3

This fascinating article describes the Buddha as data driven ascetic.

Buddha took a different approach: His rules were grounded in his own experience. Like a lot of us, he tried some crazy diets. But what worked for him was very simple. He gave little advice about what his monks should eat, but he was very particular about when they should eat it. His followers were basically free to eat anything they were given — even meat — but only between the hours of dawn and noon.

Like any good data scientist, Buddha learned to ignore the outliers. Buddha didn’t give a mystical or supernatural explanation for this odd time restriction. But he was pretty sure it would improve their health. He had tested it on himself. “Because I avoid eating in the evening, I am in good health, light, energetic, and live comfortably,” he explained. “You, too, monks, avoid eating in the evening, and you will have good health.”

The article goes on to discuss the empirical results of calorie restriction diets with mice.

Now, what I'd like to know, is there any grounds to believe that the Buddha had health in mind when he suggested not eating dinner?

I've read that many vinaya rules were based on how the laity would see the Sangha- eat lots would make the sangha look like gluttons, so they only took two meals.

Also, Nikaya Buddhism's central problem to be solved was desire & aversion, so it was the fixation on hunger that was the problem, not that dinner was making one fat, unhealthy or short-lived.

  • 1
    See also What is the purpose of not eating after noon? – ChrisW Sep 7 '16 at 12:43
  • I'm not sure I understand the question. Are you looking for a reference (e.g. sutta) for the bit you quoted (where the Buddha claims to have good health as a result of not eating in the evening, and exhorts monks to do the same)? Are you asking whether health is one of many reasons, and asking for a list of all the various doctrinal reasons? Are you asking whether current/modern science (about diets) has an opinion about whether such a habit is relatively healthy, and in what way ... what the pros and/or cons are? – ChrisW Sep 7 '16 at 12:47
  • I'm skeptical that the Buddha said skip dinner because it's good for your health, which the article author seems to say. I'm wondering if there are past or present texts or dharma teachers that support the idea that this is about health. – MatthewMartin Sep 7 '16 at 13:49
  • Oh look at that, it does have support in the Sutra: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/3758/289 – MatthewMartin Sep 7 '16 at 13:51
  • suttas and in some cases the Vinaya are the first thing to be checked when verifying Buddha's statements – Баян Купи-ка Sep 7 '16 at 20:48
4

I'm skeptical that the Buddha said skip dinner because it's good for your health

Yes if I hadn't read it I'd be skeptical too. It sounds a bit contrary to the primary/normal message: almost as if the Buddha were giving advice on how to be rich or become wealthy!

Nevertheless there are other seemingly-health-related suttas, for example Ittha Sutta,

It's not fitting for the disciple of the noble ones who desires long life to pray for it or to delight in doing so. Instead, the disciple of the noble ones who desires long life should follow the path of practice leading to long life. In so doing, he will attain long life, either human or divine.

The above (which also describes Beauty, Happiness, Status, and Rebirth in heaven as welcome, agreeable, pleasant) is addressed to a householder.

Dharmafarer's introduction to MN 70 talks about untimely eating on pages 1 and 2: it mentions "health" and also other reasons, and says that the rules (or prohibitions) were phased in gradually to let the monks adjust gradually.

Also I think it says (on pages 2 and 3) that the monks being addressed in this Sutta were monks but not very good monks: who were eventually expelled from the Sangha. Perhaps, who knows, "health" is mentioned in this sutta because it's appropriate to the audience, i.e. of several reasons (for skipping dinner) the Buddha chose one (health) which he thought had the best chance of appealing to this particular audience.

4

My recollection is the rule about not eating after noon was to stop monks going on alms round at inappropriate times of the day, including at night, where they could frighten lay people. You can research the 'Vinaya' for this.

There certainly is a sutta where the Buddha states he enjoys good health by eating once a day but my recollection is that is not the rationale, which is why many monks today eat twice per day.

When these staple foods go beyond their time limit (i.e., after noon) a bhikkhu will incur an offence if he consumes them. The original story shows the complications that can arise from leaving the monastery at the wrong time:

The 'group-of-seventeen' bhikkhus — another set of frequent misdoers — went out one afternoon to enjoy themselves at a festival outside the city. When lay people saw them they gave them a meal and food to take back to the monastery. The Buddha therefore laid down this rule:

"Should any bhikkhu chew or consume staple or non- staple food at the wrong time, it is [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 37; BMC p.362)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ariyesako/layguide.html#begging

1

I doubt the advice was for health purposes even if it may improve health. It was probably to improve self-discipline for monks and is stated as a sign of a monk's virtue:

"He eats only once a day, refraining from the evening meal and from food at the wrong time of day." (Apannaka Sutta, MN 60)

Now modern science shows that eating too much is bad probably because the body wasn't designed to be digesting food all the time. The FMD (Fast Mimicking Diet) has gained popularity as well showing great health benefits so far.

One meal a day (with calorie requirements) may or may not improve health, but will certainly improve self-discipline.

1

My understanding is that the reason for no meal after noon was two fold. First, it was inconvenient for people to have monks come begging at that time of day, and people had leftovers in the morning from the previous day.

Second, monks who spend a lot of time meditating do not require as much food (calories) as the average person. Buddha said that we should eat according to the needs of the body. That means not only when you eat, but also what you eat. Not a problem in ancient times, but consider modern times when monks are given junk food. Many of them now have diabetes.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.