Author Topic: Why do monks have only one meal a day?  (Read 51346 times)

Jessie Fong

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Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« on: July 01, 2012, 02:10:03 AM »
Is it because that would make it simpler so that they do not need to prepare many meals?
Would that leave their mind free from having to think about "What's for lunch / dinner / tea / supper"?
Is thinking of your meals a distraction?
Would that leave them for time on their hands to concentrate on chanting and meditation?
Is this practiced so that it is easier for lay people to make offerings only once a day when the monks go on their alms-round?
Is it a health issue?

Please share your thoughts.


bambi

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2012, 04:42:21 AM »
It is said that Buddhist monks have to observe a strict code of conduct (vinaya) in order to discipline the body and mind. Food is regarded simply as a means of keeping the body alive and healthy so that their spiritual path may be easy. Food is not taken in order to beautify the body or because of its taste. According to the rules, the monks should have their meal before noon. If they have meal in the evening, it may cause sleepiness and make the practice of meditation difficult. Monks discipline themselves not be attached to things, including food. It is also said that they can have a meal after noon if they have illness. These monks go out to beg for food eg. Thailand and receive the food offerings from the lay people without showing whether they like it or not. When they collect the offerings, it is not for them alone but for the whole Sangha community in their monastery. They also fast completely on days of new and full moon each month to concentrate on their meditation.

Midakpa

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2012, 12:07:58 PM »
For the Bhikkhu, food intake is limited to the hours between dawn and noon. The practice of not eating in the afternoon is a very old tradition mentioned in the sutras. It is also included in the ten precepts of the novice (samanera) and dasasila mata nun and the eight precepts of the lay devotee.

This practice has its source in the Ordination Procedure of the Buddha. The Buddha gave this reflection: "Properly considering alms-food, I use it: not playfully, nor for intoxication, nor for putting on weight, nor for beautification; but simply for the survival and continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the chaste life, (thinking) I will destroy old feelings (of hunger) and not create new feelings (from overeating). Thus I will maintain myself, be blameless, and live in comfort."

"Food" here refers to things like cooked grains, sweets made from flour, beans, fresh milk and sour milk, ... fruits, tubers and all "main course" foods.

The Buddha suggested that the basic source of food for bhikkhus was that received on the morning alms round (pindapata). This daily dependence on alms food reminds both the bhikkhus and the lay devotees of their interdependence and prevents the bhikkhu from becoming too isolated from the lay community. He "meets" them every day and eats the food that they share with him. (from "The Bhikkhus' Rules. A Guide for Laypeople")


ratanasutra

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2012, 01:03:41 PM »
This is what i know

A monk is allowed to collect, receive and consume food between dawn and midday. 

According to the vinaya rules, a meal should be taken before noon.

A meal in the evening may cause drowsiness and make the practice of meditation difficult.

Also by eating only one meal a day, they reduce the burden on the lay community which supports them. 

Although a monk lives on whatever is offered, vegetarianism is encouraged.


RedLantern

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2012, 01:53:58 PM »
Different monks eat different food.Traditionally,all the food for the day is placed in a single bowl before the monks eat.This means rice,curries,fruits,desserts etc. are placed in to the single owl.The monk meal for the day is  eaten before midday.After midday,he can have liquids without any solids in it. Like orange pip etc....
In some monasteries,is quite different.A variety of food is laid out and the monks help themselves-self service. The monks lifestyle varies from tradition to tradition and perhaps monk to monk.Change is unavoidable,things are not the same now as they were in Buddha's time.Being concerned about food does not distract from proper training.

negra orquida

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2012, 02:17:13 PM »
I found this on the website of The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (http://www.advite.com/sf/cttb/cttb5.html)

Quote
The Venerable Master said,

Eating one meal a day at noon is also a rule set up by the Buddha. If you eat and drink less, then you'll have less desire. With less desire, it's easier to cultivate. Therefore we shouldn't eat nutritious food. That's the way we do things at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Even though it's far from perfect, we hope everyone will work hard to improve.


i can see how observing the "one meal a day" could help reduce our attachment to food and habit to eat more than what we actually might need to sustain ourselves. but i'm not sure about the "shouldn't eat nutritious food" part...

Food is definitely one of man's biggest preoccupations... look at how many reality tv shows or tv competitions revolve around cooking and restaurant reviews, how many cook books are there, how many people post up photos of what they are eating on the web... so yes food could also be considered a big distraction. 

personally, i feel that i save more time spent on food ever since becoming a vegetarian. less time spent on poring over the menu, less effort spent on finding the best steakhouse or seafood joint, less time and money spent on buying and preparing the best meat... so if by being vegetarian 3 meals a day, i already get so many benefits in terms of saving time and effort, why about just eating 1 meal a day?

Here is a video of 3 monks talking about this subject

Monk Radio: Eating One Meal A Day


Tammy

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2012, 02:24:30 PM »
I thought monks not only have one meal a day, they would stop eating after 12 noon each day.

Anyway, I found some explanation to this from Rev. Heng Sure, Ph.D in the website http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma9/fasting.html

"Fasting in the monastic community is considered an ascetic practice, a "dhutanga" practice. (Dhutanga means "to shake up" or "invigoration.") Dhutangas are a specific list of thirteen practices, four of which pertain to food: eating once a day, eating at one sitting, reducing the amount you eat, on alms-round, eating only the food that you receive at the first seven houses. These practices are adopted by individuals voluntarily, they are not required in the normal course of a Buddhist monastic's life of practice. The Buddha, as is well known, emphasized moderation, the Middle Way that avoids extremes, in all things. Fasting is an additional method that one can take up, with supervision, for a time."

Seems like this practice of having one single meal a day by some of the sangha members are self-imposed
discipline.

Down with the BAN!!!

dsiluvu

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2012, 02:48:54 PM »
Hi folks here's some interesting info on monk's means of support including food, clothing, shelter etc... and why such monastic rules are created by Lord Buddha. It is not just about food but everything that they do is that of a mendicant for the purpose to train their minds to focus on the main goal which is to be free of attachments and desires and achieve Enlightenment. However do note that these vinaya rules are meant for monk of Theravadan tradition and not quite the same with Tibetan tradition.

Providing the Means for Support

The Vinaya, as laid down by the Buddha, in its many practical rules defines the status of a monk as being that of a mendicant. Having no personal means of support is a very practical means of understanding the instinct to seek security; furthermore, the need to seek alms gives a monk a source of contemplation on what things are really necessary. The four requisites, food, clothing, shelter and medicines, are what lay people can offer as a practical way of expressing generosity and appreciation of their faith in belonging to the Buddhist Community. Rather than giving requisites to particular monks whom one likes and knows the practising Buddhist learns to offer to the Sangha as an act of faith and respect for the Sangha as a whole. Monks respond by sharing merit, spreading good will and the teachings of the Buddha to all those who wish to hear, irrespective of personal feelings.

Food

A monk is allowed to collect, receive and consume food between dawn and midday (taken to be 12 noon). He is not allowed to consume food outside of this time and he is not allowed to store food overnight. Plain water can be taken at any time without having to be offered. Although a monk lives on whatever is offered, vegetarianism is encouraged.

A monk must have all eatables and drinkables, except plain water, formally offered into his hands or placed on something in direct contact with his hands. In the Thai tradition, in order to prevent contact with a woman, he will generally sit down a cloth to receive things offered by women. He is not allowed to cure or cook food except in particular circumstances.

In accordance with the discipline, a monk is prohibited from eating fruit or vegetables containing fertile seeds. So, when offering such things, a layperson can either remove the seeds or make the fruit allowable slightly damaging it with a knife. This is done by piercing the fruit and saying at the same time 'Kappiyam bhante' or 'I am making this allowable, Venerable Sir' (the English translation). It is instructive to note that, rather than limiting what can be offered, the Vinaya lays emphasis on the mode of offering. Offering should be done in a respectful manner, making the act of offering a mindful and reflective one, irrespective of what one is giving.

Clothing

Forest monks generally make their own robes from cloth that is given. Plain white cotton is always useful (it can be dyed to the correct dull ochre). The basic 'triple robe' of, the Buddha is supplemented with sweaters, tee-shirts, socks, etc. and these, of an appropriate brown colour, can also be offered.

Shelter

Solitary, silent and simple could be a fair description of the ideal lodging for a monk. From the scriptures it seems that the general standard of lodging was to neither cause discomfort nor impair health, yet not to be indulgently luxurious. Modest furnishings of a simple and utilitarian nature were also allowed, there being a rule against using 'high, luxurious beds or chairs', that is, items that are opulent by current standards. So a simple bed is an allowable thing to use, although most monks prefer the firmer surface provided by a mat or thick blanket spread on the floor.

The monk's precepts do not allow him to sleep more than three nights in the same room with an unordained male, and not even to lie down in the same sleeping quarters as a woman. In providing a temporary room for a night, a simple spare room that is private is adequate.

Medicine

A monk is allowed to use medicines if they are offered in the same way as food. Once offered, neither food nor medicine should be handled again by a layperson, as that renders it no longer allowable. Medicines can be considered as those things that are specifically for illness; those things having tonic or reviving quality (such as tea or sugar); and certain items which have a nutritional value in times of debilitation, hunger or fatigue (such as cheese or non-dairy chocolate).

Sundries

As circumstances changed, the Buddha allowed monks to make use of other small requisites, such as needles, a razor, etc. In modern times, such things might include a pen, a watch, a torch, etc. All of these were to be plain and simple, costly or luxurious items being expressly forbidden.

Invitation

The principles of mendicancy forbid a monk from asking for anything, unless he is ill, without having received an invitation. So when receiving food, for example, a monk makes himself available in a situation, where people wish to give food. At no time does the monk request food.
This principle should be borne in mind when offering food; rather than asking a monk what he would like, it is better to ask if you can offer some food. Considering that the meal will be the only meal of the day, one can offer what seems right, recognising that the monk will take what he needs and leave the rest. A good way to offer is to bring bowls of food to the monk and let him choose what he needs from each bowl.

Tea and coffee can be offered at any time (if after noon, without milk). Sugar or honey can be offered at the same time to go with it.

One can also make an invitation to cover any circumstances that may arise which you may not be aware of by saying, for example, 'Bhante, if you need any medicine or requisites, please let me know'. To avoid any
misunderstanding, it is better to be quite specific about what you are offering. Unless specified, an invitation can only be accepted for up to four months, after which time it lapses unless renewed.

Inappropriate Items Including Money


T.V.'s and videos for entertainment should not be used by a monk. Under certain circumstances, a Dharma video or a documentary programme may be watched. In general, luxurious items are inappropriate for a monk to accept. This is because they are conducive to attachment in his own mind, and excite envy, possibly even the intention to steal, in the mind of another person. This is unwholesome Kamma. It also looks bad for an alms mendicant, living on charity as a source of inspiration to others, to have luxurious belongings. One who is content with little should be a light to a world where consumer instincts and greed are whipped up in people's minds.

Although the Vinaya specifies a prohibition on accepting and handling gold and silver, the real spirit of it is to forbid use and control over funds, whether these are bank notes or credit cards. The Vinaya even prohibits a monk from having someone else receive money on his behalf. In practical terms, monasteries are financially controlled by lay stewards, who then make open invitation for the Sangha to ask for what they need, under the direction of the Abbot. A junior monk even has to ask an appointed agent (generally a senior monk or Abbot) if he may take up the stewards' offer to pay for dental treatment or obtain medicines, for example. This means that as far as is reasonably possible, the donations that are given to the stewards to support the Sangha are not wasted on unnecessary whims.

If a layperson wishes to give something to a particular monk, but is uncertain what he needs, he should make an invitation. Any financial donations should not be to a monk but to the stewards of the monastery, perhaps mentioning if it's for a particular item or for the needs of a certain monk. For items such as travelling expenses, money can be given to an accompanying anagarika (dressed in white) or accompanying layperson, who can then buy tickets, drinks for a journey or anything else that the monk may need at that time. It is quite a good exercise in mindfulness for a layperson to actually consider what items are necessary and offer those rather than money.

Relationships


Monks and nuns lead lives of total celibacy in which any kind of sexual behaviour is forbidden. This includes even suggestive speech or physical contact with lustful intent, both of which are very serious offences for monks and nuns. As one's intent may not always be obvious (even to oneself), and one's words not always guarded, it is a general principle for monks and nuns to refrain from any physical contact with members of the opposite sex. Monks should have a male present who can understand what is being said when conversing with a lady, and a similar situation holds true for nuns.

Much of this standard of behaviour is to prevent scandalous gossip or misunderstanding occurring. In the stories that explain the origination of a rule, there are examples of monks being accused of being a woman's lover, of a woman's misunderstanding a monk's reason for being with her, and even of a monk being thrashed by a jealous husband!

So, to prevent such misunderstanding, however groundless, a monk has to be accompanied by a man whenever he is in the presence of a woman; on a journey; or sitting alone in a secluded place (one would not call a meditation hall or a bus station a secluded place). Generally, monks would also refrain from carrying on correspondence with women, other than for matters pertaining to the monastery, travel arrangements, providing basic information, etc. When teaching Dharma, even in a letter, it is easy for inspiration and compassion to turn into attachment.

Teaching Dharma

The monk as Dharma teacher must find the appropriate occasion to give the profound and insightful teachings of the Buddha to those who wish to hear it. It would not be appropriate to teach without invitation, nor in a situation where the teachings cannot be reflected upon adequately. This is a significant point, as the Buddha's teachings are meant to be a vehicle, which one should contemplate silently and then apply. The value of Dharma is greatly reduced if it is just received as chit-chat or speculations for debate.

Accordingly, for a Dharma talk, it is good to set up a room where the teachings can be listened to with respect being shown to the speaker. In terms of etiquette, graceful convention rather than rule, this means affording the speaker a seat which is higher than his audience, not pointing one's feet at the speaker, not lying down on the floor during the talk, and not interrupting the speaker. Questions are welcome at the end of the talk.

Also, as a sign of respect, when inviting a monk it is usual for the person making the invitation to also make the travel arrangements, directly or indirectly.

Minor Matters of Etiquette


Vinaya also extends into the realm of convention and custom. Such observances, which it mentions, are not 'rules' but skillful means of manifesting beautiful behaviour. In monasteries, there is some emphasis on such matters as a means of establishing harmony, order and pleasant relationships within a community. Lay people may be interested in applying such conventions for their own development of sensitivity, but it should not be considered as something that is necessarily expected of them.

Firstly, there is the custom of bowing to a shrine or teacher. This is done when first entering their presence or when taking leave. Done gracefully, at the appropriate time, this is a beautiful gesture, which honours the person who does it; at an inappropriate time, done compulsively, it can appear foolish to onlookers. Another common gesture of respect is to place the hands so that the palms are touching, the fingers pointing upwards and the hands held immediately in front of the chest. This is a pleasant means of greeting, bidding farewell, saluting the end of a Dharma talk or concluding an offering.

Body language is something that is well understood in Buddhist cultures. Apart from the obvious reminder to sit up for a Dharma talk rather than loll or recline on the floor one shows a manner of deference by ducking slightly if having to walk between a monk and the person he is speaking to. Similarly, one would not stand looming over a monk to talk to him or offer him something, but rather approach him at the level at which he is sitting.

    "Good is restraint in body,
    restraint in speech is good,
    good is restraint in mind,
    everywhere restraint is good;
    the bhikkhu everywhere restrained
    is from all dukkha free."

    Dharmapada no. 361

pgdharma

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2012, 03:43:40 PM »
I think the answer is that it is simpler as much less time is spent  to worry about food and  more time to practice. For lay people to offer food,  it means that they only have to think of one food offering a day in the morning which is easier for them.  As mentioned in the sutras, one will be more awake since there isn't the drowsiness/sleepiness after the meal.

biggyboy

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2012, 04:58:41 PM »
One meal a day is usually adhered to by the Theravadan tradition.  Most meditation retreats that I have heard from a friend who frequent attends such retreats have only one main meal a day (no eating after mid-day).  This practice made them realise that our body do not really  need as much food as having the usual 3 meals a day.

I would believe that having too frequent and heavy meals a day would cause a person feel drowsy and may affect one’s meditation especially during retreats. 


Buddhist monks observe a strict code of conduct (vinaya) in order to discipline the body and mind. Food is regarded simply as a means of keeping the body alive so that the spiritual path may be followed. Food is not taken in order to beautify the body or because it has a pleasant taste.

According to the vinaya rules, a meal should be taken before noon.
A meal in the evening may cause drowsiness and make the practice of meditation difficult. Monks discipline themselves to be satisfied with very few material things, including food. Also by eating only one meal a day, they reduce the burden on the lay community which supports them. An exception to the rule of not eating after noon is made during an illness.

The vinaya rules state that a monk should only eat what is offered to him and he should accept any item without showing pleasure or displeasure. The right intention should be that dana is offered to the collective body of monks (The Sangha) and not to a particular individual.



DS Star

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2012, 08:49:39 PM »
For the monks, food is for sustainability of their body to follow the spiritual path; not for the pleasant taste or to beautify their bodies.

The monks have to abide by the strict code of conducts (the Vinaya), they observe one meal a day before noon to discipline their body and mind, as it is say that a meal in the evening may cause drowsiness and may cause distractions to their meditation practice.

The vinaya rules state very clearly that a monk should only eat what is offered to him and he should accept any item without showing pleasure or displeasure.

Positive Change

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2012, 08:00:46 AM »
I was souring the internet for a conclusive answer and though there are many similar answers "out there", I found this dialogue between a Jesuit priest Fr. Thomas Ryan who writes books on spirituality for Paulist Press and Rev. Heng Sure, Ph.D. I'm the Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, President of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and Senior Monastic Bhikshu of the late Chan Master Hsuan Hua. to be most interesting:

On Fasting From a Buddhist's Perspective

Q: Please identify yourself and your role at the Berkeley Buddhist monastery.
 
A: Rev. Heng Sure, Ph.D. I'm the Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, President of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and Senior Monastic Bhikshu of the late Chan Master Hsuan Hua. I've been a Buddhist monk in the Chinese Mahayana tradition for 29 years and received all of my training here in the United States at Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco and at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, in Talmage, California. I teach Buddhist-Christian Dialogue at the Graduate Theological Union.

Q: Does fasting hold a very significant place in Buddhist spiritual practice?

A: I want to emphasize that these comments do not represent the "Buddhist" approach to fasting; certainly within the large, global Buddhist family with all its diversity, there are many, many different attitudes and practices. My comments are based on one Buddhist's experiences, from the point of view of a monastic with nearly thirty years of practice as a monk, as well as two decades of pastoral service to lay communities both in Asia and in the West.

Fasting in the monastic community is considered an ascetic practice, a "dhutanga" practice. (Dhutanga means "to shake up" or "invigoration.") Dhutangas are a specific list of thirteen practices, four of which pertain to food: eating once a day, eating at one sitting, reducing the amount you eat, on alms-round, eating only the food that you receive at the first seven houses. These practices are adopted by individuals voluntarily, they are not required in the normal course of a Buddhist monastic's life of practice. The Buddha, as is well known, emphasized moderation, the Middle Way that avoids extremes, in all things. Fasting is an additional method that one can take up, with supervision, for a time.

Q: How did the Buddha's own experience influence the Buddhist approach to fasting?

A: The Buddha's spiritual awakening is directly related to fasting, but from the reverse. That is to say, only after the Buddha stopped fasting did he realize his mahabodhi, or great awakening. The founding story of the Buddhist faith relates how the Buddha was cultivating the Way in the Himalayas, having left his affluent life as a Prince of India. He sought teachers and investigated a variety of practices in his search for liberation from the suffering of old age, death and rebirth. In the course of his practices he realized that desire was the root of mortality. He determined, incorrectly, that if he stopped eating he could end desire and gain liberation from suffering. As the story goes, he ate only a grain of rice and a sesame seed per day. Over time he got so thin that he could touch his spine by pressing on his stomach. He no longer had the strength to meditate. He realized that he would die before he understood his mind; further, that desire does not end by force. At that point a young herds maid offered him a meal of milk porridge which he accepted. He regained his strength, renewed his meditation, and realized Buddhahood. So by quitting fasting, and eating in moderation, he realized the central tenet of Buddhist practice, moderation.

Q: In Buddhism, who fasts? Are there any exemptions due to age, e.g. do children fast? Do adults over a certain age not fast?

A: Fasting in the lay community in Asia is typified by the Chinese word "zhai" or "zai", which means at the same time "vegetarian" as well as "fasting." The point is that removing the meat from one's diet, twice a month on the new or full moon days, or six times a month, or more often, is often considered already a kind of fasting. The principle holds that removing indulgences from the diet, in this case, nutrients that are luxuries eaten to satisfy the desire for flavor, is already a form of fasting, and brings merit to the one who fasts.

For monastics, it's a different story. Fasting, because it is an difficult practice, is undertaken with supervision, under the guidance of a skilled mentor. Children rarely fast in any method connected with the Buddhist religion.

Q: What does a fast day "look" like, e.g. are some foods permitted but not others? Some drinks but not others? Or is it a complete abstinence from all food and all drink?

A: When a practitioner adopts a supervised fasting practice he or she eats dry bread for three days to prepare the stomach for no food. The standard fasting period is eighteen days and only a small amount of water is drunk daily. Most important is the ending of the fast, which requires small portions of thin porridge or gruel every few hours for three days, until the digestive system has come fully back to life. If this first fast is successful and beneficial to one's practice, then one can attempt a thirty-six day fast. Some fasters have extended the period gradually over years to include fasting for up to seventy-two days. This is an extreme practice that is only recommended to one who has taken all the required steps with the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Q: What kind of a place does fasting occupy in the life of the average Buddhist? How long would a normal fast be?

A: To understand how Mahayana Buddhists practice fasting, it helps to understand their daily practices regarding food. Many Buddhists are vegetarians, but not all, by any means. This comes as a surprise to many people who assume that Buddhists, being motivated by great compassion, would not eat the flesh of living beings. This issue has traditionally provoked debate among Buddhists. Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists from the Mahayana or Northern tradition are strict vegetarians. This tradition avoids the five pungent plants (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives) as well as eggs, and of course, alcohol and tobacco in any form.

Avoiding dairy, and following a vegan diet is a personal option and not a requirement. Some Buddhists eat only once per day, before noon. This practice accords with an account in The Sutra In 42 Sections, a Mahayana Scripture, that relates how the Buddha ate one meal a day, before noon.

Q: To those who are not monks--and maybe even to some of those who are!--this may look extreme asceticism. presumably the emphasis on moderation finds more evident expression in the lives of non-monastics. where, for example, would fasting fit into the universe of lay buddhists who have families and jobs?

A: Fasting is not for everybody. The analogy is given of a car. Without gasoline in the tank, the car won't carry you down the road. Folks who function in the world of the marketplace need nutrition to carry on business. Certainly over-eating and under-eating both defeat the purpose of food, which is to nourish the body and keep us healthy so that we can work to benefit the world.

Q: Would the practice of fasting be different among vowed members within the tradition?

A: Laity who receive and observe the vows known as the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts stop eating at noon on six days of each month. The purpose of their limiting food intake is manifold: out of compassion for those suffering from starvation, they "give by reducing their share." Further, they respect the Buddha's practice of moderation and eat less on those days. The fasting observance is related to several liturgical practices observed on the six fasting days: they recite their precept codes, recite scriptures and increase their hours of meditation on those days.

Q: For what reasons would Buddhists fast?  Would one motivating reason tend to play a more significant role than others?

A: Some Buddhist laity feel that eating low on the food chain creates merit; eating less luxurious food creates an opportunity to serve the planet and all living beings. In this way the dining table becomes a place of practice.

Buddhist monastics who adopt the fasting practice described above do so by and large to purify their bodies and to clarify their thoughts. Fasting allows coarse thoughts to diminish, but strength also diminishes, so there is a trade-off between mental clarity and reduced ability to meditate as long. Some monastics report that the longer they fast, the more strength they have; so not everybody's experience is the same.

The Buddha's own experience showed him that fasting per se did not extinguish desire, it only subdued it. As soon as he resumed eating, his desire returned as well. It took concentration and insight to extinguish desire. The Buddha discovered that desire is rooted in the mind and can be transformed in the mind. Fasting can help that process of transforming desire to wisdom by subduing the body's coarse desires. Fasting is an aid to the Way, a supplementary practice that can lead to increased mental awareness of the connection between desire and human existence.

Moreover fasting highlights one's attachments to food and to good flavor; thus it helps the practitioner to distinguish how much of his or her craving for food is need, and therefore normal and necessary, and how much is greed, and therefore a hindrance to liberation.

Q: Is fasting related at all to alms giving in general practice?

A: Monks from the Theravada tradition hold that it is necessary to accept without exception whatever the lay donors put in their alms bowls. If the donation includes meat, many Theravada monks will eat it, regardless. Mahayana monks and nuns feel that compassion should be the priority and it is a monk's duty to inform the laity that meat eating breaks the precept against killing. Killing obviously involves suffering in the animal killed for food; at the same time it harms the seeds of compassion in the heart of the one who kills or eats the animal's body. This principle informs the monastic's approach towards the alms that he or she accepts from laity.

Q: What significance does fasting hold for you personally?

A: I observed an eighteen day fast and was not particularly successful. My constitution tends towards pitta, or "fire" in the Indian Ayurvedic scheme and fasting makes my internal fire balance go over the top. Eating just enough, every day, of wholesome vegetarian food, seems to be the best balance for me.

Dorje Pakmo

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2012, 09:20:03 AM »
 I think the reason why monks eat once a day, normally before noon, is because mainly for them to lessen and control their desire. A meal a day is good enough to sustain a person’s bodily need and if like lay people, the monks eat three times a day, it may arouse the mind to have “expectation” of what’s in the menu for next meal? Like any other worldly enjoyment, food can be a distraction, so a monk who is supposed to renounce worldly pleasures eats once a day to practice non attachment. It is simpler and in order not to burden the lay people, when doing food offering, so they only need to prepare offering once in the morning. Also, observing one meal a day keeps the body light and the mind clear. Eating too much will cause burden to the body and extra energy will be used to digest the food, which in turn makes it hard for one to concentrate during meditations.
DORJE PAKMO

Jessie Fong

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2012, 12:37:41 PM »
We  have been brought up starting our day with breakfast, lunch then dinner, with tea-breaks in between and then supper.  For someone brought up this way and joining the monastic life, how is he able to cope?  Does he unlearn what he has learned?  How would his body react?  His body is so used to many meals and then suddenly he is down to 1 meal daily.  Is he allowed to slowly cut down the number of meals? 

I have heard that it is better to eat our food and stop at just before we feel full, so as to train ourselves not to be over-stuffed.  I think this is a good practice that we do not eat to the fullest.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: Why do monks have only one meal a day?
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2015, 07:54:40 AM »
According to the Buddha, food is not to be desired, to grow, to beautify etc etc.

Food is to sustain our physical vessel so that Monks can practise and study the Vinaya.  Such being the case, as monks get alms as food it also remove the burden of preparing and cooking and give more time to study and teach the Dharma.