Why did Buddha praise a monk who did not eat when he was hungry?

The following sutta does not make any sense.
Does it to you?

Although, monks, that monk, having eaten that alms-food, having driven away this hunger and exhaustion, should pass this night and day thus, he, having eaten that alms-food, having driven away that hunger and exhaustion, may spend that night and day thus, yet that first monk is for me the more to be honoured and the more to be praised. What is the reason for this? It is, monks, that it will conduce for a long time to that monk’s desirelessness, to his contentment, expunging (of evil), to his being easily supported, to his putting forth energy. Therefore, monks, become my heirs of Dhamma, not heirs of material things. I have sympathy with you and think: How may disciples become my heirs of Dhamma, and not heirs of material things?”>

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To me it is not because he did not eat but because the found a way to put away the hunger, which in turn implies he developed the path and stillness that comes with it to a further depth and degree.

Anyone who has ever taken a long retreat and adopted the precept of eating once a day may recollect the fortunate occasion in which due to the blameless pleasure of seclusion the feeling of hunger and thoughts related to eating simply go away.


So do we have to assume these monks already had their meals for the day, before?

Don’t know if we have enough information in the text to say so. Maybe they had eaten the day before. Or maybe they have not been eating for a while, still ‘high’ from their stillness accomplishments. :upside_down_face:

So when you are in high you don’t feel hungry?

I recall Ajahn Brahm saying something like that about the impact of real jhana experience! Maybe Ajahn @Brahmali could let us know if I am misquoting him? :slight_smile:

Ajahn Brahm explains this at about 20 minutes in to the talk here. https://bswa.org/teaching/mn3-dhammadayada-sutta-heirs-dhamma-ajahn-brahm/
Sorry I can’t cue it up for you. I’ve got 100mb of data left for this week.

From memory this is to do with seeing through our desire. We can actually go a long time without eating


Yes, I assumed that the point was that the monk who endures, and learns to overcome, his hunger pangs has accomplished something for his long-lasting benefit: a stronger ascetic discipline that will stand him in good stead for those days when there are no offerings at all, and endurance is the only option.

The monk who eliminates his hunger by eating the Buddha’s leftover food has only obtained a benefit that will last a few hours. To preempt the criticism that by throwing away his leftover food, the Buddha is not providing for his heirs the way a good father should, the Buddha is insisting that he is providing them with dhamma, which is superior to the material provision of food.


It appears these two monks were feeble and hungry.
Isn’t it better if they eat and gain some strength so they can improve their practice.
By the way the following is a detailed analysis by Piya Tan but it does not provide an answer to my question.


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Will the case be different if someone offer them food as Dana?

You still feel hunger, otherwise arahants wouldn’t last very long! :grinning: But you are right, of course,
that much of eating is about sense pleasure, not eliminating hunger. It follows that the more happiness you get from meditation, the less is your interest in food.

Ajahn Brahm says the episode in MN 3 is about restraint. Restraint that leads you forward on the path is part of the Dhamma inheritance.


Thank you Bhante @Brahmali,
So, what if this case is replaced with that someone offers them food as Dana?

I suppose sometimes it might be good to fast, so as to strengthen your restraint and renunciation. But interestingly, fasting is not really encouraged anywhere in the suttas, unless you consider one meal a day a limited kind of fasting. So perhaps the Buddha is simply saying that occasionally it is ok to go without food. In other words, the occasional test might be enough.


I suspect if one waits, it will happen naturally- there will be a time when there is simply no food that day!

with metta

Isn’t above Sutta all about encouraging fasting?

Well, maybe it is. But normally you would expect to find it mentioned elsewhere if it is an important teaching.


So, in your opinion fasting (one meal a day) is not an important?

Maybe Lord Buddha would have included fasting as aspect of the training if he lived in these times with abundance of food offerings all over the place …!?


And in my own training I had some very nice insights caused to a few periods of fasting lately.

eat little, speak little, sleep little …

Best! :slight_smile:

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I have simple understanding about this sutta (MN 3). To me, the Buddha praises whoever chooses to follow his teaching of renunciation by rejecting material things even if those material things are worth nothing and are allowed by the Buddha and the follower may need those material things for his/her living or survival. Why?

It is, monks, that it will conduce for a long time to that monk’s desirelessness, to his contentment, expunging (of evil), to his being easily supported, to his putting forth energy. MN 3

Renunciation is a very important practice of the Buddha’s teaching. The practice is to put renunciation into action in any possible situations. Whoever can follow that renunciation practice especially in a very dire, difficult circumstance should be praised.

It also states that even without the present of the Buddha or without his specific instructions, followers should always follow the Buddha’s examples of renunciation, aloofness. Followers should get rid of those things that the Buddha has spoken of getting rid, should not live for abundance, should not be lax, and morever; they should take the lead in seclusion.

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I have a habit of eating leftover food (fruits, cooked food, food with expiry dates etc) instead of wasting them. Perhaps Buddha is talking to a person like me.

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