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Pali Canon - Bhaddali Sutta

by Sangharakshita

The Bhaddali Sutta Seminar

Held at: Padmaloka
Present: Sangharakshita, Subhuti, Kovida, Sthirananda, Prasannasiddhi, Alaya
Day 1 Tape 1 Side A
Subhuti: This is Subhuti, and I believe we're awaiting the beginning of this seminar.
Prasannasiddhi: This is Prasannasiddhi. I'm taping this seminar as well as participating in it.
Kovida: Kovida - I've got a Scottish accent.
Alaya: This is Alaya.
Sthirananda: Sthirananda - I have a Yorkshire accent. (laughter and indistinct words)
S: How many copies of the text do we have?
Subhuti: Three.
S: So where are they? I've got one, there's one there and one here. Would you start reading
there, then. I think that the text does fall into sections; I think it would be good to read
through down to where that Roman, that boldface number is 438 down to that paragraph ...
S: 107.
: What page are we on?
Subhuti: " Thus have I heard: At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta
Grove in Anathapindika's monastery. While he was there the Lord addressed the monks,
saying "Monks." "Revered one," these monks answered the Lord in assent. The Lord spoke
thus: "I, monks, partake of my food at one session. Partaking of my food at one session, I.
monks, am aware of good health and of being without illness and of buoyancy and strength
and living in comfort. Come, do you too, monks, partake of your food at one session.
Partaking of your food at one session. you too, monks, will be aware of good health, of being
without illness, of buoyancy and strength and living in comfort." When this had been said, the
venerable Bhaddali spoke thus to the Lord: "I, revered sir, am not capable of eating my food
at one session: revered sir, if I ate my food at one session, I might have [2] scruples. I might
have misgivings." 'Well then, you, Bhaddali, having eaten one portion there where you were
invited, having taken another portion away, might eat that too; so could you, Bhaddali, eating
thus, keep yourself going"
S: Mmm, yes, the next paragraph as well.
Subhuti: "I, revered sir, am not capable of eating in this fashion; even eating so, revered sir. I
might have scruples, I might have misgivings."
S: So what is the subject of discussion? This is the real - I mean what is it that the Buddha is
saying that He does and which He's asking the monks to do and why does He ask them to do
it? This is really the question, isn't it? The Buddha says: "I, monks, partake of my food at one
session." First of all one has to understand what that means. The word for one session is
ekasana literally it's ekasana (bhojanam bunjami): I eat one session food. Though it seems to
me that (bhojana) and (bunjami) - (bunjami) means to eat, to enjoy, and (bhojana) come from
the same root. It isn't as in English: we've got 'food' comes from one root and 'eat' comes from
another root, yes? Anyway, ekasana (bhojanam bunjami), which means one session food I eat.
Ekasana (bhojanam) that's a compound: food eaten at one session, or I could translate it: I eat
food eaten at one session (unclear). "I, monks, partake of my food at one session," This 'my' is
not in the original. So what is this ekasana (bhojana)? What is this food eaten or partaken of
at one session? Actually the translation is not literal. It says 'at one session': it should... the
more literal translation would be at one sitting: asana is seat, yes?
Subhuti: Ah, oh right, yes.
S: Food partaken of at one sitting. So what does that mean?
Subhuti: One meal a day: you sit down and you eat it.
S: No, no, you sit down and eat it but ...
Kovida: You eat straight through, you don't stop.
S: No. Well, what would one mean by stopping?
Kovida: There's only one course to it. (laughter)
S: No, no, no, it's ekasana: at one sitting.
: Come together, once.
S: No. (laughter)
Prasannasiddhi: He doesn't sort of ponder all day over his food.
S: No.
: He only collects (unclear) he's going to eat (unclear).
S: No, wait a minute. Perhaps one has to give a little background here. The Buddha appears
from a subsequent paragraph to have said: "Well then, you [3] Bhaddali, having eaten one
portion there where you were invited" ... the context of the discussion is a monk, having been
invited to a layman's house for a meal, the (bhojana) ... he's advised by the Buddha, following
His own example to eat at one session or at one sitting. What does that mean? Kovida: Does
it mean just at one house, only going to one
S: No, no, it's pretty obvious. (laughter)
: In one fashion.
S: No, but what exactly, well yes, but what would that fashion be? (pause)
It's pretty obvious that what the Buddha is asking them to do is eat at one sitting, that is to say
to complete their meal without rising from their seat in the course of the meal. Do you see
what I mean? They're to remain seated in the same place during the whole of the meal, not eat
a bit and then get up and walk about and then come back to the seat and finish off the meal.
Do you see what I mean?
: Why should they do that? (laughter)
S: Well, that's another question, that's another matter, but this is what the Buddha is asking
them to do. This is why it's called ekasana (bhojana) food eaten at one sitting.
Subhuti: So very literally one sitting.
S: Very literally one sitting. I happen to know this because it's still regarded as undesirable or
impolite for a monk to get up in the course of a meal even to go and get something, even to
go and get ... well, a monk shouldn't actually get anything in the way of food but if he was to
get up and go and say get the pepper or salt this would be breaking this ekasana (bhojanam)
rule. Do you see what I mean?
Subhuti: So that's the full .. that's the full strength and force of what He's saying? Don't get up
and wander about during the meal ...
S: Well, no, not break it in any way. Now we might consider why the Buddha is
asking them to do that. That's another matter. Another question is how this relates to the
(bikala bhojanam) rule. There seem to be - I tried to find the original source of the (bikala
bhojana) rule - I couldn't do that... but the (bikala) ... it would seem that earlier in the
Buddha's career, after the Enlightenment, bhikkhus ate at least twice a day. They ate an
evening meal, then. they went begging so to speak twice a day, but then as far as I remember
the story goes that a bhikkhu begging in the evening when it was, when it had become dark,
frightened a pregnant woman who thought that it was a ghost standing there outside the door
and she had a miscarriage and therefore a complaint was made to the Buddha and then He
passed a rule or made a rule that the bhikkhus should not go begging in the evening, and that
they should not eat (bikala bhojana) untimely food. That has always been understood to mean
that they should not eat anything after 12 o'clock. Do you see what I mean? The modern
understanding [4] of that is that one may eat any number of times before twelve o'clock.
You're still observing the (bikala bhojana) rule. Do you see what I mean? So in some
Buddhist countries, as in Burma, the monks do get three meals actually a day sometimes. You
see you're not supposed to start, though, before dawn, you're not supposed to start before you
can see the lines on your own hand. But some in .. I have heard that in Burma for instance
monks get up very early in the morning as soon as it's dawn and they have a hasty breakfast.
They go back to bed. They get up and have a proper breakfast and then they have their lunch
before 12 o'clock. This is an example, you could say, of Theravadin literalism and formalism.
But this is considered as conforming to the Vinaya, certainly conforming to the letter of it.
Though more usually monks are a bit more reasonable, they just have a breakfast when they
get up and assuming ... though it must be light, they can't eat before it's light, and they have
meal just before noon, this is the usual pattern.
Subhuti: You say that it's usually understood as meaning before midday. Is it drawn out in
that way in the Vinaya or does it just say untimely food?
S: This I would have to check. I think even in the Buddha's day it was understood to mean
after 12 because He prohibited an afternoon meal, an evening meal. But as I said there is this
question of the relation between (bikala bhojana) and this rule. This rule would seem to apply
to invitations to eat at the houses of lay people because not only could the monk go and beg
his food from door to door and then return to his own place wherever that was and eat it, but
he could be invited to somebody's house and this rule would seem to be referring to those sort
of occasions where you were invited to somebody's house, and you sat down and you were
served. So the Buddha is saying that His practice is that He partakes of His food on such
occasions in one session and He's advising the other monks to do likewise. So the question
arises, well what sort - I mean, also this is one of the rules, if one can call it a rule, which He
doesn't make as a result of anything that has happened, because He's staying at Savatthi and
He addresses the monks, He calls out to them, and they respond and then He says: "I monks,
partake of my food at one session." It's as though the idea just occurs to Him, just to tell them
this is what ...

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