If you are mindful you don't eat for taste - so chances are you over eat are smaller.

There are a few monks I know and I truly believe are advanced practitioners (meaning I won't be surprised if they are arahants) who are overweight.

And this really clashes with the concept of eating mindfully - can someone help reconcile the fact they are overweight and being advanced practitioners ?

Edit : just to be clear there are overweight people who eat little and have self control and healthy but have bad metabolism which makes them fat ... and skinny people who are gluttons and eat a lot of fat foods and are still skinny .... I'm just giving the most extreme example which are of monks who are extremely mindful and don't need to give 0 consideration to enjoyment from the food and are aware of their bodies.

  • 2
    What about thyroid disorders?
    – user698
    Dec 29, 2017 at 16:03
  • If you have access to actual enlightened monks then why not ask them?
    – Lowbrow
    Dec 29, 2017 at 16:10
  • well if i ever have the chance to ask anything the monk im thinking of it would need to be a much more important and useful question - i would feel bad wasting his time on a question like this
    – breath
    Dec 29, 2017 at 16:21
  • You shouldn't equate being overweight or obese, to being a glutton and a sloth. You are implying that the overweight monk is a glutton and gluttony is contradictory to Buddhist teachings. Obesity could be a result of metabolic problems caused by disease e.g. hypothyroidism and/or genetics.
    – ruben2020
    Dec 31, 2017 at 5:33
  • i added an - edit part - to make it clearer ---- but you are right
    – breath
    Jan 2, 2018 at 12:31

11 Answers 11


A well-known monk with a bodily disorder was the deceased Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, who was given all kinds of diets when he was alive. Buddhadasa was fat most of his life.

However, for example, some current Western monks (based in Western Australia) have put on lots of weight, which looks like eating too much rich food & doing too little exercise; devoting their lives to teaching, scholarship & administrative duties.

You reach an age when you start to put on lots of weight. You must reduce your food intake because your body obviously does not need so much food anymore.

Two years ago, I cut my life-long food in-take by 50% & stopped eating certain foods (cheese, ice-cream, bread; I never ate much sugar). I lost 12kg but notice if I eat certain prohibited foods (such as when visiting my mother), I add weight quickly.

These monks are often given lots of Asian sweets & cakes and drink lots of sugar drinks.

Years ago, I spent lots of time in a certain monastery in Asia. The last time I visited, after five years of absence, I noticed how the core monks had all lost lots of weight. Obviously, the abbot thought the monks were too fat and instructed to reduce food, for the sake of public image. Having known these monks for 17 years, I could not believe how thin they were.

Dhp 395. 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.


I think it’s possible to eat in moderation and be overweight. I’m not saying it’s possible to become overweight, but rather, to maintain your excess weight.

Two factors come to mind:

1) monks don’t really have a physically active lifestyle. That makes it harder to lose weight.

2) different foods have different impact on your body weight. I would guess this monk is not eating a sugar-free, whole plant based diet. Is he?

Buy finally, and most importantly: ask them yourself. From what you described, I gather they are pretty wise people, so they won’t get offended by the question.

  • 1
    well if i ever have the chance to ask anything the monk im thinking of it would need to be a much more important and useful question - i would feel bad wasting his time on a question like this ....... he has good food btw not too fattening but lets say a monk has only donuts to eat and he notices he is overweight which harms his functioning and health than he will eat half the amount of doughnuts cause hes not attached to the taste of them so he wont mind eating less doughnuts
    – breath
    Dec 29, 2017 at 15:06

I wouldn't judge a monk by body weight unless he is obese up to the point that he can't even move. There are lot of skinny people who eat a lot but never get fat because of their genes and there are others who get fat very easily even if they eat moderately.


The biology behind gaining or losing weight is simple. Simplified, the body is like a house which needs to be kept at a certain temparature all day long, so you have to constantly add fuel to the fire (which is measured in kilo-calories, kcal). The bigger the house is, the more fuel you need to keep it warm (which is why overweight people can eat more than normal people without gaining additional weight), and if you move or work out, you also burn more.

However, your body can only tell you how it responds to food: How filling it is, how it tastes and so on. It has no built-in sense or mechanism to determine how many kcal you already ate. There is often, but not always, a correllation between these: The more bread you eat, the more filled you feel, the more kcal you have is a positive example. But if you eat cake, then you also feel filled (eventually), but a short time later, you are hungry again, even though cake gives you a lot of energy in form of kcal. It is a common misconception to think that just because I feel filled, I had just enough and not too much (or too little).

Furthermore, "healthy" food can still contain surprisingly many kcal. In other words: You can get fat on healthy food as well. That is especially true for fruit or juice, but also for e.g. nuts. If you decide to start your day with a fresh fruit smoothie spiced with Chia seeds, your daily kcal intake will go up dramatically (unless you substitute one meal for the smoothie)

Additionally, our body tends to prefer food which was hard to come by not a long time ago: Sugar and sweets, salt, that kind of thing. The reason is that the body stocks up on things while it can, to depend on it when nourishment is harder to come by.

The combination of all this can make it challenging to keep a normal weight, even when eating mindful. Many people can get it right intuitively, but many others don't.

One more thing: If someone is overweight and then starts paying attention to what they eat - even with the above in mind - he or she would still not lose weight, because you actively have to ingest less kcal per day than needed by the body, which is something your body normally wants to avoid.

With all this in mind, your observation of people eating mindful, yet being overweight, is not a contradiction in itself, but can have many explanations. The fat could be a relict from the past, before starting to eat mindful, it can be a side effect of a energy-rich diet and so on.

As it is in many cases, in order to change something you have to fully identify the problem - which in this case would mean acknowledging the facts stated above, analyzing the own diet and then changing it.


Budai is traditionally depicted as a fat, bald man...He was considered a man of good and loving character...According to Chinese history, Budai was an eccentric Chan monk.


enter image description here

He managed it somehow.


I searched "buddhist monk diabetes" and found for example Why Thailand is putting its Buddhist monks on a diet.

The reasons given in that article and other articles like it:

  • Lay people prefer to give food with "high value and taste" i.e. fat and sugar
  • Monks may have no or limited education about diabetes and nutrition
  • Can't control what they eat
  • Drinking "allowable" sugary drinks after noon with an empty stomach
  • Are only allowed limited physical exercise

Among other things, lay people are now being encouraged/taught to give healthier food choices -- brown rice, vegetables, protein rather than sweets -- but still not everybody does.


I'm going to point out — just so that it's noted — that any person who is sufficiently developed on the path is not going to be subject to the pervasive social attachments to health, beauty, and social image. Why would a monastic be overly concerned with thinness? If a monastic is at all awake, then he or she is not:

  • trying to attract sexual partners through physical beauty
  • trying to gather social regard, either in person or through media
  • trying to fit his or her physical appearance into some idealized form of a 'proper' monk looks like
  • trying to extend this life indefinitely through strict health regimens
  • trying to avoid every form of sickness or ill health that might arise
  • trying to develop the physical attributes of this body, in accordance with some 'perfect self' ideal

Monks (of course) have pasts, and pasts carry karma that may have led to them be overweight. But does a monk really want to develop a new set of attachments: a new set of cravings to meet socially defined standards for the state of the physical body? There may be a natural tendency for us to be drawn to that man or woman who is thin and fit, with flowing hair, a dulcet voice, the finest robes, and skin that positively glows with health, but... are those things signs of attainment?

I'm not certain we should criticize a monk because s'he does not share our own peculiar obsessions with the body.


The idea is to be detached which includes being detached to how one looks. There is no need for validation. The other idea is to have self control. But as certain translations of the Vasistha say, asceticism does not get one closer to truth.

One may have self-control over food in the mind but the body still eats too much. Too much self-control can create a physical reaction in the body. That is why balance is better than self control. That 108 year old woman who has a cigarette every night just enjoys that simple pleasure but does not over do it.

The body does better with small enjoyable meals. This is true with sex as well. When the monks deny their bodies of sex they make up for it by eating too much. But the ancient Brahmans and Siddhars were not celibates. They balanced attachment with detachment. They enjoyed themselves without overindulging.

It’s traveling on the razor’s edge.


The Buddha's advice to King Pasenadi in Donapaka Sutta may be helpful to monks and laypeople alike, who are struggling with weight and health problems:

Once when the Buddha was living at Savatthi, King Pasenadi of Kosala ate a whole bucketful of food, and then approached the Buddha, engorged and panting, and sat down to one side. The Buddha, discerning that King Pasenadi was engorged and panting, took the occasion to utter this verse:

When a person is constantly mindful,
And knows when enough food has been taken,
All their afflictions become more slender
— They age more gradually, protecting their lives.

Now at that time the brahman youth Sudassana was standing nearby, and King Pasenadi of Kosala addressed him: "Come now, my dear Sudassana, and having thoroughly mastered this verse in the presence of the Buddha, recite it whenever food is brought to me. And I will set up for you a permanent offering of a hundred kahaapanas every day." "So be it, your majesty," the brahman youth Sudassana replied to the king.

Then King Pasenadi of Kosala gradually settled down to [eating] no more than a cup-full of rice. At a later time, when his body had become quite slim, King Pasenadi stroked his limbs with his hand and took the occasion to utter this utterance:

Indeed the Buddha has shown me
Compassion in two different ways:
For my welfare right here and now,
and also for in the future.


The dont take another step dare is trying to force a stagnant Bhumi some people are scared to walk or do anything to disturb other life forms in that Bhumi. Also had an Elysian field style purgatory couldn't remember anything at all just stupefied. Slowly went back to normal eat sleep drink and be merry though.

That just remain there moment however isn't practical to just sit there remaining dead, stand there remaining dead, lay there remaining dead... know you're dead and go about your business. Gotama didn't know he was dead... woman fished his corpse out of the Ganges as he was floating down it; all he remembered was his last grasp on the bank... she fed him back to not being dead She showed him the middle way we all get to learn these days and to think... he gets all the credit for it by being a big ol blabber mouth. :P

Of course you should know Theravadins aren't allowed to keep or store food in their tradition what they don't eat they throw it out for animals and preta... Bodhidhamma came from the North to Kung Fu those Southern corpses back to life. Fat and bloated corpse and pass the bowl to the skinny starving one should be the contemplation of those that can't see it clearly.


To all the apologists claiming that metabolic afflictions can cause obesity, I would add that I agree that such conditions make it difficult for the one afflicted to control his or her appetites. But at the end of the day, it is purely a matter of self control. If you do not eat more than your body uses for its daily activities, nothing will go to fat. Anybody that doubts this should consider that there was not a single fat person rescued from Auschwitz.

But it is also important to remember that Buddhist monks are humans, not gods. Just the other day I saw the abbot (head monk) of the Buddhist temple near me completely lose his temper. He was so angry that he threw a couple of rocks at a layman, and was screaming obscenities at him. Not very Buddhist. But then, he was only human and something overloaded his emotions beyond the point of his control.

It would be better for a monk to be fat that to have an uncontrollable temper and physically assaultive behavior.

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