Thursday, April 30, 2009

Commandments And Precepts VI

The sixth of the eight Precepts and ten Precepts is Vikala bhojana vermani sikkhapadam samadhiami, I take the precept not to eat at the wrong time. 'Wrong time' (vikala) has long been interpreted to mean after noon or midday, although I know of no place in the suttas where this is specifically stated. The overall purpose of this rule is clear enough – to encourage moderation in eating (Sn.707) and to keep drowsiness due to a full stomach at bay. But the part about not eating after midday is less clear. The origin story in the Vinaya explaining this rule is unconvincing and obviously a later invention. According to this story, a monk was standing at someone's door late at night. As the woman of the house approached the door a sudden flash of lightening illuminated him, frightening the woman half to death, and to prevent this from happening again the Buddha instituted the rule. The only justification the Buddha gives for this rule is that it is good for the health and he does not mention what the 'wrong time' is other than to say the 'evening' or 'night' (ratti). He said, 'I do not eat in the evening and thus I am free from illness and affliction and enjoy health, strength and ease' (M.I,473). But I can see not reason why eating only in the morning should be any more or less healthy than eating only in the afternoon.
I suspect that the rule has its origins in two things. That eating before noon was already a well-established convention amongst wandering ascetics and the Buddha simply asked his monks and nuns to follow this convention. And the reason why this convention evolved in the first place was probably because, then as now, Indian peasant women cooked all the day's food early in the morning and the main meal of the day was in the morning. In other words, the most convenient time to go for alms gathering (pindapata) was in the morning. Noon was probably used as the cut-off point for not eating because it could be known exactly. Its also pretty certain also that monks and nuns only eat one meal a day because, not doing hard physical labour, they did not need that much food. So it is important to understand that noon is not some magical time, after which consuming food becomes a moral failing. It is just a convenient, and at that time a practical, way of dividing the day.

12 comments:

Scott said...

Hello Bhante. Diabetics are advised to eat small amounts throughout the day. Are diabetics barred from ordination? Or are monks who develop this disease given dispensation to eat solid food after noon?

Justin Choo said...

Bhante,

Although I am ignorant on the Tipitakka regarding this topic, by using my common sense, I find your explanation a very practical one.

rebeldealegre said...

Bhante,

What to do then, when following the 8 precepts on uposatha day?

Metta
Adrian

Eterna2 said...

Bhante,

I am not a Buddhist, but I am very interested in what Buddhism is about.

I have read in wikipedia what it is, but it is kinda complicated, and lacks a lot of details like how do you start, and why do you do this and that. I find your introduction to the Precepts a lot easier to follow, however, I am still kinda vague on some things and hope you can correct me if my understanding is wrong.

5 Precepts:The 3rd Precepts, not to engage in wrong sexual behaviour.

What sort of sexual behaviors are considered wrong? I would assume unnatural sexual behaviors such as beastiality, etc are wrong. And forced/violent acts such as rapes are wrong. But what about self-pleasure, prostitution, whoring, anal sex, homosexual sex, or sex for the sole purpose of pleasure?

And how does this Precepts affect a prostitute? Is it ok for one to practice only some of the Precepts instead of all?

Based on your explanation on the reasons for the Precepts that they are to help us to be more in tune with the world, ourselves and our mind? So am I correct to assume that it is ok to practice only those Precepts that you feel you are able to adhere to, as such, some is still better than none?

However, does it mean that unless you had fulfilled the 5, you should not attempt the 8 Precepts? Because I might find some easier to follow as compared to others?

I understand that it is obviously better to practice all. But I am wondering if it is ok to practice only the ones which are you are comfortable with.

As in, I might find myself not willing/ready yet to give up certain things in life. And I feel that it is not right to "force" myself on something which I don't like or think that I can follow faithfully. And just follows the ones which I feel I am ready to accept. And just wait for the day when I feel that I am ready to accept the ones which I was not ready previously? Because I feel that it is not right to force yours to do anything, unless you are really willing about it, because doing something you don't really want only make you unhappy about the whole process, and maybe even make you have a bad impression / instinctual dislike of it, which makes accepting it harder in the future.


8 Precepts:(6) not to eat after midday

Based on this post, am I right that the idea for this Precepts is to avoid overeating and drowsiness, because it is not good for the body? And it causes the mind to be unfocused, undisciplined?

Whether if we eat before or after midday or otherwise is not important? Because it is just a tradition from the past due to convenience/practicality?

I would think that eating little meals many times throughout the day will result in less drowsiness because you are eating less each time, and allowing the stomach to digest it better. If this is the case (assuming this is true), should we do this or stick with eating a single meal?

10 Precepts:Is there are mistake or there are some reason why in the 8 Precepts:

(7), to abstain from dancing, singing, playing or listening to music, personal adornment and makeup

is broken up into

(7) to abstain from dancing, singing and musical entertainment, (8) to abstain from adornment and makeup,

in the 10 Precepts??

-------------------------

I hope I am not troubling you with my multitudes of questions. I am by nature a curious person, and sometimes I am not very good at expressing myself. So I hope you don't mind me, if some of my questions seems rude, because I don't intended them to be. I am just a bit eccentric/weird, so sometimes what is obvious to people are not obvious to me, although I do try my best.

Lastly I have just some general question. My personal opinion is that suffering is part of living. Why should we try to avoid or remove suffering? Isn't it also a form of attachment?

And the attachment to the concept of non-attachment contradicting? I meant I am half-way understanding it, but it still confuses me.

As in we should let things be naturally, because we should not be attached to any particular concepts. Because if we allow ourselves to be natural, and view everything as natural, we will not be disturbed by anything, because we have no concepts or expectation of anything?

Is this correct? Or am I just confused?

Because I try to study both Taoism and Buddhism (but a lot less on Buddhism - so my understanding might be wrong). Because when I first started, I thought Taoism and Buddhism approach are very different. But as I go along, I find that they are very similar. The initial starting point may seem different, but as you go along, it is like they are almost the same?

Or am I just confused between the 2 beliefs?

I have to confess, I am not properly taught in either schools of beliefs. Everything I "learnt" are based on what I read, and what I thought out myself. So some of my assumptions on what Taoism and Buddhism should be may be wrong. I don't really have a teacher to turn to, because I am not very comfortable talking to people in general.

But I would really like to learn more, to have a better understanding. I am sorry if I seemed like a machine gun.

I am patient, maybe you can ask my questions in some future posts??

Sorry if I am like spamming your blog.

Regards, William

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Scott,
As the sixth Precept is actually about curbing overeating, a diabetic who has to eat small amounts throughout the day, would not, I would maintain, be infringing the Precept if he/she does so. It is the motive and the amount eaten that are the most important things, not the time. I think this answers Rebeldealegre's question too. But of course, I'm taking the 'liberal' line. Many Theravadins are pretty rigid and literal.
Dear Eterna2, I will try to answer some of your questions. As for the Buddhist position on some of the topics you ask about, please go to www.buddhismatoz.com and look up Prostitution, Sexual Behaviour, Music, Dancing, Make-up, Pleasure, etc. As for bestiality, God! I hope your not contemplating trying that. If so, let me know and I will put you in touch with a rather lonely middle-aged goat I know who has a pleasant personality and likes classical music. She is vegetarian, does not smoke and is only interested in a long-term relationship.
You ask where to start. Well, best would be to get one or two good introductions to Buddhism, read them and see if Buddhism offers what you are looking for. If you do, and you decide to become a Buddhist you should take the Three Refuges (look it up on the web site mentioned above) and then undertake to practice the five Precepts. Amongst some Chinese Buddhists there is the belief that you can decide to practice only those Precepts you like or that you think you can uphold. This is not in accordance with the Buddha's teachings. If you become a Buddhist, you should do your best to structure your life around the five Precepts and do your best to follow all of them. That does not mean that they are always easy to practice or that you will sometimes fail to practice them, but if you never even try, if you 'just leave out the bits you don't like, I you will never be challenges to grow, to reach beyond your present state. As you mature in the Dhamma and the desire to go deeper into it becomes stronger, you might then like to practice the eight Precepts twice a month, that is, spend a whole day in simplicity and silent awareness, your time dedicated only to the spiritual rather than the worldly.
You say that you think that 'suffering is a part of living'. Of course, as a Buddhist I would agree with you. But that does not mean that we should therefore just accept that as our 'normal' condition. If we can modify our suffering, it will release an energy that we can use to develop and encourage the really worthwhile potentials we possess – kindness, awareness, wisdom, and so on.

Scott said...

Thank you. I have heard of some Buddhist retreats that won't take diabetics (for example, http://www.dhammakaya.or.th/meditation/meditation_ordination.php). I wondered whether this was because they expected all participants to adhere strictly to this precept, or whether they simply think diabetics are too fragile.

Keng said...

Hello Shravasti Dhammika,

I would appreciate it very much if you could please take your time to provide me with answers to the following questions on Buddhism, which have intrigued me for many years now. My late father was a devout Buddhist and he was a very kind man and a man of peace. My late mother too was a Buddhist and she was very compassionate too.

They never tried to "force" any Buddhist concepts upon me.

I grew up in a Catholic school environment but chose not to be baptized.

This was because I could not accept a fear-based religion. To send a person to hell forever is a paradox to me as it contradicts a God who is infinitely kind. The axiom is that if one is infinitely kind one cannot be also unkind. A circle is round, it cannot be less round or more round.

Also if God is omnipotent he would know, even if he gave us freewill, where we would end up on judgement day, so why do billions of folks have to live through the agony and suffering for so long on Earth?

Why not go straight to the judgement day and sort out the good from the bad folks and just delete the bad folks, like we delete files on our PC, painlessly?

This was and is still puzzling to me and keeps me thinking what else is going on?

Till today I have yet to decide what faith suits me. I am guided by my own moral compass, which is based on compassion and the seeking of the truth.

Please note my blog is brand new and was just created so that I can post,with respect, these questions on Buddhism to you:

1 Is Buddhism a religion?

2 If Buddhists don't believe in a God or creator then who created this universe? Can it somehow exist on its own. Does it not contradict the laws of physics if it just existed on its own?

In a 'time-based continuum, time "t" has a beginning and ultimately an end. Does it not mean that the universe had a beginning and it will come to an end one day?

3 Buddhists believe in re-births. But if there is no God who then is "controlling" this re-birth mechanism and who decides whether Buddhists come back to Earth as a human being or an animal or other sentient beings?

4 Do non-Buddhists also go through rebirths regardless of their faith?

5 Buddhists believe in karma and that one's actions on Earth will be taken into account when one's re-birth takes place as to what one will be born as. Who keeps the "accounting" of one's karma? Who knows when we do a good deed and bad deed. Who then decides what the "score card" is and what one is born as ?

6 What is the purpose of re-birth? Is it to attain Nirvana? What is Nirvana? What happens after one attains Nirvana? Does one become another "Buddha"? Do all Buddhas have the same ranking or not?

7 Why do you place flowers before and bow to the Siddartha Guatama Buddha? Do you worship him or was it an act of reverence?

8 He attained nirvana over 2500 years ago. Were there any Buddha before Him? If so why don't Buddhist also revere them?

9 If there were no Buddha before Him then who decided to start His rebirth? Was His rebirth the first one to take ever place?

10 If there were no rebirths before Him what happened to the people who died before Him?

11 Do rebirths take place in other parts of the universe?

12 When will rebirth end? Is it a possibility that the world may end first in a catastrophic nuclear war before all the rebirths end? If that happens what will happen to all those who have yet to complete their cycles of rebirths?

Look forward to hear from you and thank you in advance.

Eterna2 said...

Bhante,

Thank you for the link. It is a lot simpler, and easier to read. But raises alot more questions, because they just explain what, and why, without giving much opinions. So I have many interpretation, but I cannot know if I am getting it right or not.

Anyway, lol about the goat. I have read up some, and I think I have a sense on how should we view things.

But about the Golden rule. Does it means that different people/culture might have different views on whether an act is acceptable or not?

Thank you for your advices. I am not sure if I am ready to be a Buddhist yet, although I do find Buddhism to be very interesting. I will continue read up to understand more.

I was reading about the 5 Precepts. I am already practicing Precept 2~5. But I am not sure about Precept 1. The explanation on Vegetarianism is presenting many views, without actually saying if it is okay to be not a vegetarian? It says it is more consistent with the 1st Precept to be a vegetarian. So am I still considered having followed the 1st Precept because I am not vegetarian, but I also do not actively go out to eat meat. I am usually apathetic to what I eat.

Anyway, I understand it is very important to be really committed to the path. Because half-hearted attempts will only ends with failures. But I am not sure if I am ready for the commitment.

But anyway, I am also reading on the 8 precepts. You have explained your "liberal" stance on not to eat after midday. However, I still have some problem with "not to use high seats or couches".

It is explained "Practising the eighth Precept is about modesty, diminishing the ego and refraining from 'putting oneself on a pedestal.'"

So I am kinda confused how do you practice that because sitting on chairs nowadays are no longer indication of power or status? Obviously I need to sit on a chair when I am working in an office. And I can't think of any physical behaviors that can help promote modesty?

And I would also assume visual art (painting) is the same as music/dancing? I should put aside my art occasionally so that my mind can be clear?

Thank you for your time :) I really appreciates it.

~ William

no said...

Perhaps let me share a little which I have learnt about Buddhism which might be of use to Eterna and Keng, and could our dear Venerable correct me if I am wrong.

If we have an enquiring mind, there will be endless questions why things are such as they are now. However, the Buddha's purpose is not to answer all these questions, but to tackle the imminent most important question, namely: "Why is life yet unsatisfactory?" That formulation is embodied in the "Four Truths" as taught by the Buddha. Now the rest of Buddhism and the huge Tipitaka is just there to help us understand this, and all the practices are there to train our minds so that they might reach the stage of gaining deeper insights in the matter.

Keng said...

Thank you Mr/Ms No. The Buddha once said 'Come and see, come and investigate. Do not believe anything with blind faith."

And according to Venerable Sri S. V. Pandit Paraduwa Pemaratana Maha Nayaka Thera, the late Chief Monk of Mahindarama Buddhist Temple in Penang, "In Buddhism, blind faith is discouraged and is substituted by "saddha" or confidence which is based on knowledge and understanding."

But how can a novice understand and gain knowledge if he/she does not ask questions? So please bear with me as I begin my journey to seek the Truth.

Keng said...

Hello Dewi Kayangan,

Thank you very much for relating your experience to me. I did not realize that there are several types of Buddhism, such as the Thevarada Buddhism and the Mahayana Buddhism.

The temple in Penang is called Mahindarama Buddhist Temple. Is this another variant?

Are there any more variants? Do they all preach the same concepts or are they like the 20,000 denominations of the Christian church, which go their separate directions in the United States?

How do we know which variant is suitable for oneself?

Thank you very much once again for the addresses of the Pureland Amitabha Buddhist Associations in KL and Ipoh.

I live in Singapore and will make the appropriate inquiries after I received a response from Rev Shravasti Dhammika.

Keng said...
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