One Meal a Day - Earliest Mention in Vinaya or other EBT?

Hello :slight_smile:

Just wondering if originally, the one meal a day, for monastics, had ever been in the evening? I heard somewhere that it was changed to before noon, so as to make things easier for the laity providing the meal. Is this true and what, if any, EBT references are there to support this?

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MN 66 explains a bit about the development of the precept.

“Here, venerable sir, while I was alone in meditation, the following thought arose in my mind: ‘How many painful states has the Blessed One rid us of!… How many wholesome states has the Blessed One brought us!’ Venerable sir, formerly we used to eat in the evening, in the morning, and during the day outside the proper time. Then there was an occasion when the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: ‘Bhikkhus, please abandon that daytime meal, which is outside the proper time.’ Venerable sir, I was upset and sad, thinking: ‘Faithful householders give us good food of various kinds during the day outside the proper time, yet the Blessed One tells us to abandon it, the Sublime One tells us to relinquish it.’ Out of our love and respect for the Blessed One, and out of shame and fear of wrongdoing, we abandoned that daytime meal, which was outside the proper time.
“Then we ate only in the evening and in the morning. Then there was an occasion when the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: ‘Bhikkhus, please abandon that night meal, which is outside the proper time.’ Venerable sir, I was upset and sad, thinking: ‘The Blessed One tells us to abandon the more sumptuous of our two meals, the Sublime One tells us to relinquish it.’ Once, venerable sir, a certain man had obtained some soup during the day and he said: ‘Put that aside and we will all eat it together in the evening.’ [Nearly] all dishes are prepared at night, few by day. Out of our love and respect for the Blessed One, and out of shame and fear of wrongdoing, we abandoned that night meal, which was outside the proper time.
“It has happened, venerable sir, that bhikkhus wandering for alms in the thick darkness of the night have walked into a cesspool, fallen into a sewer, walked into a thornbush, and walked into a sleeping cow; they have met hoodlums who had already committed a crime and those planning one, and they have been sexually enticed by women. Once, venerable sir, I went wandering for alms in the thick darkness of the night. A woman washing a pot saw me by a flash of lightning and screamed out in terror: ‘Mercy me, a devil has come for me!’ I told her: ‘Sister, I am no devil, I am a bhikkhu waiting for alms.’—‘Then it’s a bhikkhu whose ma’s died and whose pa’s died! Better, bhikkhu, that you get your belly cut open with a sharp butcher’s knife than this prowling for alms for your belly’s sake in the thick darkness of the night!’ Venerable sir, when I recollected that I thought: ‘How many painful states has the Blessed One rid us of! How many pleasant states has the Blessed One brought us! How many unwholesome states has the Blessed One rid us of! How many wholesome states has the Blessed One brought us!’”

The text says the more sumptuous meal was in the evening, so I’m not sure if it was really easier for the laity to provide a morning meal…

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Just to add, according to Analayo’s comparative study of the Majjhima Nikaya, parallels to MN 66 record that the precept about not eating in the evening was laid down because the frightened woman mentioned in the sutta quote above had a miscarriage because of her terrifying encounter with the monk.

In both versions, Udāyī described various misfortunes met with by monks who went seeking for food at night. One of these misfortunes happened on a stormy night, when during a flash of lightning a woman suddenly saw a monk searching for alms and was thoroughly terrified, believing him to be an evil spirit. The same event is recorded in an Ekottarika-āgama discourse and in the Dharmaguptaka and Mahīśāsaka Vinayas, which indicate that the woman had been pregnant and lost her child due to the fright she experienced.
According to the Ekottarika-āgama version’s presentation, it was this woman’s mishap that motivated the Buddha to promulgate the regulation about taking only a single meal per day. In the Dharmaguptaka and the Mahīśāsaka Vinayas, however, the present event caused the Buddha to promulgate a rule on abstaining from eating at the wrong time, a regulation that could be observed without needing to take only a single meal.
The Mahāsāṅghika Vinaya does not associate the story of the frightened woman to a ruling on partaking of food only once or only at the right time, but rather presents the same event as the reason for the Buddha to lay down a regulation about not going begging at the wrong time. Although the present accident also has a bearing on regula- tions about the time of partaking food, the Mahāsāṅghika Vinaya seems to offer the most straightforward reaction to this particular event, since it was the nocturnal alms round that had caused the woman’s fright.

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Thanks @vimalanyani, I had not heard about the parallels though I am familiar with the passage from MN 66.

Everything you say makes perfect sense.

But I am curious to know if there are any other EBT mentions about the “proper time”, particularly anything that might seem to be an anomaly.

:anjal:

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