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Should Buddhists not eat onion and garlic?

I read somewhere that it's wrong for Buddhists to not these foods. Is true? If this so, why? Thanks! :)

Comments

  • edited March 2009
    Hi Lisa,
    Welcome on board. I'm veggie and have been so for a very long time. Also been a Buddhist for as long. I've occasionally heard such mutterings about garlic and onions myself but never a proper explanation.
    It's vague stuff, usually along the lines of it not being 'sattvic' food and conducive of lust or torpor or whatever.
    In any case, I've never read anything said by the Buddha about it. I grow garlic in my garden and value it as much for its flavour as its medicinal qualities.

    Namaste
    Kris
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited March 2009
    I think you will find that certain rules and regulations against eating certain foods were made due to the repulsive qualities of their properties.
    Have a look at [URL="http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc2/bmc2.ch04.html"]this[/URL] link, and also, here:

    [QUOTE][I]How is sexual misconduct related to diet? In the Shurangama Sutra (Mahayana school), The Buddha explains how the "Five Pungent Spices", including garlic and onions, are forbidden:

    Beings who seek samadhi should refrain from eating [the] five pungent plants of this world. If these five are eaten cooked, they increase one's sexual desire; if they are eaten raw, they increase one's anger. (2)[/I][/QUOTE]

    (from [URL="http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/BuddhismAnimalsVegetarian/Buddhist%20Diet.htm"]this[/URL] link)

    These regulations were originally implemented for the ordained. So a lay person really, should look to the Four Noble Truths, Take Refuge in the Triple Gem, and undertake to adhere to thge first 5 precepts (usually increased to the first 8 at times of festival celebrations, or important Buddhist events).

    This is sufficient.
    And no mean feat..... ;)


    Hope this helps.
  • edited March 2009
    Hi Fede,
    Interesting links. I especially liked this passage from the second one:
    [quote]Furthermore, the gods "will stay far away from them because they smell bad, [and] [b]hungry ghosts will hover around and kiss their lips[/b]".[/quote]
    Awesome. I like my garlic but to my knowledge have never had a snog from a hungry ghost. It's good at keeping colds and other minor ailments at bay though.

    Then this rather intriguing bit...
    [quote]These [b]demons[/b] might talk the misguided ones into consuming "[b]excrement[/b] and [b]urine[/b], or [b]meat[/b] and [b]wine[/b]" and justify it.[/quote]
    As if!!!

    I'll let you know how I get on ;-)

    Namaste
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited March 2009
    You know, that would explain why some people (who should know better), just talk a load of sh*t...... :lol:


    I would many a time include myself in the above category, BTW..... ;) :D
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited March 2009
    lisathevegan,

    In Theravada, the prohibition against eating onions applies only to [url=http://www.archive.org/stream/sacredbookseast20mulluoft/sacredbookseast20mulluoft_djvu.txt]monastics[/url]:

    [indent]34.

    i. Now at that time the Blessed One when,
    surrounded by a great assembly, he was preaching
    the Dhamma, was seated. And a certain Bhikkhu,
    who had eaten onions, sat down apart, thinking,
    ' Let not the Bhikkhus be annoyed 3 !'

    The Blessed One saw that Bhikkhu sitting apart ;
    and on seeing him, he said to the Bhikkhus, ' Why
    now, O Bhikkhus, is that Bhikkhu seated apart ? '

    ' This Bhikkhu, Lord, has eaten onions, and has

    1 This story forms the Introductory Story also to the Gagga
    Gataka (No. 155 in FausbolPs edition). On the superstition here
    condemned, see Dr. Morris's remarks in the ' Contemporary Review '
    for May, 1881.

    2 Gihi bhikkhave mahgalika.

    3 Vyabahiwsu is for vyabadhiwsu. See p. 320 of the edition
    of the text.



    1 54 tfULLAVAGGA. V, 34, 2.

    seated himself apart in order not to annoy the
    Bhikkhus.'

    ' But ought, O Bhikkhus, anything to be eaten,
    that will cause the eater to keep away from such
    a preaching of the Dhamma as this ?'

    ' No, indeed, Lord.'

    ' You are not, O Bhikkhus, to eat onions. Who-
    soever does so, shall be guilty of a dukka/a 1 .'

    2. Now at that time the venerable Sariputta
    had wind in his stomach. And the venerable Maha
    Moggallana went up to the place where the vener-
    able Sariputta was, and when he had come there,
    he said to the venerable Sariputta :

    * How did you formerly, friend Sariputta, get
    relief, when you had wind in the stomach ?'

    I By eating onions, my friend V

    They told this matter to the Blessed One.

    I 1 allow you, O Bhikkhus, to eat onions on ac-
    count of disease.'[/indent]

    But in general, there is nothing wrong with eating onions or garlic in Theravada.

    Jason
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited March 2009
    Mahayana is another story, though. Basically, they believe that the acids and chemicals in garlic will make sexual desire and anger stronger. Check out the [url=http://www.ymba.org/bns/bnstext.htm#N_44_]Brahma Net Sutra[/url] and the Surangama Sutra for more info.
  • edited March 2009
    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for that information. I found the 'note' on the 2nd link interesting:
    [quote]Note: Much of the publicized health benefits of garlic and other pungent roots may be [b]industry-inspired and/or commercial puffery[/b]. Buddhist practitioners, particularly those who recite mantras, are usually advised to avoid them altogether.[/quote]

    Whilst "commercial puffery" exists in all walks of life - garlic has been extolled by herbalists for centuries.
    I wonder if the reciters of mantra are particularly advised to avoid garlic, as chanting would spread the smell even more?

    Well, that's enough superstition for one day for me.

    The plain truth is that we all know the stuff keeps vampires away!
  • edited March 2009
    [quote][I]Whilst "commercial puffery" exists in all walks of life - garlic has been extolled by herbalists for centuries. [/I]
    [I]I wonder if the reciters of mantra are particularly advised to avoid garlic, as chanting would spread the smell even more?[/I]

    [I]Well, that's enough superstition for one day for me. [/I]

    [I]The plain truth is that we all know the stuff keeps vampires away[/I]! [/quote]



    So funny!
    I've really enjoyed reading this thread, thanks everyone.:)

    Dazzle
  • DhammaDhatuDhammaDhatu Veteran
    edited March 2009
    [quote=Elohim;56738] You are not, O Bhikkhus, to eat onions. Who-soever does so, shall be guilty of a dukkata (offense).'
    [INDENT]
    Now at that time the venerable Sariputta
    had wind in his stomach. And the venerable Maha
    Moggallana went up to the place where the venerable Sariputta was, and when he had come there,
    he said to the venerable Sariputta :

    How did you formerly, friend Sariputta, get
    relief, when you had wind in the stomach ?'

    By eating onions, my friend.

    They told this matter to the Blessed One.

    I allow you, O Bhikkhus, to eat onions on account of disease.'
    [/INDENT][/quote]
    Well quoted for a smile Jason. :)

    Sariputta & Maha Moggallana. Always loveable. :)
  • edited March 2009
    The only injunction I have ever come across against eating garlic and onions is in what we call the "stupa diet". That is what we eat when we are building stupas as sort of a purification. No meat, no garlic, no onions, no sex. Well, the last one isn't exactly a matter of diet - or is it?

    Palzang
  • edited March 2009
    [SIZE="2"]The monks of Tisarana monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition here in Canada don't eat garlic or onions and when lay people stay at the monastery for any length of time they are expected to follow the same dietary rule. I understand the reason simply to be a courtesy to others in small meditation and teaching quarters. In a small meditation module filled to capacity with 20 meditators sitting practically knee to knee for hours at a time... well, you can imagine.

    I don't know if the monks have any other reasons for not eating them but I've often thought about the rule because I'm a firm believer in the health benefits of that particular food group. I can certainly understand the courtesy of the rule though.[/SIZE]
  • DhammaDhatuDhammaDhatu Veteran
    edited March 2009
    Lust is a mental thing. If it is to be managed to avoid harm to oneself or others or to be eradicated for the purposes of jhana or liberation, it requires a mental method. :)
  • edited March 2009
    [QUOTE=Dhamma Dhatu;56783]Lust is a mental thing. If it is to be managed to avoid harm to oneself or others or to be eradicated for the purposes of jhana or liberation, it requires a mental method. :)[/QUOTE]

    The decision not to consume food which aggravates the doshas is a mental method. So is the decision to eat sattvic foods that are conducive to dhyana. The natural corollary of your statement would be:

    "Lust is a mental thing. One should be able to eradicate lust while continuing to watch pornography on late night cable."

    Or perhaps more succinctly:

    "It's all words, man."

    Now your mileage may vary, but I prefer to cut down on those things that excite the mind when I am trying to cultivate tranquility. This is not to say that these foods are bad and should be completely avoided at all times. This is largely just during retreat.

    There is nothing to stop any of you from nailing it to your doors to keep the vampires/tax collectors away. Just don't eat it before the meditation session.

    Namgyal
  • edited March 2009
    [quote]The only injunction I have ever come across against eating garlic and onions is in what we call the "stupa diet". That is what we eat when we are building stupas as sort of a purification. No meat, no garlic, no onions, no sex. Well, the last one isn't exactly a matter of diet - or is it?

    Palzang [/quote]


    Gosh I'm permanently on the full "stupa diet" then apart from an occasional foray into the realm of garlic and onions.:)

    I don't quite understand how certain foods would increase emotion or desire though. Personally I don't ever recall feeling angrier or randier after eating garlic or spicy food. Bad breath or wind, yes!

    .
  • edited March 2009
    Desire/ attachment arises in the mind.

    If I may quote Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche from his excellent book 'The Joy of Living'

    " The Buddha compared attachment to drinking salt water from an ocean. The more we drink, the thirstier we get. Likewise, when our mind is conditioned by attachment, however much we have, we never really experience contentment. We lose the ability between the bare experience of happiness and whatever objects temporarily make us happy. As a result, we not only become dependent on the object, but we also reinforce the neuronal patterns that condition us to rely on an external source to give us happiness."

    .
  • edited March 2009
    [QUOTE=Thubten Namgyal;56784]One should be able to eradicate lust while continuing to watch pornography on late night cable.[/QUOTE]

    Hey, that's my excuse when my wife walks in and yells "What are you watching that filth for? It stinks of garlic in here as well!"

    Life's tough sometimes.

    Anyway, I hope lisathevegan got some useful information off this thread. She's not been back though.
  • edited March 2009
    Can we get back to the part about the kissing the hungry goats.

    That sounds so freakin' hot!

    -bf
  • edited March 2009
    [quote]Can we get back to the part about the kissing the hungry goats.

    That sounds so freakin' hot!

    [/quote]

    Goats????

    Wasn't it ghosts?

    :)
  • edited March 2009
    Oh.

    Yeah.

    That's what I meant. Ghosts.

    Not goats.

    Cuz kissing hungry goats would be gross, right?

    -bf
  • jinzangjinzang Veteran
    edited March 2009
    If you saw a hungry ghost, you'd puke. Trust me.
    :crazy:
  • edited March 2009
    [quote=jinzang;56807]If you saw a hungry ghost, you'd puke. Trust me.
    :crazy:[/quote]


    Have you seen a hungry ghost yourself then, Jinzang?

    .
  • edited March 2009
    I have to say that concepts like this baffle me at times. I can't see how eating onions or garlic would increase thoughts on the nature of sex - but then I'm still 4 months, 2 weeks, 6 days, 18 hours and 27 minutes away from being enlightened.

    For me, I guess this would become an article of faith. Buddha said it, therefore it must be true.

    But I still find myself wrestling with thoughts like I did with the Bible. The bizarre laws in the Old Testament about God approved slavery and slayings. Could the onion and garlic precept come from the "thoughts of the time" 2500 years ago?

    -bf
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited March 2009
    [SIZE=3]I think it has more to do with the after-effects within a close community. Having slept in dormitories and meditated in closed rooms, I can testify that distractions through the nose can be difficult! :lol:[/SIZE]
  • edited March 2009
    There is nothing particularly unusual about this idea. This is related to the tridosha concept of ayurveda. Certain foods are held to excite the mind, not just sexually but in terms of stirring it up. These rajasic foods include onions and garlic (though onions and garlic are also said to be tamasic). Rather than speculate, go into retreat for a month and then experiment with food. See what kinds of food are conducive to tranquility and what cause sleepiness or agitation. Do you not think that there is a connection between diet and mental states? If not, I have a couple of mushrooms you can try.

    Coffee, tobacco, chili, chocolate, etc... any strong spices, bitter tastes, these are all held to excite the passions. Mind you, the average mind is such a soup of passions that people don't usually notice or suspect the causality.

    These can all be easily empirically validated, there is no need to accept something like this as buddhavacana.
  • edited March 2009
    I'm just saying it baffles me - which is fine, I'm easily baffled.

    Yes, I believe foods affect us in many different ways. I believe "a chemical is a chemical is a chemical". Where is it that aspirin came from? I know it's the bark or skin of a tree. The same with cinnamon. Both are organic. St. John's Wort? Red Clover? Many "plants" affect different areas of the human body.

    But, I still say that I wonder how much of this had something to do with the mindset of the time. Not discounting it. Just wondering.

    -bf
  • jinzangjinzang Veteran
    edited March 2009
    [QUOTE=Dazzle;56812]Have you seen a hungry ghost yourself then, Jinzang[/QUOTE]

    Thankfully, no. I'm relying on the traditional descriptions.
  • edited April 2009
    [quote][SIZE=1]Quote:[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=1]Originally Posted by [B]Dazzle[/B] [/SIZE][URL="http://www.newbuddhist.com/forum/showthread.php?p=56812#post56812"][SIZE=1][IMG]http://www.newbuddhist.com/forum/images/newbud/viewpost.gif[/IMG][/SIZE][/URL]
    [I][SIZE=1]Have you seen a hungry ghost yourself then, Jinzang[/SIZE][/I]


    [SIZE=1][I]Thankfully, no. I'm relying on the traditional descriptions. [/I][/SIZE]
    [/quote]

    These remind me of the Christian Medieval European descriptions of horrid ghosts and walking corpses everywhere (and no electricity of course)


    I prefer to interpret the six realms as mental states (which does not contradict some teachers)

    .
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited April 2009
    [quote=buddhafoot;56840]I'm just saying it baffles me - which is fine, I'm easily baffled.

    Yes, I believe foods affect us in many different ways. I believe "a chemical is a chemical is a chemical". Where is it that aspirin came from? I know it's the bark or skin of a tree. The same with cinnamon. Both are organic. St. John's Wort? Red Clover? Many "plants" affect different areas of the human body.

    But, I still say that I wonder how much of this had something to do with the mindset of the time. Not discounting it. Just wondering.

    -bf[/quote][SIZE=3]

    I think you're quite right, bf. The context of available diet and preservation techniques, diet and social position, and medical opinions may all be temporary but, while they prevail, are taken as 'gospel'. This is as true today, in our own context, as with cultures that follow, for example, Ayurvedic principles.

    Dietary rules have existed in all disciplines (including, for example, sport). The longer they have been in force, unquestioningly accepted, the more important it is to question them.
    [/SIZE]
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited April 2009
    Hungry Ghosts?

    They're everywhere!
    And yes, they make me puke!!:mad:
  • edited April 2009
    [QUOTE=buddhafoot;56840] Where is it that aspirin came from? I know it's the bark or skin of a tree. -bf[/QUOTE]
    [SIZE="2"]Hiya, BF!! Lovely to see you!

    Willow bark, I believe.[/SIZE]
  • edited April 2009
    [quote=Dazzle;56785]Gosh I'm permanently on the full "stupa diet" then apart from an occasional foray into the realm of garlic and onions.:)
    [/quote]

    Next stupa we build, I'll give you a call!

    Palzang
  • edited April 2009
    [quote=Dazzle;56858]
    I prefer to interpret the six realms as mental states (which does not contradict some teachers)
    [/quote]

    I agree. I visit all the realms several times daily (at least!).

    Palzang
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