Food and Insight by Ven. Analayo

Just now, i read an very good article by Ven. Analayo at Barre Center.


Thank you , this article contains groundbreaking information on feelings not of the flesh.


Thanks for posting this @calvin_sad. I have been downloading some of Ven. Analayo’s scholarship on my laptop to read at lunch ( irony here, as I am shoving food in my face), and this essay is welcome.

At the same time, however, the discourses also report the Buddha gradually introducing intermittent fasting to his monastic disciples, designating certain times when food should not be eaten.

Interesting, the practice of intermittent fasting has been widely discussed by health scientists and fitness experts as an important practice toward weight control and optimizing health:

For a few years I have tried to incorporate into my daily practice an aversion to foodie culture. In other words, I have tried to see food as a necessary fuel, but not as a means for sensual pleasure or relief from stress. Most days, I eat the same thing, every day…simple, inexpensive foods. I eat early in the morning (old happy habit from samanera days) and then at midday (since I’m no longer being strict on 8 precepts, midday can be 2 or 3 or 4pm, depending on circumstances…this was the main feature that lead me to forgo last year the 8 precepts…not sex, drugs and rock and roll…although I do have music back in my life and am somewhat reattached to it now).

It is good to read this article today. Food culture in the US is just so over-the-top, and foodie culture, fast food, and seeing so many people center their life around the craving for, sourcing of, and consumption of gourmet food is just part of the slightly disordered society that we have in the west, which I am sure contributes to overall suffering. It’s nice to have these reminders from our venerables to reinforce the Buddha’s attitudes on food consumption, and to see the connection between what the Buddha taught, and what science is now teaching the west about good health and skillful behavior.


Thank you.

I have had no ill effect in abstaining from dinner for the past few months. Rather, that intermittent fasting has helped foster food equanimity. I also sleep better not having to worry about heartburn from lingering digestion.


This is a very good read. One takeaway from my own perspective as a layperson is that it’s not so much important the time of day one eats, but eliminating the lust for food. In the past year I lost an alarming amount of weight due to stress in my life. I remain on the underweight side (according to my medical doctor) so I am not in any danger of the sort of weight gain that has become a health problem in the West. I eat mindfully and with purpose, but I try not to crave food despite the fact that my doctor has pretty much given me permission to eat whenever I am hungry.


Please be very careful. Aversion to food is also horrible.
With hunger, higher brain functions are impaired.
Specifically, the ability to reason degrades. This leads
to a downwards spiral of self-mortification. Mortality rate for
anorexia is quite high even with family members helping to fight
the disease.


Thank you for being thoughtful. I am not averse to food, but rather, I am trying to cultivate mindfulness about eating. I enjoy food quite a bit, but find it instructive to experience the enjoyment of eating without the lust for it. It’s a fine line to be sure, which is where the Buddha’s teachings about the middle path come into play.


Definitely food for thought (groan).

Venerable Analayo’s definition of worldly and unworldly types of vedana is interesting.

If I understand correctly, he is suggesting that arhants no longer experience any type of worldly vedana.

Please correct me if I have misunderstood the venerable Bhikkhu’s arguments.

I think it’s helpful to recall the following distinction when reading the article:

  1. Happiness apparent in the present life
  2. Happiness to do with lives to come
  3. The ultimate goal, extinguishment

While the Doṇapāka-sutta (SN 3.13) (in which the Buddha advises King Pasenadi moderation in eating) is concerned with (1) and (2), “Food and Insight” focuses on (3).

For those not yet advanced on the path, it can be tricky to let go of sensual pleasures like eating. The householder Tapussa said it well:

Sir, Ānanda, we are laypeople who enjoy sensual pleasures. We like sensual pleasures, we love them and take joy in them. But renunciation seems like an abyss. I have heard that in this teaching and training there are very young mendicants whose minds are eager for renunciation; they’re confident, settled, and decided about it. They see it as peaceful. Renunciation is the dividing line between the multitude and the mendicants in this teaching and training (AN 9.41)

The Buddha responds by describing his absorption practice before awakening in detail.

IMO it’s important to balance (1), (2), and (3) in practicing the path.


It seems so

This in turn helps to relate the distinction drawn in the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta between worldly and unworldly feeling tones to the topic of eating. The feeling tones experienced by the Buddha when partaking of food must have been unworldly, due to the complete eradication of any lust in his mind. This holds even though these feeling tones arose in relation to the sense-door of the tongue and thus were sensory feelings.

In contrast, King Pasenadi must have been experiencing worldly type of feeling tones when overeating. For this reason, he had to learn to cultivate mindfulness while eating. This would have helped him to overcome lust for taste at least to the extent of no longer overeating.


I think you’re correct, Leon. I recently corresponded with Ven. Analayo about this very point. At the end of a long exchange about it, I wrote:

I searched for a more detailed explanation in “Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna” and found the example of MĀ 163, which may have cleared things up for me. Is it correct to say that worldly vedanā are those that arise from the akusala reactions to sense objects (e.g., delight and attachment)? And unworldly vedanā are those that arise from seclusion from those sense objects?

And he replied:

Indeed, that is what I intended to convey. The converse would then be:

"unworldly vedanā are those that arise from the kusala reactions to sense objects"

That is, they need not be confined to "seclusion from sense objects", they only require seclusion from akusala reactions to them.

Here is the passage from MĀ 163 that I found helpful:

What is joy based on attachment? The eye comes to know forms that
are conducive to joy and the mind reflects on them, craves for those
forms and experiences happiness conjoined with desire. One desires
to obtain those [forms] which one has not obtained, and, on having
recollected those which one has already obtained, joy arises. Joy of
this type is joy based on attachment.

What is joy based on dispassion? One understands that forms are
impermanent, changing, [bound to] disappear, fade away, cease,
and subside; that all forms, both formerly and in the present, are
impermanent, unsatisfactory, and bound to cease. Having recollected
this, joy arises. Joy of this type is joy based on dispassion …

What is sadness based on attachment? The eye comes to know
forms that are conducive to joy and the mind reflects on them, craves
for those forms and experiences happiness conjoined with desire.
Not obtaining those [forms] which one has not yet obtained, and
those which one has already obtained being past and gone, scattered
and decayed, having ceased or changed, sadness arises. Sadness of
this type is sadness based on attachment.

What is sadness based on dispassion? One understands that forms
are impermanent, changing, [bound to] disappear, fade away,
cease, and subside; that all forms, both formerly and in the present,
are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and bound to cease. Having
recollected this one reflects: “When will I accomplish dwelling in
that sphere, namely the sphere that the noble ones are accomplished
in dwelling in?” This is one’s aspiration for the highest liberation,
[born of] being distressed by one’s understanding of the sadness
of dukkha and the sadness of birth. Sadness of this type is sadness
based on dispassion …

What is equanimity based on attachment? The eye comes to know
forms and there arises equanimity. That is the indifference [of one]
who is not learned, who lacks wisdom, a foolish and ignorant
worldling. Such equanimity towards form is not separate from form.
This is equanimity based on attachment.

What is equanimity based on dispassion? One understands that
forms are impermanent, changing, [bound to] disappear, fade away,
cease, and subside; that all forms, both formerly and in the present,
are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and bound to cease. Having
recollected that, one is established in equanimity. If equanimity
has been attained [in this way] through mental development, this
is equanimity based on dispassion.


Very interesting!
Thank you so much for your reply, Christopher.
I’m reserving judgement for the moment but look forward to investigating the matter further.


Thank you so much for sharing it. It is very relevant topic and well explained by Ven. Analayo.

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I weighed myself yesterday out of curiousity and was shocked to discover I had lost 8 pounds. I had not expected that much and was surprised, since I skip dinner out of simple observance. I haven’t been at this weight since twenty years ago.

Now I have to actually cheer myself on to eat heartily for the day. It is an unexpected form of mindfulness–the mindfulness to eat enough. Quite peculiar. And I haven’t found anything of this in the EBT’s either. Anybody else out there have similar experience?

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:joy: Yes, exactly! Unlike many people who struggle with overweight I am at the border to underweight, and eating is in a way “work” for me, rather than just sensual stimulation.

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:open_mouth: wow! Thank you for saying this. It is quite the relief. I thought I was doing something wrong. Because it feels exactly like work.

:pray: :pray: :pray:


I know two (young) persons who are/have been completely underweighted and “eating” was an abyss for them; they needed medical supervision and even infusions. One recovered after about 6 monthes and eats now stable, the other one seems to be shaky still but I’ve not continuously contact so I don’t know precisely. So it can also be seen as a gift to be able to feel pleasure by eating (let alone to feel neutral… ; ) ).


Just to introduce another aspect which I was missing when now reading the article of Ven. Analayo.

I remember a self-training from the very beginning of my contact with buddhism when I first time took a one-week-visit in a monastery (Plum-Village of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh). A lot of monks/novices and a handful of visitors like me in the community hall for taking food. Very nice feeling for me, I’m grown up in a family where each day we were 11 people around the table… I already knew “I’ve something with eating”: as a child when stressed I rather moderated myself digesting sweets, in contrast to brothers who acted out. Maybe like a small lightning that consideration came to me, or at least like a glimpse of it - whatever: one morning I decided to stay away from eating and to see, what will happen… So I sat between the eating people, forced me to be attentive, aware of my feelings but trying to let the stress not overcome me. Morning was easy, noon was difficult. One monk asked me whether I’m ok - taking no food? Ok, ok, I’m still curious about myself… what’s going on with me, inside? I felt not so much hunger, but fear, also felt being isolated excluded from life and several nuances related to the social relevance of taking food, let’s say to the “sharing the behave of eating”, sharing the “moment of eating” or so.
Of course, I still lived in the evening :wink: , but I’ve seen a lot of unexpected things. It was already easy in the evening to not to share the eating but still to keep the place in the busy chewing community.
So eating/drinking, digesting is not primarily a matter of tasting but of course of keeping the continuity of organic existence with regularly input… and output, sustaining the metabolizm.
This can be a form of “slavery” (I’ve learned to feel such a typ of slavery when I was smoking much, and when I tried to stop this once) and the term “emancipation” is a nice expression, I’d say, for the form of release if slavery is in the game.

Now to give it a wider perspective and to come back to EBT. I do not exactly whether I found this story in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “white cloud…” (and from where he might have taken this) or elsewhere. But it goes like this. The Buddha and the sangha stayed a certain time in a certain region, when it came to a general shortage. People even began to starve, and of course to receive alms in such a situation is seldom and sparse. In the sangha the tendency occured to leave the place, just to not to be an additional burden to the citizens and the farmers around. The Buddha seem to have sensed some fine subsonic tune in this. As it is transmitted in the story he said:

Well, we have shared the good times with the people. Let’s share now the time of hunger with them.

Whether this is a real story from the life of the sangha or not - I’ll take it as such and agree completely with the attempt of the Buddha: eating, sharing food, keeping the balance between the need (& greed!) of nourishing myself physically and the sharing of the social contact/the reliability of sharing in a period of hunger and starve is a big part in the human field of eating, tasting, feeding, and even of hunger and starving, …