (in the body), commending contemplation on loathsomeness and the maintenance of it in being. Then he told the bhikkhus: "Bhikkhus, I wish to go into retreat for half a month. I am not to be approach by anyone except by him who brings me almsfood."

"Even so, Lord," they replied, and they did as they had been instructed.

Then those bhikkhus thought over what the Blessed One had said in commendation of contemplating the loathsomeness (of the body), and they dwelt devoted to the pursuit of maintaining in being that contemplation. So doing, they became humiliated, ashamed and disgusted with this body, and they sought the use of the knife (to take their lives). On a single day as many as ten, twenty or thirty bhikkhus used the knife.

At the end of the half month the Blessed One rose from retreat, and he addressed the venerable Ananda thus: "Ananda, why has the Sangha of bhikkhus become so thinned out?"

The venerable Ananda told him what had happened, and he added: "Lord, let the Blessed One announce another way for this Sangha of bhikkhus to find establishment in final knowledge."

"In that case, Ananda, summon as many bhikkhus as are living in the neighbourhood of Vesali to meet in the assembly hall."

The venerabler Ananda did so, and when they had met, he informed the Blessed One. The Blessed One then went to the assembly hall where he sat down on a seat made ready. When he had done so, he addressed the bhikkhus thus:

"Bhikkhus, when this mindfulness of breathing is maintained in being and developed, it offers peace and a superior goal, it is unadulterated (by loathsomeness) and a pleasant abiding, and it causes evil unwholesome mental objects to vanish as soon as they arise, just as when dirt and dust are blown about in the last month of the hot season, a great shower out of season makes them vanish at once as soon as they arise."

Metta,
Retro. :)

What happened to the Buddha's "divine eye" that could supposedly see a perfect stranger's former and future lives? Why didn't he know what happened, and why didn't he foresee this mass suicide inspired by his teachings?
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Paul Davy
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Paul Davy » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:08 am

Greetings Pink Trike,

pink_trike wrote:What happened to the Buddha's "divine eye" that could supposedly see a perfect stranger's former and future lives? Why didn't he know what happened, and why didn't he foresee this mass suicide inspired by his teachings?


All good questions.

The Theravada tradition generally defines the degree of the Buddha's omniscience something along the lines of "he could know whatever he put his mind to knowing", so one could argue that if he'd known that he should have put his mind to knowing it, then he could have known it - but he didn't know he should, so he didn't put his mind to knowing it.

All things said and done, I think claims about the extent of the Buddha's omniscience are generally overblown, and the Theravadin claims are certainly at the more conservative end of the scale, with respect to the claims made by other traditions.

Metta,
Retro. :)
“I hope, Anuruddha, that you are all living in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes.” (MN 31)

What is the final conviction that comes when radical attention is razor-edge sharp? That the object of the mind is mind-made (manomaya). (Ven. Ñāṇananda)

"If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today." (Thomas Sowell)

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pink_trike
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby pink_trike » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:13 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Pink Trike,

pink_trike wrote:What happened to the Buddha's "divine eye" that could supposedly see a perfect stranger's former and future lives? Why didn't he know what happened, and why didn't he foresee this mass suicide inspired by his teachings?

"he could know whatever he put his mind to knowing", so one could argue that if he'd known that he should have put his mind to knowing it, then he could have known it - but he didn't know he should, so he didn't put his mind to knowing it.

Sounds like an argument my neighbor's 14 year old would try to get away with when arguing with his mom about homework. :tongue:

Indeed, other traditions are bit more frothy with the divine eye bizness, but it clearly is in the suttras. Maybe he had a headache that day...
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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catmoon
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:07 am

So the validity of the sutta is taken as a given?

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tiltbillings
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:32 am

catmoon wrote:So the validity of the sutta is taken as a given?

Why wouldn't it be?
.


++++++++++++++++
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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catmoon
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:45 am

I can't go into that here. Except perhaps to mention Great Doubt.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:43 am

catmoon wrote:I can't go into that here. Except perhaps to mention Great Doubt.

Given the nature and subject of the text, it would suggest that it reflects an actual event.
.


++++++++++++++++
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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catmoon
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:57 pm

I'm sorry, I have about exhausted my limited ability to remain respectful and must now retire from the thread.
At least I'm doing better than the last time.

May wisdom be your guide and peace your path.

Cormac Brown
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Cormac Brown » Wed Jan 20, 2016 12:13 am

I'm posting on this old thread as it is one of the first results on Google when searching 'loathsomeness of food'.

I don't recall ever having read a sutta where the Buddha advises against asubha/unattractiveness contemplations, only suttas where he advises them as leading to the goal, as well as having subsidiary benefits. Based on this, I'd advise against warning people off asubha practices. They constitute what the Blessed One termed 'painful practice'. Most of us are so addicted to subha/attractive perceptions, that going the opposite way is bound to stir up some trouble - that's natural. But it's worth the trouble, and it's a lot less dangerous long-term than remaining stuck on sensuality.

As for the monks who killed themselves - learn from their mistake, don't emulate them. It's the only instance I've heard of something like this happening as a result of asubha practice. Look instead at the number of monks and nuns in the Therigatha/Theragatha who pursue the practice to great benefit. Look at the number of admirable monks in the Thai Forest tradition who have practiced it, and who advise it even to lay practitioners. My intuition is that any fear or trepidation regarding this practice is a defilement, Mara at work, afraid of losing his grip on you. You're going to go to extremes in the practice - that is just normal. It's called making mistakes. Some people are so afraid of going crazy that they don't practice. If I'm not mistaken, the Canon contains references to monks and nuns running amok from their dwellings in frustration at the turbulence of their practice. Which I think could be rephrased as: they went crazy. Temporarily. Subsequently, many of the same practised to arahantship.

My advice would be: Don't listen to the teachings of Western psychotherapy, listen to the teachings of the Buddha (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;). As he said, we laypeople are still full of defilement, else we'd be monks. Don't go saying you know something when you don't. Don't warn people off valid Dhamma: I've heard from an admirable monk that if you give people false teachings in this life, you'll be blind in your next one. We should all take care not to corrupt the Buddha's teachings.

The Son's Flesh sutta, so excellently pointed out by Paul, is to my knowledge one of the clearest teachings of the Buddha on how a practitioner should regard food so as to reach real benefits in the practice. Here, he states that comprehending food in this way would lead to anagami/non-return. We'd be naive to imagine reaching this sort of level in the practice isn't going to entail serious difficulty. But we shouldn't let that put us off.


See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... than.html;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

dhammarelax
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby dhammarelax » Wed Jan 20, 2016 6:07 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote: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.


I did a few times saying to myself "May I perceive the loathsome in the un loathsome" and then I sat to eat and everything tasted like paper, it was like eating inorganic things, not disgusting as such just taste less like just like eating elements sort of.

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dhammarelax
MN 38: "Abandoning harsh speech he abstains from harsh speech, he speaks words that are gentle, pleasant to the ear, and loveable as go to the heart, are courteous, desired by many and agreeable to many"

Cormac Brown
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Re: Loathesomeness of Food

Postby Cormac Brown » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:36 pm

dhammarelax wrote:
I did a few times saying to myself "May I perceive the loathsome in the un loathsome" and then I sat to eat and everything tasted like paper, it was like eating inorganic things, not disgusting as such just taste less like just like eating elements sort of.

dhammarelax


Seeing your food merely as elements seems to suggest very skilful practice to me. However, the uncleanness of the elements should be enough to make our skin crawl. Think of where they've been. How many intestinal/urinary tracts have they passed through? Over how many centuries?

The mind can prove very resistant to these contemplations. It's interesting how it resists the truth in order to uphold its perceptions of 'beautiful', 'delicious' and 'attractive', even though they're actually more stressful perceptions than their counterparts.


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