In several suttas, for example, MN 38 SuttaCentral we come across statements such as:
“Mendicants, there are these four fuels. They maintain sentient beings that have been born and help those that are about to be born. What four? Solid food, whether coarse or fine; contact is the second, mental intention the third, and consciousness the fourth.
What is the source, origin, birthplace, and inception of these four fuels? Craving.”
Now my question is this: How is this to be understood specifically in relation to the first fuel, solid food? How is craving the source, origin, birthplace, and inception of solid food? I have so far thought of two options.
- Taking it literally and meaning whatever solid food is consumed by any sentient being came to be because of craving of some sentient being at some point in time. This is highly unlikely since it is contrary to evolution and I suspect even in Buddha’s time they knew that plants have been around long before animals and humans.
- It is to be understood as fruits and plants (and animals later on) existed as they are but craving makes them recognized, labeled, and used as food and fuel (by birds, humans, and other animals)
- Is there a third option at a different level of understanding?
Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. If anyone knows any works that give a detailed analysis of nutriments/fuels, that would also be welcome.
@Moderators, please feel free to move this to a more appropriate section.