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In this answer, user yuttadhammo described that monks are only permitted two meals per day during the morning hours, from dawn to noon.

What type of Buddhist monks are permitted only two meals per deal? Why are theseBuddhist monks only permitted two meals a day in this time period?

  • 1
    Does this apply to all Buddhist monks? It may be necesary to narrow the scope of the question. – GreenMatt Jun 20 '14 at 14:38
  • Hmmm. I will edit it. – Patrick Sebastien Jun 20 '14 at 15:54
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Those monks who follow the pātimokkha (Sk. Prātimokṣa), either Mahayana or Theravada, keep this rule (or, in certain cases, a rule to eat only one meal per day). The rule is simply:

37. Should any bhikkhu chew or consume staple or non-staple food at the wrong time, it is to be confessed.

The wrong time is generally understood to mean outside of the morning hours between dawn and noon. So, technically, one could eat ten meals during this time if one so desired. The Buddha himself enjoined a single meal, as stated in the Bhaddāli Sutta (MN 65):

“Bhikkhus, I eat at a single session. By so doing, I am free from illness and affliction, and I enjoy lightness, strength, and a comfortable abiding. Come, bhikkhus, eat at a single session. By so doing, you too will be free from illness and affliction, and you will enjoy lightness, strength, and a comfortable abiding.”

(Bodhi, trans.)

Later, the monks were concerned about eating rice soup in the morning, thinking (I assume) that it would be considered a second meal. The Buddha enjoined them to partake of it, citing physical benefits (can't find the source right now, will try to add it later). So, it is generally understood that one should eat a single meal before noon, but may partake of something light at first light of dawn as well.

Many monks these days stretch or even break these rules, drinking milk, soya milk, etc. or even eating in the evening, but those who follow the rules, in both Mahayana and Theravada, will generally stick to one or two meals per day.

Eating once per day is actually specified as an optional (dhutanga) practice, meaning one would forgo even rice soup in the morning.

10

Actually, in Pali Canon, Buddha suggests to his students to only eat one time a day, before noon. Among the reasons he provided, the three I remember are:

  • Because eating required begging, not eating in the evening meant not begging at dark, which could be both dangerous for the beggar and, more importantly, scare the householders by generating all kinds of ambiguous situations (that could be interpreted as intention to steal, or rape, etc.) resulting in bad reputation for the sangha.
  • Apparently, some students were begging too much and then hid their food in holes they dug in the ground. This was promoting anti-sanitary conditions and cases of monks stealing each other's food. Eating once a day reduced the need to store food.
  • Not eating too much, especially in the evening, supposedly helped the students feel better both mentally and physically.

After Buddha's death, many of these rules, originally meant for the wondering mendicants, were carried over to monasteries.

3

The legend goes in such a way that Siddartha came from a position of abundance and instant gratification, then stopped eating altogether, until he nearly starved and was offered food. Realizing that neither way released him from suffering, he started the "middle way".

So food restriction is a form of the middle way: enough to survive, but not so much that it would cultivate gluttony.

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