(1) Re: the first photo. So, the reason the Buddha does not accept the milk rice is that Kasi Bhāradvāja chanted over it, right? Do you know why that kind of food won’t be digested? I mean, why would such food sizzle and steam?
(2) Re: the second photo. My linguistic understanding of the Buddha’s answer here is that only the fully enlightened one or his disciple can eat and digest chanted-over food. But the Buddha is the fully enlightened one. Why does the Buddha reject the milk rice then?
I don’t know if I am confused because of my poor English. I would greatly appreciate your help.
The first thing to know is that there is a literary device (if that’s the word) going on here.
The Buddha and his arahant disciples are the true brahmins; they have the true veda, i.e. knowledge; they are the truly spiritually powerful ones. This is opposed to the literal brahmanical caste by birth.
So, that in mind, the Buddha is rejecting the milk rice that has been chanted over. In doing so, he is rejecting the brahminical ritual and magical encantations (and thus, in a way, the Brahminical religion and authority of the brahmins altogether, as he often does). The sutta is not denying that these spells work; in fact, a central aspect of the story (as I explain below) is that the milk rice is truly ‘powerful’ in a sense
What is rejected is the superior power of the chants, the allure and prestige of such a Brahminical offering, and the necessity for the Buddha to accept a gift as something valuable for it being Brahminical. When the Buddha rejects the powerful milk rice, he rejects the need for any Brahminical validation and the desire for such objects that would otherwise be extremely special. A normal person would find it a rare honor; the Buddha doesn’t want anything to do with it.
However, because the Buddha and his arahant disciples are the true brahmins and spiritually powerful, there is nobody else who could actually digest such powerful food, not even the brahmins themselves (to whom the arahants are superior)—again, at least symbolically. The Buddha is beyond it and rejects all of its allure, and yet, he is the only one who can eat it because of his spiritual power as an arahant. So, he tells the brahmin to dispose of it. The sizzling of the rice is representative of its magical power.
Hope that helps. It’s a powerful story packed with lots of meaning and deeper messages that recur in the canon!
The commentary offers two alternative explanations, one long and one short. The long one says that it’s because of devas infusing the food with celestial ojā:
But why is it that no one in all the world including the devas could properly digest it? Because the coarse food had been infused with subtle nutritive essence. For as soon as it was said that this milk rice was intended for the Blessed One, deities infused it with nutritive essence, as was done with the milk rice offered by Sujātā (Ja I 68), with the dish “boar’s delight” prepared by Cunda (DN II 127), with each lump of food received by the Blessed One at Verañjā (see Vin III,6–7), and with the remaining sugarballs in Kaccāyana’s pot of sugarballs in the Chapter on Medicines (Vin I 225).
Since the subtle nutritive essence had been infused into coarse food, the devas could not digest it; for devas have subtle bodies and they cannot properly digest the coarse food of human beings.
Humans, too, could not digest it; for human beings have coarse bodies and they cannot properly digest the subtle celestial nutritive essence.
But the Tathāgata could digest it and properly assimilate it with his natural digestive power. Some say: “through his bodily power and the might of his power of knowledge.”
A disciple of the Tathāgata who is an arahant could digest it through the power of concentration and through his moderation. But others, even those with psychic potency, could not digest it.
(tr. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
The short one says don’t even think about it:
Or the reason for this is inconceivable; this is the domain of the Buddhas.
The commentator is alluding to the Acinteyyasutta, in which the “domain of a Buddha” is given as one of the four things not to be thought about.
The commentary says that the Buddha made it do so:
Sizzled and hissed and gave off steam and smoke: Why did this occur? Because of the spiritual might of the Blessed One, not on account of the water, the milk rice, or the brahmin, or others such as devas and yakkhas. For the Blessed One had resolved on such an occurrence in order to arouse in the brahmin a sense of urgency for the Dhamma.
What’s been chanted over with verses means that the milk-rice was chanted by the Buddha’s response in verses to Bhāradvāja. (The milk-rice was offered because of his response. Before that, Bhāradvāja did not want to give the Buddha the milk-rice because he thought that the Buddha did not work for his food)
The Buddha said that the noble ones do not teach or explain Dhamma because of offerings (or to exchange for offerings). They teach and explain the Dhamma because of their compassion to the world. Therefore, the milk-rice offered to the Buddha to pay or reward for his Dhamma’s talk is not suitable for the noble ones like him. That is the way of life of the noble ones. They do not work or explain Dhamma for foods or offerings.
However, only the noble ones are worthy to receive the offerings because of a Dhamma’s talk even if they do not use it. Other people who are not noble are not worthy for that kind of offerings, and if they receive the offerings, they will be in trouble.
Since the noble ones do not eat that kind of food, and other people who are not noble will be in trouble if they consume that kind of food, the only way is to throw it away.
When the milk-rice was placed in the water, it sizzled and hissed, steaming and fuming. This means that foods or offerings that are received because of Dhamma’s talk are very dangerous. If someone teaches, chants or explains Dhamma in exchange for foods or offerings, he will be in big trouble consuming those foods or offerings. The noble ones even if they are worthy and can consume those foods or offerings, they will not do so because that is their nature.
The noble ones accept offerings out of compassion to the world. They do not beg, suggest or work for them, they simply provide the opportunity for people to make great merit since they are the best merit field for someone who wants to make merit. They teach Dhamma out of compassion to the world, not for foods or offerings.
Just so you know, it’s easy to paste in material and have it appear as quotes (like some in this thread have done). Doing this makes the forum more searchable and a bit easier for people on mobile. You can just wrap it in quote tags…
You can also do that by putting > at the start of each line:
>more sutff, etc.
But if you pasted because getting Ven. Thanissaro’s verses to appear with the correct formatting, then welcome to the club! It’s such a hard thing to deal with that pasting makes sense if you need to keep it.
Oh my goodness!!! It IS packed with so many interesting layers. Initially I thought ‘It might not be too important to my practice anyway’, but I am so glad I that I did ask here. Thank you so very much! I will remember all the help I get from people like you and try to ‘repay’ indirectly to someone else - in case I have nothing to help you with. Please be well, and I hope you make lots of progress in your practice.
Dear Bhante, I never even imagined that there would be such rich stories going on behind this. I cannot thank you enough for for your kindness to take your time and effort to give me such a detailed explanation. Deep gratitude for teaching me.
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