Khādaniya and bhojaniya

Just in case this unimportant idea, turns out, in some strange way, to be pertinent in some other context - I thought I’d share…

Listening recently to a recording of Ajahn @Brahmali, I found his discussion about the different ways of translating khādaniya and bhojaniya interesting, mainly from the point of view of someone who grew up eating with her fingers.

I have verified what follows with someone who lived most of her life in Sri Lanka, but this is certainly my memory of eating etiquette also.

Before a small portion of food is put into the mouth, it is already turned into a mushy mixture that has ‘come together’; that is, it is one lump without grains of rice or other bits of food flying about the place. In this condition it is easy to neatly (and politely?) deposit in one’s mouth.

In order for this to happen, there has to be at least one dish that can help turn everything else into a well combined mush. For instance, well cooked root vegetables, yoghurt, softer rices like well cooked jasmine, boiled eggs etc. And perhaps even sauces and gravies would be considered soft foods in this sense though this kind of more liquid addition would be secondary and only useful if something like a potato or a rather well cooked rice is available.

I am guessing that the eating culture of the Buddha’s time was also one where clean fingers were the main utensil.

So is it possible that bhojaniya is referring to the kind of soft food that helps with the mixing process? (My SL consultant here says that before the food goes into one’s mouth, it’s already partly ‘digested’!) Perhaps then khādaniya refers to food that is not helpful in this task - such as harder rices like basmati, meat, fish, leafy greens, nuts, mushrooms, etc.

It’s possible that some food items might fit into both catergories - depending on how they are prepared. For instance, an unripe mango can be pickled, or eaten with salt and chilli and would be a hard food - unsuitable for helping to mix other foods. An unripe mango can also be well cooked, mushy and be sitting in a shallow gravy - it might be helpful in the mixing process.

Well, that’s it. Just in case it’s vaguely helpful. :slightly_smiling_face:

EDIT: To quote myself :slightly_smiling_face:

… Thank you for your input everyone, it’s been fun and interesting learning from you all.
Apologies for any monumental delays or for not responding at all - this has been an enjoyable but probably rare outing! :slightly_smiling_face:


I always thought of them in simplified terms as anything edible for khādaniya, and prepared meal (as in what we put in our plates and bowls) as bhojaniya. The current meaning of the word bhojan is still a meal; like in food platter or thāli.

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Ripe mangoes (like many tropical fruits) contain enzymes which contribute to the digestive process:

"Mango has several qualities that make it excellent for digestive health (14Trusted Source).

For one, it contains a group of digestive enzymes called amylases.

Digestive enzymes break down large food molecules so that your body can absorb them easily.

Amylases break down complex carbs into sugars, such as glucose and maltose. These enzymes are more active in ripe mangoes, which is why they’re sweeter than unripe ones (44Trusted Source)."—Healthline

"Cooked and processed foods are enzymatically dead which means there are no live enzymes within that food to help digestion.

These dead foods place stress on the digestive system, pancreas, immune system, and your whole body."—Ann Arbor Holistic Health

" Natural Sources of Digestive Enzymes

Fruits, vegetables, and other foods have natural digestive enzymes. Eating them can improve your digestion.

  • Honey, especially the raw kind, has amylase and protease.
  • Mangoes and bananas have amylase, which also helps the fruit to ripen.
  • Papaya has a type of protease called papain.
  • Avocados have the digestive enzyme lipase.
  • Sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, picks up digestive enzymes during the fermentation process.

If your body doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, it can’t digest food well."—Nourish

*Some traditional food ideas there are nutritionally incorrect, for example the consumption of coconut oil and milk, and Sri Lanka is currently undergoing a process of its economy and culture being brought into line with modern scientific standards (globalization).

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Interesting Idea. But the basic definition is:

cooked grain, porridge, flour products, fish, and meat.

Perhaps it’s that bhojaniya is the “mooshable foods” rather than specifically the “mooshing agent”, and khadaniya is “unmooshable food”.


Thanks, Venerable, this is certainly interesting. I have repeatedly found that it is dangerous to assume that you understand the details of a culture you are not very familiar with. The sort of insight you provide here is very helpful.

As pointed out by Bhante Sujato, however, your description does not fit super-well with the definitions found in the Vinaya Piṭaka. Bhojanīya is usually restricted to the five foods he lists, but at times the definition is broadened to include other foods, such as in the compound paṇīta-bhojana, “fine foods”.

Here is an extended note on the related terms khādanīya and bhojanīya that will appear in my Vinaya Piṭaka translation:

Khādanīya, together with bhojanīya, is a core concept of the monastic rules. It is perhaps surprising, then, how diffiuclt it is to render these terms in English. A typical translation of this pair, used for instance by I.B. Horner, is “soft food” and “hard food”, respectively for bhojanīya and khādanīya. This is in turn derived from underlying verbs that mean “to savour” and “to chew”. So presumably the difference in these foods relate to the way they tend to be eaten. Still, it is not obvious that foods to be savoured do not also need to be chewed, nor that foods that need chewing cannot also be savoured. So, at best “soft food” and “hard food” are no more than convenient approximations. Moreover, “soft food” and “hard food” are quite meaningless in English translation. They do not correspond to any typical division of food we are used to in contemporary western society.

A more recent rendering for the same pair, used for instance by Bhikkhu Ṭhānissaro, is “staple food” and “nonstaple food”. This rendering has the advantage of fitting well with a typical classification of food in English. However, it also has drawbacks. The way bhojanīya, “staple food”, is defined in the Vibhaṅga it includes foods that were not staples in ancient India, such as meat and fish. We can only conclude that this translation does not properly reflect the underlying Pali.

Even more recently, in TAP p.193, Bhikkhu Ñāṇatusita has suggested that bhojanīya and khādanīya should be rendered as “cooked food” and “uncooked food”. He bases this suggestion on the fact that the definition of bhojanīya lists foods that are normaly cooked, whereas the definition of khādanīya consists of foods that are normally or often served raw. This translation is certainly more meaningful than “soft food” and “hard food”. Now let’s compare it to the pair “staple food” and “nonstaple food”.

Khādanīya occurs in a number of context where “uncooked food” fits better than “nonstaple food”. Khādanīya was often stored in a monastery, whereas there is no indication that this was the case for bhojanīya. For instance, in the orgin story to bhikkhu pācittiya 41, we find that the Sangha had an abundance of khādanīya. This food was then distributed in the monastery (bhikkhu pārājika 2) by an official specifically elected for the task, the khajjaka-bhājaka (Senāsana-kkhandhaka, Kd.16). Uncooked food could well be stored in this way, whereas this would not be possible with cooked food at a time when there were no means of refrigeration. We find a particularly instructive passage at bhikkhu pācittiya 37, where monks are first given food to eat (bhojetvā, “having been made to eat bhojanīya”), and then given khādanīya to take away. Again, the cooked/uncooked distinction fits well, but not so much the staple/nonstaple duality. Another passage with a similar suggestive value is found at bhikkhu pācittiya 46, where khādanīya is sent to the monastery and then returned to the owners. There is no mention of bhojanīya, and it does seem unlikey cooked food would be treated in this way.

Yet another passage that gives some relevant information is found at Bhesajja-kkhandhaka (Kd.6), where people are said to bring salt, oil, rice, and khādanīya to the monastery and then store it there. Salt and oil are uncooked foods. The word for “rice” here is taṇḍula, which refers to uncooked rice. Taṇḍula is then cooked, becoming bhatta or bhojanīya, before it is served to the monks. The distinction between cooked and uncooked food is here quite clear. But there is no obvious way these foods can be divided into staples and nonstaples. A similar passage is found further down in the same text. In this case the same group of foods in loaded onto carts, which then follow behind the Buddha and the monks, seemingly for a period of many days or even weeks. Again, this only makes sense if khādanīya is uncooked food.

What about counter-arguments? At bhikkhunī pācittiya 44, khādanīya is said to be cooked. However, this does not necessarily contradict the idea that khādanīya generally was uncooked or given as uncooked food. Almost any food can be cooked, but certain foods tend to be cooked more often than others, such a rice or meat. It follows that bhojanīya and khādanīya are not exclusive categories, and that some degree of overlap is to be expected.

Then there is the curious lack of mention of byañjana and sūpa, both are bean-based curries, which were cooked staples in ancient India. At bhikkhu nissaggiya pācittiya 21, byañjana is mentioned as a separate food from khādanīya. At the same time, neither of them is included in the standard definition of bhojanīya. It might be that these foods were considered too marginal to be included in either category. Perhaps they were seen as no more than a sauce to spice up the rice, perhaps also as a kind of luxury, as seems to be implied by certain rules such as sekhiya 36 and 37.

I conclude that staple/nonstaple is not a good match for bhojanīya/khādanīya. For this reason I follow Bhikkhu Ñāṇatusita in his rendering of these terms, except I use “fresh” in place of “uncooked”.


Thanks for that information everyone. This has all been most interesting. Here are some further thoughts.

I think this could work too. Perhaps khādaniya was like a sort ‘umbrella term’ that included a range of food types (uncooked, pickled, easily stored) and perhaps the context made it clear what the specific meaning was.

This reminds me that, as far as I know, according to Ayurvedic ideas, food should be well cooked. Indeed, again only as far as I’m aware, even today, most Indian foods are cooked, or at least prepared in some way so they are not quite raw - perhaps at least pickled or preserved.

Lol…I had a similiar idea…after I posted the OP I was musing that “mushable food” and “non-mushable food” might work!

This idea fits in with the notion of a food being ‘savoury’.

Savoury doesn’t just mean tasty. I don’t know about, back then, but today, it can also mean a food that is not sweet, but is perhaps salty and umami.

This might fit in with the idea that bhojanīya refers to soft, flavourful food. Have you ever heard the term, “rice puller”, Ajahn? I’ve only heard it used by SL folk. It refers to an extremely flavourful dish, that when mixed with rice makes you want to eat a lot purely out of greed! This fits in with the idea of a ‘fine food’ - such a dish would maybe even require more time and effort to prepare - adding to its status as a fine food.

I remember my SL friend here saying how the little ball or lump of mushed up food is ‘partially digested’ before entering the mouth. If it’s infused with a finely prepared savoury flavour - one would certainly savour it and if it’s mushy, one wouldn’t need to do much chewing.

But if they had salt, they probably knew about pickling and preserving food. So perhaps khādanīya was indeed a sort of umbrella term, and the people present just knew the sort of khādanīya that was being referred to because the context was obvious to them.

Yes, indeed and there might have been regional variation, nevermind variation across decades and centuries.

At present, I think I’m in favour of khādanīya being a sort of umbrella term referring to food that is not mushable and lends itself to being stored beyond a meal or a day and of bhojanīya being a savoury, moreish, unstorable, well prepared item that is mushable.

Thanks again!

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Taking into account the learning journey (if I might call it that) so far, I can see how bhojanīya might have actually had a lived meaning, so to speak, which involved savouring one’s food.

Is it possible, Ajahn, that khādanīya has a more idiomatic meaning which is less to do with lived experience?

‘Chewing’ reminds me of the notion of pasta being ‘al dente’.

Also, perhaps bhojanīya and khādanīya aren’t meant to be antonyms.

What about ‘storable foods’ for khādanīya and ‘mushably extra yummy foods’ (or a one word equivalent :slightly_smiling_face: ) for bhojanīya?

I’ve always though that this sekhiya rule, pli-tv-bu-vb-sk34 was partly to do with that too. Because too much rice or too much curry means that food either goes flying places or winds up dripping down your front. :pensive:

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That’s pretty persuasive. I’ll probably revise my renderings to agree with this.

Have you looked at the non-Pali usage?

No. I should, but I don’t know if I will. If you find anything, please let me know.

I forgot to address this!

I think these foods, with the possible exception of fish and meat (even then I think it would depend on preparation method) are all mushable - particularly if well cooked in liquid.

I think I still like ‘mushable’ or ‘mooshable’ for bhojanīya.

In part, because, the first three of these three foods can only really be considered savoury with the addition of other ingredients, so for these 5 foods to be in line with the following, they’d have to be transformed.

Because I can’t imagine anyone ‘savouring’ plain cooked grain, porridge or flour products!

This all turned out to be way more interesting than I imagined!

Looking forward to one day delving into this!

Oh cool! Sometimes I wish I knew more stuff.

It might be helpful for the more ignorant among us (I mean me!) if Bhante, you do find something cool, to perhaps share it here too? I didn’t think something so obscure would be so interesting.

Thank you Ajahn and Bhante for sharing your knowledge. :pray:t5:

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You know, this is interesting. I am not sure if I am ready to change my translation, in part because it sounds a bit weird to call meat and fish mushable. But let’s discuss it a bit further.

Let’s start with porridge, which is classified as bhojanīya. Now it would seem to be better described as mushy rather than mushable. In fact, I suspect all these foods are cooked by definition, and so mushy might be the way to go. Even cooked fish and meat might fit into that description.

Yet it also occurs to me that mushy food and cooked food seem to be largely overlapping categories. And “cooked” is easier to understand for an international audience than “mushy”. At the very least “mushy” would require a note.

And I render bhojanīya as “mushy”, what would then be a good rendering of khādanīya? Would “fresh food” still work?

In sum, I am still leaning towards “cooked” and “fresh”.

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I think that’s the real reason that I like it; it’s a funny word!

Perhaps. But if you ate with your fingers regularly (which I’ve started doing again when I eat on my own), mushable makes total sense!

That’s true, but as we have seen, a lot of understanding can be gained from a well written note. :slightly_smiling_face:

Well, as I said, I don’t think these two words have to be opposites in any way, in the way that ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ were. They just have to convey a meaning that crosses a few different contexts because, I think, the catergorisation of food is a messy business.

I think ‘cooked’ is ok. I don’t have any wild sense of opposition towards it.

I don’t know about ‘fresh’ though Ajahn. But my reasons are partly based on a lack of knowledge. Perhaps you can help me out in this respect?

In your note above you state:

Bhante has provided the list of five items that are normally cooked and called bhojanīya. Would you be able to tell me what’s on the list of items that tend to be served raw?

(And are we to take these lists as being exhaustive or are we take them as providing a few common examples?)

Leaving that aside for a bit, the other thing is that when you mentioned salt and oil among the items brought to and stored at the monastery, it did ocurr to me that these are ingredients that can be used in pickling and preserving foods. They might not have had refrigeration, but they probably knew about other ways of keeping food for longer. I think any human culture, prior to the use of modern technology, would have found ways of doing this - especially as in those days they would have been much more dependent on what produce was seasonal and on the impact of the climate on harvests and animal populations.

I’d be keen to know what is listed as khādanīya as this might influence my thinking, but it does seem to me, at least at this point, that khādanīya is more about storage than it is about foods that are uncooked or fresh.

An example is Tomato Kasundi which apparently comes from Bengal. It seems, if stored correctly, this savoury preserve or chutney could be kept for up to 20 years! And it is not fresh and it’s definitely cooked. It seems it’s not a modern dish either - though how far back it goes I don’t know.

I completely respect that Ajahn.

It’s been rather nice to have the luxury of teasing these things out a little because regardless of the words chosen by any translator, having some understanding of why some words are chosen or not chosen, sometimes means a lot in terms of how one approaches a text and what one might learn from it. So thank you again!

In the past I’ve seen ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ where soft is mushable. I’m not sure who’s rendering it was

“crispy”? he says trying to fill up the character count.

Hi Bhante! In your comments to the sekhiyas you wrote,

Byañjana seems to refer to curries apart from the standard bean-curries, which are called sūpa

I wonder what made you change your mind on this.

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Thanks for picking up on this! It is only sūpa, it seems, that was a bean-based curry. Byañjana was fancier, often involving meat or fish, etc. I’ve changed my note to reflect this. Thanks again!

Yes, this is what got me on to mushability!

But it seems, while mushability may well have been a thing - it’s entirely possible it had nothing to do with bhojanīya in terms of its relevance within these Vinaya texts.

But I had moved on to musing on khādanīya… If, as Ajahn says, it’s all about raw stuff, then ‘fresh’ works doesn’t it? And I did try searching in the texts for this list of raw foods but I don’t know what I’m doing really - I got nowhere!

In the scheme of things…well…will it make a wild difference to any rules?

Ajahn says it was I B Horner, in his note above.

Anyway, Venerable Pasanna :slight_smile: I feel like I’m beating a dead horse now (dreadful expression) - no disrespect intended - I’m very grateful to Bhante @Sujato and Ajahn @Brahmali for their time and for the rather interesting lesson. It’s nice to know there’s so much to learn still. :slightly_smiling_face:

Hope you’re enjoying Bhante’s Metta Retreat Venerable!

I wasn’t great at the online research but within half an hour of my last post I remembered I could still read a book offline! I went to BMC I - The Food Chapter.

This thread has been an attempt to see how an idea that is new to me, fits into a lived experience that is also new to me. It has led me to reject my initial notions but nevertheless, I’m very respectfully disagreeing about the use of cooked and fresh, but now for different reasons.

I can understand why Ajahn Thanissaro used staple and non-staple. But from what I read, I feel that what khādanīya and bhojanīya are pointing to is not what nowadays we would understand as staple and non-staple, mainly because of the inclusion of fish/meat in bhojanīya - a point made by Ajahn Brahmali in his post above (and quoted below).

These foods do need to be cooked to be safe and digestible. They will also fill you up, build you up and give you energy for longer periods of time. Bulking and energising, hunger abating foods. So I can see why staple is used.

Yes, yet fish and meat are included in the list on paṇīta-bhojana or fine foods. This list is also about foods that will either give a feeling of fullness (fats, meat, fish) or will provide a measure of energy to the body.

So now I think bhojanīya is about foods that are filling/energising, the main nutriment, the main part of a meal. The list of five seems to provide a range: from the most affordable (the porridge perhaps) to the least affordable (perhaps fish and meat or certain grains).

My knowledge is severely limited, so there’s probably something I don’t know but I can’t see any reason to think that any of the foods listed would have been served raw at that time. I think this is too much of a leap.

But then I remember that khādanīya comes from the idea of ‘chewing’. This might not be meant completely literally. It might be the sort of thing one does with a snack, a blade of grass, a cane of sugar, a few toasted seeds or nuts - the idea of a small generally unimportant side dish that adds some extra nutrition and interest to the meal.

I am not sure what words would suit then. Food suitable for the main meal and food suitable as side dishes?

And in answering my own question:

Again, no expert (seriously - but having a heap of fun learning lots) but from the tiny bit of reading I had time to do, might they not impact Bhikkhu Paccitiya 33; and an exemption for 32 (p. 380 in the 1994 edition of BMC I)?

And is it true that what was considered bhojanīya back then (the list of five) is what we have to consider as being (in the way I’m looking at it now) the main filler in a meal? Because these days, many roots vegies would be fillers but back then they weren’t on the right list. On p.372, Ajahn Thanissaro writes, that the “Commentary…acknowledges that some societies use roots, tubers…as staple foods, but it nowhere suggests that the definition of staple food be altered to fit the society in which one is living.”

Well…that’s me (possibly) done.

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Well, we know from the texts that khādanīya were often stored in the monasteries, whereas this was not done with bhojanīya. This fits well with the distinction between cooked and uncooked. Of course, khādanīya could potentially be cooked, but there is no evidence this was commonly done.