Perception of loathesomeness in food: Ideas & Experiences

Hello Dhamma friends,

I open this discussion to know whatever ideas, techniques or experiences you can share with me to develop the perception of loathesomeness in food.

If you have any ressources or else any techniques that can attack craving for food, I am happy to hear it.

Thank you :slight_smile:

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Namo Buddhaya!

One can contemplate it as sensual pleasure in general

Similes

The Blessed One has compared sensual pleasures to a chain of bones: of much suffering, much despair, & greater drawbacks. The Blessed One has compared sensual pleasures to a lump of flesh… a grass torch… a pit of glowing embers… a dream… borrowed goods… the fruits of a tree… a butcher’s ax and chopping block… swords and spears… a snake’s head: of much suffering, much despair, & greater drawbacks. - MN 22

“Householder, suppose a dog, overcome by hunger and weakness, was waiting by a butcher’s shop. Then a skilled butcher or his apprentice would toss the dog a well hacked, clean hacked skeleton of meatless bones smeared with blood. What do you think, householder? Would that dog get rid of his hunger and weakness by gnawing such a well hacked, clean hacked skeleton of meatless bones smeared with blood?”

“No, venerable sir. Why is that? Because that was a skeleton of well hacked, clean hacked meatless bones smeared with blood. Eventually that dog would reap weariness and disappointment.”

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to a skeleton by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ Having seen this thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, he avoids the equanimity that is diversified, based on diversity, and develops the equanimity that is unified, based on unity, where clinging to the material things of the world utterly ceases without remainder.

“Householder, suppose a vulture, a heron, or a hawk seized a piece of meat and flew away, and then vultures, herons, and hawks pursued it and pecked and clawed it. What do you think, householder? If that vulture, heron, or hawk does not quickly let go of that piece of meat, wouldn’t it incur death or deadly suffering because of that?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to a piece of meat by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ Having seen this thus as it actually is with proper wisdom…clinging to the material things of the world utterly ceases without remainder.

“Householder, suppose a man took a blazing grass torch and went against the wind. What do you think, householder? If that man does not quickly let go of that blazing grass torch, wouldn’t that blazing grass torch burn his hand or his arm or some other part of his body, so that he might incur death or deadly suffering because of that?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to a grass torch by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ Having seen this thus as it actually is with proper wisdom…clinging to the material things of the world utterly ceases without remainder.

“Householder, suppose there were a charcoal pit deeper than a man’s height full of glowing coals without flame or smoke. Then a man came who wanted to live and not to die, who wanted pleasure and recoiled from pain, and two strong men seized him by both arms and dragged him towards that charcoal pit. What do you think, householder? Would that man twist his body this way and that?”

“Yes, venerable sir. Why is that? Because that man knows that if he falls into that charcoal pit, he will incur death or deadly suffering because of that.”

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to a charcoal pit by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ Having seen this thus as it actually is with proper wisdom…clinging to the material things of the world utterly ceases without remainder.

“Householder, suppose a man dreamt about lovely parks, lovely groves, lovely meadows, and lovely lakes, and on waking he saw nothing of it. So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to a dream by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ Having seen this thus as it actually is with proper wisdom…clinging to the material things of the world utterly ceases without remainder.

“Householder, suppose a man borrowed goods on loan —a fancy carriage and fine-jewelled earrings—and preceded and surrounded by those borrowed goods he went to the marketplace. Then people, seeing him, would say: ‘Sirs, that is a rich man! That is how the rich enjoy their wealth!’ Then the owners, whenever they saw him, would take back their things. What do you think, householder? Would that be enough for that man to become dejected?”

“Yes, venerable sir. Why is that? Because the owners took back their things.”

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to borrowed goods by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ Having seen this thus as it actually is with proper wisdom…clinging to material things of the world utterly ceases without remainder.

“Householder, suppose there were a dense grove not far from some village or town, within which there was a tree laden with fruit but none of its fruit had fallen to the ground. Then a man came needing fruit, seeking fruit, wandering in search of fruit, and he entered the grove and saw the tree laden with fruit. Thereupon he thought: ‘This tree is laden with fruit but none of its fruit has fallen to the ground. I know how to climb a tree, so let me climb this tree, eat as much fruit as I want, and fill my bag.’ And he did so. Then a second man came needing fruit, seeking fruit, wandering in search of fruit, and taking a sharp axe, he too entered the grove and saw that tree laden with fruit. Thereupon he thought: ‘This tree is laden with fruit but none of its fruit has fallen to the ground. I do not know how to climb a tree, so let me cut this tree down at its root, eat as much fruit as I want, and fill my bag.’ And he did so. What do you think, householder? If that first man who had climbed the tree doesn’t come down quickly, when the tree falls, wouldn’t he break his hand or his foot or some other part of his body, so that he might incur death or deadly suffering because of that?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to fruits on a tree by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ Having seen this thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, he avoids the equanimity that is diversified, based on diversity, and develops the equanimity that is unified, based on unity, where clinging to the material things of the world utterly ceases without remainder. - MN 54

If one, longing for sensual pleasure,
achieves it, yes,
he’s enraptured at heart.
The mortal gets what he wants.
But if for that person
— longing, desiring —
the pleasures diminish,
he’s shattered,
as if shot with an arrow.

Whoever avoids sensual desires
— as he would, with his foot,
the head of a snake —
goes beyond, mindful,
this attachment in the world.

A man who is greedy
for fields, land, gold,
cattle, horses,
servants, employees,
women, relatives,
many sensual pleasures,
is overpowered with weakness
and trampled by trouble,
for pain invades him
as water, a cracked boat.
So one, always mindful,
should avoid sensual desires.
Letting them go,
he’d cross over the flood
like one who, having bailed out the boat,
has reached the far shore. - Snp 4.1

“You are young and beautiful,
I am also a young lad.
Come, Khemā, let’s have a good time
with heavenly music.”
“This putrid body,
diseased and brittle,
only brings trials and tribulations.
I have uprooted craving for sensual pleasures.

Sensual pleasures are like the handle of an axe,
and one’s khandhas the executioner’s block.
The sensual pleasures that you call appealing
no longer appeal to me.
In this way all fixation is annihilated,
the mass of darkness destroyed.
Thus be aware, Wicked One,
Death—you are destroyed!

I used to pay homage to constellations,
worshiping fire in the forest.
Ignorant of truth,
I was a fool with a misconception of purity.
But now I pay homage to the Buddha,
the most excellent of men.
Liberated from all suffering,
I follow the teaching of the Teacher.” - Thig 6.3

The five objects of sensual pleasures are indeed like the sharp edge of a sword or a spear. For example, the exceedingly sharp edge of a sword or a spear cuts deep and pierces anything that comes into contact with it; they are only weapons for killing, destroying enemies, etc. So also, the five objects of sensual pleasures, possessing the quality of sharpness, cut deep and pierce anyone coming into contact or entangled with them. - The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

Or one can contemplate the drawbacks of form, feeling and lustful intent having to do with food

‘Whatever is felt comes under suffering [dukkha].’ That I have stated simply in connection with the inconstancy of fabrications. That I have stated simply in connection with the nature of fabrications to end… in connection with the nature of fabrications to fall away… to fade away… to cease… in connection with the nature of fabrications to change - SN 36.11

Lustful intent [Saṅkapparāgo; Thanissaro’s ‘passion for one’s resolve’; Sujato’s ‘greedy intention’] is a man’s sensuality, not the beautiful sensual pleasures found in the world. Lustful intent is a man’s sensuality. The beauties remain as they are in the world, while the wise, in this regard, subdue their desire. - AN 6.63

Not even if it rained gold coins would we have our fill of sensual pleasures. ‘Suffering, they give little enjoyment’ — knowing this, the wise one finds no delight even in heavenly sensual pleasures. He is one who delights in the ending of craving, a disciple of the Rightly Self-Awakened One. - Dhp 186

"And what is the drawback of sensuality? There is the case where, on account of the occupation by which a clansman makes a living — whether checking or accounting or calculating or plowing or trading or cattle tending or archery or as a king’s man, or whatever the occupation may be — he faces cold; he faces heat; being harassed by mosquitoes, flies, wind, sun, and creeping things; dying from hunger and thirst.

"Now this drawback in the case of sensuality, this mass of suffering visible here and now, has sensuality for its reason, sensuality for its source, sensuality for its cause, the reason being simply sensuality.

"If the clansman gains no wealth while thus working and striving and making effort, he sorrows, grieves and laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught: ‘My work is in vain, my efforts are fruitless!’ Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of suffering visible here and now, has sensuality for its reason…

"If the clansman gains wealth while thus working and striving and making effort, he experiences pain and distress in protecting it: ‘How shall neither kings nor thieves make off with my property, nor fire burn it, nor water sweep it away nor hateful heirs make off with it?’ And as he thus guards and watches over his property, kings or thieves make off with it, or fire burns it, or water sweeps it away, or hateful heirs make off with it. And he sorrows, grieves and laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught: ‘What was mine is no more!’ Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of suffering visible here and now, has sensuality for its reason…

"Furthermore, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source, sensuality for the cause, the reason being simply sensuality, that kings quarrel with kings, nobles with nobles, brahmans with brahmans, householders with householders, mother with child, child with mother, father with child, child with father, brother with brother, sister with sister, brother with sister, sister with brother, friend with friend. And then in their quarrels, brawls, and disputes, they attack one another with fists or with clods or with sticks or with knives, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of suffering visible here and now, has sensuality for its reason…

"Furthermore, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (men), taking swords and shields and buckling on bows and quivers, charge into battle massed in double array while arrows and spears are flying and swords are flashing; and there they are wounded by arrows and spears, and their heads are cut off by swords, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of suffering visible here and now, has sensuality for its reason…

"Furthermore, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (men), taking swords and shields and buckling on bows and quivers, charge slippery bastions while arrows and spears are flying and swords are flashing; and there they are splashed with boiling cow dung and crushed under heavy weights, and their heads are cut off by swords, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of suffering visible here and now, has sensuality for its reason, sensuality for its source, sensuality for its cause, the reason being simply sensuality. - [MN 13 (Maha-dukkhakkhandha Sutta: The Great Mass of Stress)

“And what is the drawback of forms? There is the case where one might see that very same woman at a later time, when she’s eighty, ninety, one hundred years old: aged, roof-rafter crooked, bent-over, supported by a cane, palsied, miserable, broken-toothed, gray-haired, scanty-haired, bald, wrinkled, her body all blotchy. What do you think: Has her earlier beauty & charm vanished, and the drawback appeared?”

“Yes, lord.”
"This, monks, is the drawback of forms.

“Again, one might see that very same woman sick, in pain, & seriously ill, lying soiled with her own urine & excrement, lifted up by others, laid down by others. What do you think: Has her earlier beauty & charm vanished, and the drawback appeared?”

“Yes, lord.”
"This too, monks, is the drawback of forms.

“Again, one might see that very same woman as a corpse cast away in a charnel ground — one day, two days, three days dead, bloated, livid, & oozing. What do you think: Has her earlier beauty & charm vanished, and the drawback appeared?”

“Yes, lord.”
"This too, monks, is the drawback of forms.

“Again, one might see that very same woman as a corpse cast away in a charnel ground picked at by crows, vultures, & hawks, by dogs, hyenas, & various other creatures… a skeleton smeared with flesh & blood, connected with tendons… a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, connected with tendons… a skeleton without flesh or blood, connected with tendons… bones detached from their tendons, scattered in all directions — here a hand bone, there a foot bone, here a shin bone, there a thigh bone, here a hip bone, there a back bone, here a rib, there a breast bone, here a shoulder bone, there a neck bone, here a jaw bone, there a tooth, here a skull… the bones whitened, somewhat like the color of shells… piled up, more than a year old… decomposed into a powder. What do you think: Has her earlier beauty & charm vanished, and the drawback appeared?”

“Yes, lord.”
"This too, monks, is the drawback of forms.

"And what is the drawback of feelings? The fact that feeling is inconstant, suffering, subject to change: This is the drawback of feelings. - MN 13

One can essentially contemplate it as a cause for birth & all that follows

Furthermore one can contemplate it by commentary (Vsm) method

Repulsiveness in going [for food]:

I must now turn my back on such a charming place and go abroad for the sake of food; Senses will be assailed. This repulsive [experience] [has to be undergone] for the sake of nutriment.

Repulsiveness in seeking:

So this [experience] beginning with the entry into the village and ending with the departure from it, which is repulsive owing to the water, mud, etc., that has to be trodden in and seen and endured, [has to be undergone] for the sake of nutriment: “Oh, nutriment is indeed a repulsive thing!”

Repulsiveness in using:

dipped his hand in and is squeezing it up, the sweat trickling down his five fingers wets any dry crisp food there may be and makes it sodden. And when its good appearance has been spoilt by his squeezing it up, and it has been
made into a ball and put into his mouth, then the lower teeth function as a mortar, the upper teeth as a pestle, and the tongue as a hand. When thus mashed up and besmeared, this peculiar compound now destitute of the [original] colour and smell is reduced to a condition
as utterly nauseating as a dog’s vomit in a dog’s trough. Yet notwithstanding that it is like this, it can still be swallowed because it is no longer in range of the eye’s focus. This is how repulsiveness should be reviewed as to using.

Repulsiveness in secretion:

when [the food] has arrived at the stage of being eaten and it enters inside, then in one whose secretion of bile is in excess it becomes as utterly nauseating as if smeared with thick madhuka oil; in one whose secretion of phlegm in excess it is as if smeared with the juice of nágabalá leaves; in one whose secretion of pus is in excess it is as if smeared with rancid buttermilk; and in one whose secretion of blood is in excess it is as utterly nauseating as if smeared with dye. This is how repulsiveness should be reviewed as to secretion.

Repulsiveness in the receptacle:

When it has gone inside the belly and is smeared with one of these secretions, then the receptacle it goes into is no gold dish or crystal or silver dish and so on. On the contrary, if it is swallowed by one ten years old, it finds itself in a place like a cesspit unwashed for ten years.
In what is uncooked (undigested)?
After this nutriment has arrived at such a place for its receptacle, then for as long as it remains uncooked it stays in that same place just described, which is shrouded in absolute darkness, pervaded by draughts, tainted by various smells of ordure and utterly fetid and Loathsome. The pit becomes covered with froth and bubbles, so too, what has been swallowed that day and yesterday and the day before remains there together, and being smothered by the layer of phlegm and covered with froth and bubbles produced by digestion through being fermented by the heat of the bodily fires, it becomes quite loathsome.

In what is cooked

When it has been completely cooked there by the bodily fires, it does not turn into gold, silver, etc., as the ores16 of gold, silver, etc., do [through smelting]. Instead, giving off froth and bubbles, it turns into excrement and fills the receptacle for digested food, like brown clay squeezed with a smoothing trowel and packed into a tube, and it turns into urine and fills the bladder.

How as to fruit?

When it has been rightly cooked, it produces the various kinds of ordure consisting of head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, and the rest. When wrongly cooked it produces the hundred diseases beginning with itch, ring-worm, smallpox, leprosy, plague, consumption, coughs, flux, and so on. Such is its fruit

How as to outflow?

On being swallowed, it enters by one door, after which it flows out by several doors in the way beginning, “Eye-dirt from the eye, eardirt from the ear” (Sn 197). And on being swallowed it is swallowed even in the company of large gatherings. But on flowing out, now converted into excrement, urine, etc., it is excreted only in solitude. On the first day one is delighted to eat it, elated and full of happiness and joy. On the second day one stops one’s nose to void it, with a wry face, disgusted and dismayed. And on the first day one swallows it lustfully, greedily, gluttonously, infatuatedly. But on the second day, after a single night has passed, one excretes it with distaste, ashamed, humiliated and disgusted. Hence the Ancients said: The food and drink so greatly prized— The crisp to
chew, the soft to suck— Go in all by a single door, But by nine doors come oozing out. Men like to eat in company, But to excrete in secrecy.
The food and drink so greatly prized— The crisp to chew, the soft to suck— These a man eats with high delight, And then excretes with dumb disgust. The food and drink so greatly prized— The crisp to chew, the soft to suck— A single night will be enough To bring them to putridity.

How as to smearing?

At the time of using it he smears his hands, lips, tongue and palate, and they become repulsive by being smeared with it. And even when washed, they have to be washed again and again in order to remove the smell. when eaten it rises up during its cooking and simmering by the bodily fire that pervades the whole body,
it turns into tartar, which smears the teeth, and it turns into spittle, phlegm, etc., which respectively smear the tongue, palate, etc.; and it turns into eye-dirt, ear-dirt, snot, urine, excrement, etc., which respectively smear the eyes, ears, nose and nether passages.

Furthermore i have tried imagining the decomposition of foods that i crave and thinking that the food that i want is just like that.

Either way one has to contemplate a lot for it to become the inclination establishing the perspective of it being repulsive

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As crafty as humans have gotten at making food delicious, it is still a burden to be responsible for feeding the body. What I mean is, as much as food is factually pleasurable, the certainty of hunger is even more of a guarantee. So, ultimately the body needs the nourishment, not the pleasure.

Taking a look at suttas such as AN 7.49, the development of the perception of the repulsiveness of food (along with the six other perceptions described in that sutta) culminate in the deathless. So, these are extremely significant developments, and should be understood as things that prevent development:

“It was said: ‘The perception of the repulsiveness of food, bhikkhus, when developed and cultivated, is of great fruit and benefit, culminating in the deathless, having the deathless as its consummation.’ For what reason was this said?”

“When a bhikkhu often dwells with a mind accustomed to the perception of the repulsiveness of food, his mind shrinks away from craving for tastes, turns back from it, rolls away from it, and is not drawn toward it, and either equanimity or revulsion becomes settled in him. Just as a cock’s feather or a strip of sinew, thrown into a fire, shrinks away from it, turns back from it, rolls away from it, and is not drawn toward it, so it is in regard to craving for tastes when a bhikkhu often dwells with a mind accustomed to the perception of the repulsiveness of food.

“If, when a bhikkhu often dwells with a mind accustomed to the perception of the repulsiveness of food, his mind inclines to craving for tastes, or if he does not turn away from them, he should understand: ‘I have not developed the perception of the repulsiveness of food; there is no distinction between my earlier condition and my present one; I have not attained the fruit of development.’ Thus he clearly comprehends this. But if, when he often dwells with a mind accustomed to the perception of the repulsiveness of food, his mind shrinks away from craving for tastes … and either equanimity or revulsion becomes settled in him, he should understand: ‘I have developed the perception of the repulsiveness of food; there is a distinction between my earlier condition and my present one; I have attained the fruit of development.’ Thus he clearly comprehends this.”

The development is an indication of progress. Note, revulsion OR equanimity are both a measure of development in this regard.

Not to drag the discussion off topic, but instead of attacking the craving directly, there is always the option to reflect why the current understanding is not yet sufficient to become more moderate in eating (as AN 3.16 describes). What I mean is, the search for “resources or techniques” is an indicator that the wood is still way to wet to start a fire, and perhaps looking back a few steps could be extremely helpful. Think about it like this, what would a more extreme or sophisticated method do other than take you the long way around to what you already know: I have to find a way to stop eating for pleasure. Why do you want to stop eating for pleasure? Because the Buddha said so or because you want something else? I don’t mean that harshly. Health and wellbeing are totally legitimate reasons, and are not necessarily out of line with a good practice, but what I’m getting at is this: there are a hundred good reasons to eat better, but the Buddha teaches a specific reason to eat in moderation:

“When it was said: ‘This body, sister, has originated from nutriment; in dependence on nutriment, nutriment is to be abandoned,’ for what reason was this said? Here, sister, reflecting carefully, a bhikkhu consumes food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the support and maintenance of this body, for avoiding harm, and for assisting the spiritual life, considering: ‘Thus I shall terminate the old feeling and not arouse a new feeling, and I shall be healthy and blameless and dwell at ease.’ Some time later, in dependence upon nutriment, he abandons nutriment. When it was said: ‘This body, sister, has originated from nutriment; in dependence on nutriment, nutriment is to be abandoned,’ it is because of this that this was said.” -AN 4.159

Trusting that the Buddha teaches for welfare of those who follow should be the basis for the decision to eat more moderately, and only after that has been fortified does it make sense to develop the perception of repulsiveness of food described in AN 7.49. To rephrase that, it doesn’t seem as though the perception is developed as a deterrent to eat less, but as a means to come at craving for the purposes of a much higher development: the deathless…which would come much later than when the moderation began. Same with the perception of ugly: it isn’t a tool to scare you into keeping the precepts-not at all. It is a tool to use after the precepts and restraint are well-established, and from that establishment use the knowledge to obliterate craving as whole.

In short, develop your reasons for practicing in general and what you hope to accomplish altogether. With that it will be much easier to make broad lifestyle choices rather than what could end up being an isolated effort to eat less.

I hope this post is helpful.

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“When solid food is completely understood, desire for the five kinds of sensual stimulation is completely understood." SN 12.63

Can someone explain me why ? What is the relation between understanding solid food and the desire for the five kinds of sensual stimulation ?

How do we taste food? We taste different tastes due to chemicals interactions and nerve signals. These tastes are due to chemical shapes and reactions. They are not any property of the food.
Similarly regarding sight, color and shapes are also not any property of the objects. They are the resultant of light bouncing of the objects and eyes.
This property holds true for all the senses. All the sense input we receive are not any property of the objects. Thus they are hollow(without essence).

Food & our digestive systems contains many bacteria/virus and digestion itself is a repulsive activity.
Similarly visual objects are made of many atoms and photons are emitted through particle interactions. As these atoms are vibrating and moving and there is no coherent form to be had. Due to the fact that our eyes are not sharp enough to see clearly, we enjoy seeing shapes and colors.

From SN 12.63:

What do you think, mendicants? Would they eat that food for fun, indulgence, adornment, or decoration?”

“No, sir.”

“Wouldn’t they eat that food just so they could make it across the desert?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I say that this is how you should regard solid food. When solid food is completely understood, desire for the five kinds of sensual stimulation is completely understood. When desire for the five kinds of sensual stimulation is completely understood, a noble disciple is bound by no fetter that might return them again to this world.

It seems to be pretty similar to what is described in AN 3.16 above, however, being that it is from SN 12, the principle of dependence is emphasized, and in this case by way of nutriment.

To answer your question, the “fun, indulgence, adornment and decoration” that is associated with eating solid food is the same delight that applies across the board to the pleasures of the other four senses as well, and considering the prominent role the repulsiveness of food could potentially play into culmination in the deathless, developing that dispassion by way of food seems to be powerful enough to undermine sensuality to such an extent that it would apply to all five senses. I think the point is that if one were to develop dispassion by way of understanding the nature of solid food, it would be impossible that passion for any other sense is possible. To be clear, dispassion isn’t aversion or ill will - this is not about despising solid food or despising oneself for desiring it. No. Dispassion can be gained many different ways, but once it is established it is going to apply broadly to the experience as a whole.

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The solid and soft food maintain those who are already born and help those to be born (SN12.64). I think you need to understand SN12.64 in the depth that it deserves.
Food keep us in the cycle of births and deaths by providing the physical energy. And contact, consciousness, and intention provide the mental energy. Supported by these two enrgies, existence continues.
So if you understand what food does, you understand the role of desire for them. And then you understand why you are in existence.
Hope this help
With Metta