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Little story about food

fivebellsfivebells Veteran
edited June 2013 in Diet & Habits
I'm staying with some friends at the moment, and they also have a niece visiting who is fascinated by the fact that I only eat one meal a day. We all went to the library yesterday evening and settled down in the children's area. The parrot hand-puppet she was driving brought me every single toy in the joint which represented a food stuff. Took her about 20 minutes to ferret every item out. It must have primed me for to think about food, because as we were leaving, I experienced a strong desire to get fried rice takeout from the Chinese restaurant across the street from the library. I initially took this desire as actual hunger, and didn't realize the actual causes and conditions until this morning. :)
Invincible_summerkarmablues

Comments

  • howhow Veteran
    @fivebells
    Dependent origination rings a dinner bell again!

    I eat according to breakfast, lunch & dinner times. ( yeah it's constipated thinking)
    I thought I ate only to satiate and never to be full but a friend of mine only eats when she becomes hungry. This has made me look at how often I sit down to eat when I am not actually hungry at all. This makes me question what satiating really is.
    My system means that my thoughts for food acquisition are pretty quiet but I suspect trying it her way might teach me a thing or two.
    Invincible_summerfederica
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    I eat some good things like a handful of grape tomato when I pass through the kitchen. But my downfall is late at night when my medicines make me drugged but hard to sleep. In those times I am restless and I again and again get out of bed and have a snack, not the worst snack such as chips, but still some fat like peanut butter, almonds, olives, or cheese. I've kept the weight I lost when I was on ritalin staying off of me. It helped to stop eating large portions. At a restaurant I usually eat all the fries and like 1/3 of a burger (this is at our fabulous local diner).

    So late at night I become a zombie and hopefully I don't fall down the stairs. But that's when I take in most of my calories.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited June 2013
    how said:

    @fivebells
    Dependent origination rings a dinner bell again!

    I eat according to breakfast, lunch & dinner times. ( yeah it's constipated thinking)
    I thought I ate only to satiate and never to be full but a friend of mine only eats when she becomes hungry. This has made me look at how often I sit down to eat when I am not actually hungry at all. This makes me question what satiating really is.
    My system means that my thoughts for food acquisition are pretty quiet but I suspect trying it her way might teach me a thing or two.

    We don't "need" food - at least, not in the way we view food, here in the West. A person can actually completely go without any solid food sustenance for at least 14 days, with no apparent ill-effects - providing that they are a healthy individual to begin with, and they also have a supply of fluids/water during that time.

    I stated this, elsewhere:
    I fast twice a week. At the most, on those days, I eat an amount equivalent to around 500 calories.
    But there have been days when I have merely drunk tea and/or water.
    It's a good way to train the body that going without, won't kill you.

    We eat/consume far too much food here in the West, anyway. We are spoiled by a glut of produce, an obscene amount of which, gets wasted and thrown away, on a daily basis.The high amount of foodstuffs disposed of - particularly by restaurants, food chains and supermarkets, is nothing short of inhumanly criminal.
    We as consumers are excessively governed by "Sell by/Use by/Best before" dates.
    When was the last time anyone picked an apple or dug up a potato with a use by date on it? No. Exactly.

    Common sense and a little bit of know-how will tell you when food's good, or otherwise. But far too many people of this generation, rely on printed dates on packaging. If this generation were to ask 'Mom or dad' about such dates on food packaging when THEY were young - they'd laugh.
    Sure...an apple, one day past it's recommended date is almost 100% guaranteed to be absolutely fine. Raw prawns may be another matter. But it's common sense!

    And this fast diet I'm on, is also making me conscious about the quality of the food I eat, the amount I 'need' and the best way to prepare it. So my fridge is actually less packed with extraneous stuff than it has ever been.

    It's good!
    riverflowInvincible_summer
  • I think taking one meal a day is a very admirable practice, especially for a lay person. Personally, I haven't really dealt with my attachment to food. But I do eat healthily with I'd say about 70 per cent of my diet consisting of fruits and vegetables. I don't eat oversized meals either, but I can't yet imagine myself going on just one meal a day as part of normal daily life. When on a retreat though, I find it easy to limit food intake but that's because I'm in a different frame of mind as compared to normal life. Plus it's also a lot easier when the entire group is observing the same rules.

    In the Dhammadayada Sutta, the Buddha praised a monk who decided not to eat the food that was given to him by the Buddha though he was in fact feeling hungry and weak. The Buddha praised this monk by reason that "the will power that he has demonstrated shall contribute to the fewness of his wishes, contentment, effacement, easy support and arousal of energy".

    The Buddha laid down thirteen ascetic practices which may be adopted to help quicken progress along the path. The training rule of taking one meal a day is one which can be adopted by both monks and laypeople.
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited June 2013
    There is nothing magical about one meal a day, and the story above about the Buddha praising a monk for being stupid enough to refuse food even though the monk was weak from hunger flies totally against Buddha's own great enlightenment when a woman gave him rice when he was fasting himself to death. Not every story in the sutras passes the common sense test.

    I've actually done a quick google, and there's no right answer to how often people should eat. After all, in the evolutionary battle a species that couldn't adapt to eating when it was available and going without when it was not is going to have a hard time. I don't think any doctor will agree eating one meal a day is the healthiest, though. The reason that became the standard in Buddha's time isn't because it's better for you, but because preparing and cleaning up after a meal is a chore and consumes time and needs to be organized. If you've ever had to get a whole group together for a meal day after day, like at a campground, you know it's a full time job.
    federicavinlynhowCitta
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    Cinorjer said:

    There is nothing magical about one meal a day, and the story above about the Buddha praising a monk for being stupid enough to refuse food even though the monk was weak from hunger flies totally against Buddha's own great enlightenment when a woman gave him rice when he was fasting himself to death. Not every story in the sutras passes the common sense test.

    I completely agree. it flies in the face of other teachings and contradicts them. Furthermore, it makes little sense, therefore, I'm prepared to concur that this is a 'subsequent addition' rather than an 'original teaching'.

    My opinion.
    YMMV.
    I've actually done a quick google, and there's no right answer to how often people should eat. After all, in the evolutionary battle a species that couldn't adapt to eating when it was available and going without when it was not is going to have a hard time. I don't think any doctor will agree eating one meal a day is the healthiest, though. The reason that became the standard in Buddha's time isn't because it's better for you, but because preparing and cleaning up after a meal is a chore and consumes time and needs to be organized. If you've ever had to get a whole group together for a meal day after day, like at a campground, you know it's a full time job.
    You're kidding, right?

    Most mothers would merely cite 'regular mealtimes in a busy family unit!'

    :D

  • I'm thinking about a group of people, dozens, not a family.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    Okay....Just saying that SAHM go through the same things too....

    I was speaking "Humorously"....

    :rolleyes: :whatever:
  • There definitely are benefits to eating one meal a day, but it's not for everyone, and I would not recommend it to another person unless their specific circumstances indicated they would benefit from it.

    Firstly, not only do you get all the preparation, eating and cleaning out of the way in one go, you also get all the digestion out of the way. The digestive system benefits from the 20 hour rest it gets every day, and there is generally greater clarity of mind once it settles down. This is not a huge benefit to everyone, only to those who wish to concentrate for extended periods. It's of particular benefit to me, because my digestive system seems to be quite slow, and I tend to still feel full from dinner by the time breakfast rolls around.

    It also clears away most defilements related to food in one fell swoop. Good for me, because I have A LOT of them. But again, not a significant benefit for most people.

    It is not an extreme practice. I eat if I get hungry. It was a lot harder before stream entry. Since stream entry, it is a fairly easy matter to distinguish hunger from desire and act accordingly. (Though as the OP shows, it's far from a cinch. :) I did refrain from eating in that case because it would have been inconvenient to the group for me to stop to pick up Chinese, so I got lucky. :))

    I think the story of the monks and the Buddha's leftovers has to be read in context. Just before that story, the Buddha exhorts his disciples that his primary offering to them is his teaching, not material benefits. So the story is clearly an example of what he means by that. The story does not say that the monk who eats is bad, he's just not as good as the monk who doesn't. And the reasons the Buddha gives for this is hard to argue with: it leads to "long-term fewness-of-wishes, contentment, effacement, and ease-of-care for that bhikkhu."

    It doesn't really matter whether the Buddha taught the sutta or not, what matters is whether it makes sense to you. If it doesn't make sense to you, don't pick it up. A Mahayanaist in particular can't go around arguing that a position is invalid because the Buddha did not teach it (:)), but the fact is everyone's practice involves things the Buddha did not teach.

    Appealing to evolutionary pressures doesn't really make sense in a Buddhist context, because a core goal of Buddhist practice is release from the struggle to survive and proliferate. The futility of this struggle is the heart of samvega, the emotion which led the Buddha to practice in the first place.

    Anyway, I agree with @federica that we have much more flexibility in our feeding schedules than we usually allow. Heck, if you're sufficiently obese, you can go an entire year without eating!

    (Not that I'm recommending that. Please let's not turn this into another dietary-speculation/you're-fatshaming-me thread.)
    Invincible_summerkarmablues
  • maartenmaarten Veteran
    edited June 2013
    @fivebells,
    thanks, that's interesting to read!

    Regarding the story about the monk who refused food, I think that in some occasions it can be more skillful to train your willpower than to nourish your body. It doesn't mean that we should always be starving ourselves and training our willpower.

    I´d say my willpower is rather low when it comes to food. I do have an ingrained craving for healthy food, but a lot of my eating habits (coffee, sweets, late dinners) are more driven by my mood than by my needs. It's interesting to read about the benefits of eating one meal a day, because I often feel better after I have eaten something, so I have not felt very motivated to apply more discipline to my eating habits.
    karmablues
  • @maarten: yes, I'm the same when it comes to mood-driven eating. The one-meal-a-day policy just puts that whole class of behaviors out of my mind, which is very useful.
  • howhow Veteran
    The question for me about the food is often like my own issues with the web.

    Do I organize my world to limit the arising of craving which makes my practise about craving avoidance
    or
    do I allow cravings their endless birthing, life and passing, where my practise is about
    the transcendence of craving.

    Each has positive & negative possibilities. For me, the latter, when possible has unfolded as utterly transformative whereas the former has often been more of a practise maintenance program.

    I write this not to propose one over the other, but to soften the possible asceticism of seeing either one as the way..
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited June 2013
    @how, what do you mean by "transcendence of craving?" To "allow cravings their endless birthing, life and passing" sounds like just letting dependent origination run as it is. How is that transformative? All of the effective work I've done with dependent origination has come from meddling with the steps before birth. Once birth happens, at least some suffering is unavoidable. Not that I've ended all suffering. I'm addicted to the internet, too. :hiding:
  • howhow Veteran
    edited June 2013
    @ fivebells
    I am surprised you aren't rushing to embrace the "Mad Max" school of Buddhism.
    But seriously..
    Does one's practise, center on avoiding conditions where craving has arisen for you or does your practise center on not identifying with or fiddling with them when they have arisen.. Neither are letting D.O. run wild. The question of difference here is the semantics of whether my not fiddling with the steps of D.O. is any different from your version of meddling. I assume not.

    This really comes down to asking if a Buddhist practise thats the rigid effort to control the chaos and fluidity of our egocentric view of existence, is actually just exchanging worldly cravings for a spiritual ones?

    What really relegates stream entrants to x amount of time on the treadmill?

    PS just to be a hypocrite, I am going over to the dark side soon as I plan to test my own internet addiction this summer with the "Off" switch.

    Cheers
    H
    Invincible_summer
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited June 2013
    Oh, I understand what you mean, now. Yes, deliberately putting yourself in situations which trigger samsara can be an incredibly useful source of karma to meddle with.

    I'm curious about the steps you take in fiddling with DO. Generally when I catch some samsara running* and my attention is stable enough, I am able to stop the process, retrigger, catch it at an earlier stage, put it under the microscope, look for subtler triggers in order to catch it earlier, and refashion the name-and-form associated with it (intention, attention, fabrications, perceptions) into something more skillful. How does it work for you?

    As for what relegates a stream entrant to time on the treadmill, the canonical answer is whatever it takes to achieve the attenuation and eventual eradication of ill will and sensuality (the fetters associated with the next two stages.) :) I recognize this is a very doctrinaire answer, but this is actually what I'm trying to do, now.

    * Usually because it hurts. The internet is a problem in this approach, because it hardly ever hurts.
  • howhow Veteran
    edited June 2013
    @fivebells
    I am not suggesting to deliberately put yourself in situations to trigger samsara, rather than to watch that our very efforts to avoid samsara don't actually create more samsara just as the avoidance of a controlling thought can become just as controlling.
    The same reasoning would go that the allowance of the controling thought to exist without our energizing of it through identifying with it, deprives it of the power to control anything.


    When craving arises (your particular example from D.O.), for it to progress into suffering requires our identification with it. Craving remains simply what it is with no particular inertia to move beyond this state without our participation with it. The meditation allows for craving to simply be left for what it is without us moving it into attachment through identifying with it. (And since fivebells is a nautical term) The various links of dependent origination when not energized by our likes and dislikes no longer control the wheel of the ship but instead remain as the simple cargo that they are.

    Invincible_summer
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited June 2013
    Oh, oh, when you said "allow cravings their endless birth and passing," you meant the birth and passing of the cravings themselves, not the continuation into becoming, birth, and death and the entire mass of suffering in the later links of DO. I get it now. Thanks.
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited June 2013
    Cinorjer said:

    There is nothing magical about one meal a day, and the story above about the Buddha praising a monk for being stupid enough to refuse food even though the monk was weak from hunger flies totally against Buddha's own great enlightenment when a woman gave him rice when he was fasting himself to death. Not every story in the sutras passes the common sense test.


    As fivebells already pointed out the context of that sutta must be taken into account. We should also distinguish between the Buddha's situation from the monk who was weak and hungry. The Buddha's extreme fasting, as described in the Mahasihanada Sutta, resulted in this:
    Because of eating so little my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems. Because of eating so little my backside became like a camel's hoof. Because of eating so little the projections on my spine stood forth like corded beads. Because of eating so little my ribs jutted out as gaunt as the crazy rafters of an old roofless barn. Because of eating so little the gleam of my eyes sank far down in their sockets, looking like a gleam of water which has sunk far down in a deep well. Because of eating so little my scalp shriveled and withered as a green bitter gourd shrivels and withers in the wind and sun. Because of eating so little my belly skin adhered to my backbone; thus if I touched my belly skin I encountered my backbone, and if I touched my backbone I encountered my belly skin. Because of eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell from my body as I rubbed.

    That is totally way different situation of the hungry monk in the other Sutta. And I'm sure fivebells who eats one meal a day doesn't look like that description of the Buddha either.
    Cinorjer said:

    .... flies totally against Buddha's own great enlightenment when a woman gave him rice when he was fasting himself to death.


    Exactly, Buddha "was fasting himself to death". This was not the situation of the hungry monk in the Sutta, nor could it be said that living on one meal a day would lead to becoming anywhere close to being nearly dead.

    I think it's also worth pointing out that when Buddha attained enlightenment after he stopped fasting, well, all he ate was one bowl of porridge! And this was his first meal in 49 days (J.i.68f.; DhA.i.71). So the strength gained with just one bowl of porridge after 49 days of fasting is enough for enlightenment. So the monk in the Sutta who refused the food surely would still have had enough strength to attain enlightenment if he had achieved the necessary skills for doing so.

    Considering the above and if we study the Buddha's teachings as a whole, we will be able to conclude that the Buddha was only opposed to very extreme forms of asceticism while moderate ascetic practices are deemed useful. Please consider the following teachings of the Buddha:

    From AN 10.94:
    "Is it true, [Vajjiyamaahita], what they say — that the recluse Gotama blames all asceticism and that he unreservedly condemns and reproves all ascetics who live a harsh austere life?"

    [Vajjiyamaahita replied:] "No, venerable sirs, the Blessed One does not blame all asceticism, nor does he unreservedly condemn and reprove all ascetics living a harsh austere life. What is blameworthy, the Blessed One blames; what is praiseworthy, he praises. By blaming what is blameworthy and praising what is praiseworthy, the Blessed One teaches with discrimination, he does not teach here in a one-sided way."

    Vajjiyamaahita then went to see the Buddha, told him about what he said and the Buddha confirmed that what Vajjiyamaahita said was indeed correct:

    "I do not say, householder, that all asceticism should be practiced; nor do I say of all asceticism that it should not be practiced... What I declare, householder, is that such an asceticism should not be practiced which makes unwholesome states grow and wholesome states wane. But an asceticism which makes unwholesome states wane and wholesome states grow, such asceticism, I declare, should be practiced."

    In the Sutta-Nipata, the Buddha is described, as follows, which suggests that after enlightenment he was a moderate ascetic:
    Come, let us (go and) see Gotama, who has legs like an antelope, who is thin, who is wise, living on little food, not covetous, the Muni who is meditating in the forest.

    In the Dhammapada (Chapter on the Holy Man), the Buddha praises several forms of moderate asceticism:

    The person who wears a robe made of rags, who is lean, with veins showing all over the body, and who meditates alone in the forest him do I call a holy man

    [my comment: "veins showing all over the body" probably caused by limited food intake.]

    .....

    He who holds aloof from householders and ascetics alike, and wanders about with no fixed abode and but few wants — him do I call a holy man.

    The Dalai Lama says this about fasting in the Mahayana tradition:
    The fasting practice known as nyungne, which involves eating only one meal on the first day and fasting completely on the second, is often done in conjunction with taking the eight Mahayana precepts... This is an excellent practice that, because it is simple to do, anyone can perform, yet at the same time can be a source of great merit and spiritual benefit.... Nyungne is an authentic and effective Buddhist practice implying the actions of our body, speech and mind that has been enthusiastically followed in India, Tibet and surrounding regions for many centuries past, and which those who are interested can easily undertake whereever they are today.

    Also, we hear of Tibetan monks who meditate in caves for more than 10 years. Some caves were so small that these monks had to sleep in the sitting posture (for more than 10 years!!). Surely, some might say that solitary confinement in small, dark caves for years and years is torturous and extreme. They might even say there's nothing "magical" about sitting alone in a dark cave for several years. But I would imagine the spiritual benefit they gained was immense.

    And what about those Tibetans that go on long distance prostration pilgrimages that last for more than one year? Again one might conclude that it's too extreme, not the Middle Path. But to be honest, I would say that Buddha and the Bodhisattvas would have praised all of these Tibetan practices and the courageous men and women of faith who undertake them. In fact, as the Buddha's teachings that I have quoted in this post show, these kinds of practices are entirely consistent with the Buddha's teachings.
    Invincible_summermaartenEvenThird
  • @karmablues I agree there's always been a thread of asceticism running through Buddhism, even from the beginning. We do talk about the Middle Way and how that doesn't mean rejecting the world, but the reality is Buddhists have always seen the austere, ascetic lifestyle as noble and praiseworthy. For many of us, non-attachment is proven by rejecting whatever it is we're attached to. It has worked for many generations of monks, so I can't say it's not a valid approach.
    karmablues
  • newtechnewtech Veteran
    fivebells said:

    There definitely are benefits to eating one meal a day, but it's not for everyone, and I would not recommend it to another person unless their specific circumstances indicated they would benefit from it.

    Firstly, not only do you get all the preparation, eating and cleaning out of the way in one go, you also get all the digestion out of the way. The digestive system benefits from the 20 hour rest it gets every day, and there is generally greater clarity of mind once it settles down. This is not a huge benefit to everyone, only to those who wish to concentrate for extended periods. It's of particular benefit to me, because my digestive system seems to be quite slow, and I tend to still feel full from dinner by the time breakfast rolls around.

    It also clears away most defilements related to food in one fell swoop. Good for me, because I have A LOT of them. But again, not a significant benefit for most people.

    It is not an extreme practice. I eat if I get hungry. It was a lot harder before stream entry. Since stream entry, it is a fairly easy matter to distinguish hunger from desire and act accordingly. (Though as the OP shows, it's far from a cinch. :) I did refrain from eating in that case because it would have been inconvenient to the group for me to stop to pick up Chinese, so I got lucky. :))

    I think the story of the monks and the Buddha's leftovers has to be read in context. Just before that story, the Buddha exhorts his disciples that his primary offering to them is his teaching, not material benefits. So the story is clearly an example of what he means by that. The story does not say that the monk who eats is bad, he's just not as good as the monk who doesn't. And the reasons the Buddha gives for this is hard to argue with: it leads to "long-term fewness-of-wishes, contentment, effacement, and ease-of-care for that bhikkhu."

    It doesn't really matter whether the Buddha taught the sutta or not, what matters is whether it makes sense to you. If it doesn't make sense to you, don't pick it up. A Mahayanaist in particular can't go around arguing that a position is invalid because the Buddha did not teach it (:)), but the fact is everyone's practice involves things the Buddha did not teach.

    Appealing to evolutionary pressures doesn't really make sense in a Buddhist context, because a core goal of Buddhist practice is release from the struggle to survive and proliferate. The futility of this struggle is the heart of samvega, the emotion which led the Buddha to practice in the first place.

    Anyway, I agree with @federica that we have much more flexibility in our feeding schedules than we usually allow. Heck, if you're sufficiently obese, you can go an entire year without eating!

    (Not that I'm recommending that. Please let's not turn this into another dietary-speculation/you're-fatshaming-me thread.)

    Hi fivebells:

    Im sorry but this sounded like a interesting topic haha.
    U are claiming u got into stream entry right?.

    If yes, in your line of teaching what specific event causes this stream entry?

    (I ask of the several different approaches, that is: "the person must experience all the jhanas, go to cessation and after emerging seeing all the links of dependent origination very clearly, the person doesn`t actually need to go throw cessation but yes seeing dependent origination and some of the links, the person doesnt necessarily need seeing dependent origination but only the 3 marks of existence, the person actually doesnt need strong insight, etc etc.

    Not mean to intrude or divert the topic, is just that its always interesting to hear that part.

    Take care.



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