I have a persistent fear of going without food that prevents me from giving monasticism a full shot.

Some background: I suffered for approximately 4 years with something called cyclic vomiting syndrome. This is an affliction characterized by recurrent, prolonged attacks of severe nausea, vomiting, and prostration with no apparent cause. During this time I repeatedly lost and regained 100s of pounds at a time. Losing weight, while something I needed to do, was not fun. My longest single attack lasted a full 7 days during which time I was unable to keep any food down whatsoever, much less get any sleep. Retching on a completely empty stomach 45+ times an hour is a hell that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies. So, food is important to me. At the same time I realize that too much is not good in a myriad of ways.

So, where are all the Buddhist monasteries at which I'd be afforded the opportunity to practice self compassion as opposed to gritting my teeth and forcing myself through a whole lot of discomfort in order to satisfy my ego and other's expectations of what constitutes a good, chaste and worthwhile existence? That doesn't seem mentally or physically healthy or conducive to showing loving kindness and compassion to others. I'm a firm believer that in order to be able to show compassion for others, I need to show it to myself. I'm mainly thinking about food here. Whatever could be wrong with my eating something when my stomach is growling after noon? At least until my stomach had shrunk to such a degree that hunger pains were perhaps more a nuisance than anything else?

I think I understand the reluctance on the part of many monastics to allow things like eating after noon, etc. It so happens also, that I suspect that their concern is misplaced. It seems to me that there aren't many things in life that don't consist of shades of grey. It also seems that Buddhist monastics in general tend to lose sight of the nuance making up many of these things.

So, is there a tradition I should be focusing on? A teacher? (Ajahn Brahm is a favorite btw.) Am I way off base with my concerns? If so, how should I go about rectifying my inconsistent views? If not, then what?

  • Upon further inspection of my post it looks like I was unfair to monastics as a whole. Apparently this is what happens when I post from a place where my monkey mind is in full swing. Incoherence ruled my roost yesterday. Today, I'm trying to be mindful and slow my roll.
    – user8312
    May 13, 2016 at 9:06

5 Answers 5


By practicing monastic life, if you mean becoming a monk, it's a no go with your current condition. But if you just want to practice meditation, staying at a monastery, you still have to give up Marijuana and Nicotine. No serious monastery would allow you to smoke while you stay there.

Some monasteries allow lay practitioners to take just 5 precepts and have food in the evening as well. But usually you have to bring your own food for evening meals.

I would suggest for you to do an online meditation course and to get advice on how to give up your addictions while consulting a doctor to treat your ailments without Marijuana and Nicotine.

  • 2
    Yes, that's what I was referring to. I wasn't expecting to be able to smoke anything at a monastery. Thanks for mentioning the 5 precepts. I had no idea that some monastery's allowed food after noon. I'll definitely be looking into a place where I can get a taste of monasticism for a short while. Cheers!
    – user8312
    May 12, 2016 at 6:18
  • I understand. Way's to further my practice without beating the hell out of myself is what I'm looking for. Up to and yes, even into monasticism. I've experienced enough self hatred for 5 people in my life. I just want to find a way to practice love and compassion and at the same time experience solitude, which seems to be a near requisite for spiritual growth.
    – user8312
    May 12, 2016 at 6:49
  • Start simple, try to be a better person one step at a time, don't jump the gun and compare yourself to saints.
    – Yinxu
    May 12, 2016 at 6:53
  • Solitude is easy to find if you have the means to move into your own apartment. That way you can meditate at home as well. But it's nothing like being in a monastery where you have to keep to the precepts and not be complacent with the practice. I would suggest Metta meditation as a starting point since you have anger issues and then move on to Vipassana. Good luck! May 12, 2016 at 7:00
  • 1
    That's great! I've never read Sharon Salzburg before. She explains metta quite clearly and succinctly. Much appreciated.
    – user8312
    May 14, 2016 at 0:21

I normally wouldn't advice anyone who is not committed to Buddhism to become a monk, because you will probably end up being a bad influence or even ruining the reputation of the temple. Experiencing a short term monastic experience is fine though, if you can stick to the rules during that time.

That said, for drug rehab there are temples specializing in treating drug addicts:



I can't vouch for their effectiveness, but it might be what you are looking for?


Apologies, I realized I have been far too judgmental and not compassionate enough in my response. It is good to have the desire to leave the householder's life, and that should be encouraged. The thoughts have crossed my mind too. It is just unfortunate to see so many monks behaving badly because they went into it without any considerations or good intentions. I knew some people who went into it because they have health problems and want to get some good merits to fix their problems. I even had an acquaintance who decided to renounce the world then left the monastic order one year later for unknown reasons. Ideally someone who will become a monastic should have only the highest noble intentions in mind to deal with the challenges and obstructions ahead of them.

  • No, I don't need drug rehab. I already identify with 99% of Buddhist thought. I was trying to emphasise that as far as monastic rules go, I'm not seeing a whole lot of self compassion. I see striving and sweating and a tendency toward asceticism that honestly doesn't strike me as being very, "middle way." You know, like the person who sits through pain and self inflicted misery, in effect saying, "Grrr. I'll do this no matter what." As though pain is an indication of right intent. This seems foolish and egoistic to me.
    – user8312
    May 12, 2016 at 5:56
  • The purpose of a monastic life is not only to be an example to the society at large, but also for the purpose of spiritual cultivation. Good monks work hard to attain Right Effort and Right Mindfulness in everything they do. You won't make any progress on the path without some effort. Sure they are compassionate and understanding of weaknesses, but they work hard to overcome it. To let go of your greed anger and attachments require immense self discipline. Ultimately the goal is nothing other than Spiritual Perfection. Paramita.
    – Yinxu
    May 12, 2016 at 6:16
  • I have gone on a short term monastic retreat as a novice monk and I can assure you that it was eye opening and life changing. It is not easy and isn't meant to be. The reward of Jhanic bliss, happiness and peace do not come without work.
    – Yinxu
    May 12, 2016 at 6:20
  • So, you just provided me with the term I was looking for, "monastic retreat." Thank you. I'm not averse to putting in effort, as long as the effort leads to my becoming a kinder, more compassionate person as well as the type of person who can withstand hardships. I realize also that taking vows of any kind is serious business, so I wouldn't want to ruin anyone elses spiritual trajectory. Perhaps just as important would be the fact that I would be letting myself down.
    – user8312
    May 12, 2016 at 7:00
  • 1
    Thanks for the clarification. Open minded honesty dictates that I admit to feeling hopeless much of the time. All I know with 100% certainty is that I don't know. I failed grandly yesterday to maintain right mindfulness. As Pema Chodron puts it, I was "hooked." My mind was all over the place. This is why I asked my original question. I need a break from life that is focused on cultivating right mindfulness in a supportive environment, free from distraction. Anyway, I'm definitely thinking about what you said. Cheers!
    – user8312
    May 13, 2016 at 8:51

Whatever could be wrong with my eating something when my stomach is growling after noon?

I'd like to mention, I saw a video by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu (probably one of the "Monk Radio" videos, but I don't remember which one). He was talking, describing something, and sitting next to him were other monks listening along.

Anyway, the topic was food for some reason, and he said that people have this experience (I think he implied that everyone has this experience) when they're meditating and keeping the sixth precept: I forget what he said exactly but it was something like, people think, "What is this hunger Oh God I'm going to die."

What I found remarkable was that, when he said that, both of the other monks started to chuckle or laugh with him: as if they'd been there.

So I guess, it's not that there's something wrong with eating ... but there is something right about not eating; and part of the rightness is that, by doing it, you apparently earn the right or learn to be able to laugh at that kind of speech.

  • Interesting way to frame it. So, am I correct in assuming that the monk's were laughing at themselves in an endearing way because they know that their fears don't comport with reality? I like that way of looking at the situation; no chastising or beating themselves up over it. Instead treating themselves much like they would a kid sister or brother.
    – user8312
    May 13, 2016 at 21:24

I feel that your fear is unfounded and it is due to your clinging to the sensual pleasures of food. The reason monastics do not eat after 12 is because having less food in your body makes the mind more active. There are scientific studies to prove this.http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10section1C.t-1.html The stimulation of hunger gives your brain the ability to retain information better and concentrate better.

The more important discussion here is your fear , which came into being due to your illness. Which makes me feel that you should confront it and see if it is really true. The mind will always resist anything that takes us out of the comfort zone and anything that is unfamiliar. Try to attend a few retreats and see if this works out for you. Facing the fear is the only way to deal with it , but in small doses. And if you deciede monastic life is not for you ,be compassionate to yourself. WE all progress at our own rate. Wish you all the best in your journey. Much Metta!


One has to make an informed choice. Becoming a monk does not guarantee peace or nirvana. It is just that its a faster mechanism for people who have urgency to attain bliss. You do not have it otherwise you would not be asking this question. You are not scared because of your medical condition but leaving shore to sail towards unknown. Its just an excuse. Having said that i can assure you that many people enjoy jhanic bliss who are not monks. I can tell you from my experience that chances of bliss are higher if you are not a monk. Monks keep on striving but a worldly person just give up. That giving up creates a far greater bliss which monks attain. When you reeling under scorching sun a shade gives you far greater relief than a person who is resting under the shade. I am not critical here. Just trying to balance it in favor of non-monks.

  • I'm sorry: this sentence, "That giving up creates a far greater bliss which monks attain", isn't quite grammatical, and so I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Are you saying that because non-monks give up and stop striving they therefore have greater bliss than monks? And is that because monks are "resting in the shade" i.e. sheltered all the time, whereas non-monks are reeling under a scorching sun and so the contrast (between sun and shade) is greater and therefore more blissful?
    – ChrisW
    May 13, 2016 at 10:03
  • Surrender is the right word. More you strive more is the tension. Surrender comes easily to the worldly person than somebody who lives in solitutude. Monks are relaxed to the point of being complacent. Most of the monks I have met so far have lost the urgency. Worldly person can appreciate meditativeness far greater than a monk because of contrast and therefore greater urgency. May 13, 2016 at 15:38

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