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The Aggikasutta (SN 7.8) below states that the Buddhas do not eat food enchanted by spells i.e. food that was chanted over for the Vedic fire sacrifice.

Does the Buddha reject ritually chanted over food? Why is this the case? Does this apply to Buddhists as well?

What is the meaning of "The Buddhas reject things enchanted with spells. Since nature is real, brahmin, that’s how they live"?

I asked another similar question before here. That sutta seems to be about offering food after receiving a teaching as not being allowed, because that's remuneration. However, this question is different because the Buddha did not give any teaching before being offered the milk rice. Instead, the milk rice seems to have been chanted over, in the fire sacrifice ritual. Furthermore, the Buddha asks the brahmin to serve some other food, not the one chanted over with verses.

At one time the Buddha was staying near Rājagaha, in the Bamboo Grove, the squirrels’ feeding ground. Now at that time ghee and milk-rice had been set out for the brahmin Bhāradvāja the Fire-Worshipper, who thought: “I will serve the sacred flame! I will perform the fire sacrifice!”

Then the Buddha robed up in the morning and, taking his bowl and robe, entered Rājagaha for alms. Wandering for alms to be consumed on site in Rājagaha, he approached Bhāradvāja the Fire-Worshiper’s house and stood to one side. Bhāradvāja the Fire-Worshipper saw him standing for alms and addressed him in verse:

“One who’s accomplished in the three knowledges, of good lineage and ample learning, accomplished in knowledge and conduct may enjoy this milk-rice.”

“Even one who mutters many invocations is no brahmin by birth if they’re filthy and corrupt within, with a following gained by fraud.

But one who knows their past lives, and sees heaven and places of loss, and has attained the ending of rebirth, that sage has perfect insight.

Because of these three knowledges a brahmin is a master of the three knowledges. Accomplished in knowledge and conduct, they may enjoy this milk-rice.”

“Eat, Master Gotama! you are truly a brahmin.”

“Food enchanted by a spell isn’t fit for me to eat. That’s not the way of those who see, brahmin. The Buddhas reject things enchanted with spells. Since nature is real, brahmin, that’s how they live.

Serve with other food and drink the consummate one, the great seer, with defilements ended and remorse stilled. For he is the field for the seeker of merit.”

When he had spoken, the brahmin Bhāradvāja the Fire-Worshipper said to the Buddha: “Excellent, Master Gotama! …” … And Venerable Bhāradvāja the Fire-Worshipper became one of the perfected.

With the Pali version:

“Food enchanted by a spell isn’t fit for me to eat.
“Gāthābhigītaṃ me abhojaneyyaṃ

That’s not the way of those who see, brahmin.
Sampassataṃ brāhmaṇa nesa dhammo

The Buddhas reject things enchanted with spells.
Gāthābhigītaṃ panudanti buddhā

Since nature is real, brahmin, that’s how they live.
Dhamme sati brāhmaṇa vuttiresā

Serve with other food and drink
Aññena ca kevalinaṃ mahesiṃ

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See pages 96-97 of Piya Tan's essay:

The Saṁyutta Commentary paraphrases the significance of the two verses, thus (as the Buddha’s arrière pensée):

Though I have stood for such a long time waiting for alms, you would not give even a spoonful; but now that I have revealed all the Buddha-qualities to you as though spreading out sesamum seeds on a mat, you wish to give. This food has been gained, as it were, by singing a song (gāyanena gāyitvā). Therefore, as it has been ‘chanted over with verses’ (gāthā’bhigīta) it is not fit to be eaten by me. Since there is the Dharma (dhamme sati), out of respect for the Dharma, established in the Dharma, the Buddhas sustain their life. This is their rule of conduct, this is their way of livelihood (esā vutti aya ājīvo). Such food should be discarded and only what is properly gained should be eaten.” (SA 1:232; see Miln 228-232)

The Critical Pali Dictionary defines abhigīta as “spoken over with mantras,” suggesting that the Buddha rejects the offering by the brahmin because he has chanted over it with the sacrificial hymns. However, Bodhi thinks that “it is doubtful that the Buddha would reject food for such a reason. Further, according to [SED], gāthā is not used with reference to the verses of the Vedas, and thus here the word likely refers to the Buddha’s own verses” (S:B 446 n446). To suggest that the Buddha rejected the brahmin’s offering simply because it has been chanted over with Vedic mantras would suggest that the Buddha is superstitious! The real reason has to do with right livelihood (sammā,ājīva).

His translation is a bit different from Ven. Sujato's, i.e.:

Gāthā’bhigītaṁ me abhojaneyyaṁ
The gatha-sung should not be partaken by me,

sampassataṁ brāhmaṇa n’esa dhammo
O brahmin, this is not the way of those who see.

gāthā’bhigītaṁ panudanti buddhā
Buddhas reject what is gained by the singing of verses,

dhamme sati brāhmaṇa vuttir esā.
When there’s Dharma, brahmin, this is the rule.


I re-read the "food" chapters of these Vinaya summaries ...

... and didn't see anything there about ex-sacrificial food not being allowable as alms food.

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Based on ChrisW's answer, the standard commentaries seem to be of the opinion that food offered as remuneration for teaching the Dhamma is not accepted by the Buddhas. They also reject the idea that the Buddha was superstitious.

This seems to conflict with Itivuttaka 107:

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "Monks, brahmans & householders are very helpful to you, as they provide you with the requisites of robes, alms food, lodgings, & medical requisites for the sick. And you, monks, are very helpful to brahmans & householders, as you teach them the Dhamma admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle, admirable in the end; as you expound the holy life both in letter & meaning, entirely complete, surpassingly pure. In this way the holy life is lived in mutual dependence, for the purpose of crossing over the flood, for making a right end to stress."

From my reading of other suttas of Brahmana Samyutta (SN 7), I think the Buddha rejected food ritually chanted over from the Vedic fire sacrifice, not because he was superstitious, but because he discouraged superstition. By accepting the food, he would be validating the notion that the sacrificial milk rice is special and meant for noble ones. Challenging superstition seems to be part of the theme of SN 7.

In SN 7.7, the Buddha says that austerities does not make one pure and chanting mantras does not make one a brahmin.

In SN 7.9, the Buddha challenged the superstition of caste by birth.

In SN 7.21, the Buddha enlightened a brahmin who held the superstitious view that purification rites using water can wash away sins.

  • What is the conflict with Iti 107? I think that monks and laypeople are meant to depend on each other (e.g. as described in Iti 107) however monks must not sell their dhamma talks for food. So there are monastic rules about food and dhamma talks: they're separate transactions ... a quid pro quo is forbidden -- having given a dhamma talk (i.e. after his speaking) the Buddha was no longer willing to receive food, because that would appear as if he were receiving food in exchange for or as payment for talking. – ChrisW Jun 19 '18 at 2:14
  • @ChrisW I will add a new question asking for references. – ruben2020 Jun 20 '18 at 15:40

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