Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

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Dharmasherab
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Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Dharmasherab » Tue Dec 24, 2019 2:17 pm

It is true that across the board Buddhism does not show preference to any particular diet, where Buddhists from a variety of dietary backgrounds, progress all the way up to becoming teachers that represent lineages.

In some Mahayana texts, it is encouraged to abandon the consumption of meat and to have a vegetarian diet. Texts such as the Surangama Sutra, discourage the consumption of onions, garlic (and a few other items which can be seen as non-Sattvic according to yogic schools of Hinduism).

Also in addition to this, looking at contemporary issues in relation to diet, there are non-organic food as well as artificially processed foods which can be damaging to health.

As Buddhists, adjusting our diet to cause the least possible harm (to other beings as well as ourselves) as well as a diet which is supportive of meditation activity to prevent the mind from going into dull states it is possible to come up with the best possible diet for the Buddhist.

A lot of this is based on my understanding of the teachings of Buddhism (or at least ones which do not conflict with its standards), but I would like to hear the feedback from Buddhists in this forum.

1. Avoiding meat and fish in the diet.
2. Avoiding animal products such as milk and bee honey.
3. Consumption of organic, non-GMO vegetables and fruits.
4. Consumption of whole foods and avoiding processed foods (even when they are vegetarian or vegan compatible as well as junk food).
5. Avoiding non-Sattvic food as they can hinder the clarity of mind and obstruct Samadhi as an extension of the foods which are discouraged in the Surangama Sutra such as onion and garlic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sattvic_diet).
6. Drinking clean water (depending on which country we are in it may be necessary to filter or distill the water prior to drinking).
7. Avoid artificial drinks such as fizzy pop drinks. Only drink fruit juice when really necessary but when drinking, just drink plain water.
8. Drink herbal infusions only when necessary (including tea), as they are mostly non-essential for the well-being of our body and mind.
9. Avoid all intoxicants (including recreational drugs) completely. Alcohol dampens clarity of mind and smoking blocks channels (Nadi).
10. Occasional fasting where on may take the 8 Precepts from time to time where meals are avoided afternoon.

Please take a look and see if there is anything you would like to add. This is the type of dietary lifestyle I hope to live by as a lay Buddhist as I find this is by far the most ethical as well as most supportive for meditation practice.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Nicholas » Tue Dec 24, 2019 4:35 pm

Food diet is not important, compared to our diet of sensory input and the quality of our thoughts, words & deeds.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind—this is the teaching of all Buddhas.
If one follows this advice from the Dhammapada verse 183, one will discover craving for many foodstuffs will decrease or disappear.
Last edited by Nicholas on Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by DNS » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:12 pm

It's probably one of the most controversial subjects in buddhism, perhaps even the most.

Over at DWT, great vegetarian debate:
https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9229

Over at DWM, great vegetarian debate:
https://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=213

Over 10,000 combined posts in the above 2 threads.

There are Mahayana sutras that prohibit meat eating. And there are other suttas / sutras which suggest it is okay. And then there is the First Precept against killing or causing to kill. Thus, the controversy and endless debates.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Nicholas » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:31 pm

DNS wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:12 pm
It's probably one of the most controversial subjects in buddhism, perhaps even the most.
[...]
There are Mahayana sutras that prohibit meat eating. And there are other suttas / sutras which suggest it is okay. And then there is the First Precept against killing or causing to kill. Thus, the controversy and endless debates.
Any focus on the body or actions of the body plays into our worldly sensate, illusory mind. Thus argument is an easy response.

But there is no serious argument about verse 183 quoted above.
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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by DNS » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:35 pm

Nicholas wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:31 pm
Any focus on the body or actions of the body plays into our worldly sensate, illusory mind. Thus argument is an easy response.
But there is no serious argument about verse 183 quoted above.
Yes, but verse 183 includes "avoid all evil . . " Vegetarians would argue that includes not causing to kill. Is killing allowed in buddhism? No, it is against the First Precept. Is eating meat killing? No, but does it cause the killing of another animal (to replace the meat)?

Thus, the controversy and debates . . .

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Buddhist?

Post by Nicholas » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:48 pm

DNS wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:35 pm
Nicholas wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:31 pm
Any focus on the body or actions of the body plays into our worldly sensate, illusory mind. Thus argument is an easy response.
But there is no serious argument about verse 183 quoted above.
Yes, but verse 183 includes "avoid all evil . . " Vegetarians would argue that includes not causing to kill. Is killing allowed in buddhism? No, it is against the First Precept. Is eating meat killing? No, but does it cause the killing of another animal (to replace the meat)?

Thus, the controversy and debates . . .
Kamma was defined, if I recall, by Buddha as cetana - will or motive or intent of the individual. So, if no intent to kill by a person, evil is avoided. Cleansing of mind is primary and will result in avoiding evil and doing good.
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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Buddhist?

Post by DNS » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:57 pm

Nicholas wrote:
Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am
77231301 user_id=136]
Kamma was defined, if I recall, by Buddha as cetana - will or motive or intent of the individual. So, if no intent to kill by a person, evil is avoided. Cleansing of mind is primary and will result in avoiding evil and doing good.
Yes, that is one view. There are other views. :tongue:
For example:
Venerable Master Hsuan Hua wrote: "What benefits are there in being vegetarian?" someone asked.
I said, "There aren't any. You're taking a loss while you're alive." Because vegetarian food isn't as tasty as meat, you take a loss by being vegetarian during your life. However, if you don't keep a vegetarian diet, then you will take a loss after death. It's like a scale. You have to figure out for yourself which side is heavier and which is lighter.
(from: The Horror of Taking Lives and Eating Meat, by Ven. Hsuan Hua)
http://www.cttbusa.org/vegetarianism/cttbveg3.asp
"Because vegetarian food isn't as tasty as meat"

:D I guess the Venerable didn't live long enough to see some of the delicious new additions to the vegetarian and vegan menus.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Nicholas » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:29 am

No controversy there - "You have to figure out for yourself which side is heavier and which is lighter." That is part of 'cleansing the mind'. Arguing with others is not part of that purification.

Thus, I return to quiet.
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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by DNS » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:33 am

Nicholas wrote:
Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:29 am
No controversy there - "You have to figure out for yourself which side is heavier and which is lighter." That is part of 'cleansing the mind'. Arguing with others is not part of that purification.

Thus, I return to quiet.
Yes, I agree with that too, but notice he still included:

However, if you don't keep a vegetarian diet, then you will take a loss after death.


People have strong views on the subject, on all sides, thus the controversy and debates.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by DNS » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:39 am

Sutta Nipata 42 wrote:Taking life, beating, wounding, binding, stealing, lying, deceiving, worthless knowledge, adultery; this is stench. Not the eating of meat.
Lankavatara Sutra wrote:“Bodhisattvas should refrain from meat. The smell of meat, O Mahamati, is no different from the stink of corpses. Between the stench of the burning flesh of corpses and the burned flesh of a beast there is no difference. Both are equally revolting. This is yet another reason a bodhisattva on the path, who wishes for a life of purity, should not eat meat of any kind. Likewise, Mahamati, yogis living in the charnel grounds and in the spirit-haunted wilds, practitioners who live in solitude, and all who meditate on loving kindness, all those who uphold the vidya mantras and those who wish to accomplish the same?in short, all my noble sons and daughters who embrace the Mahayana?all perceive that eating meat brings obstacles to liberation. And since they wish to benefit themselves and others, they do not eat meat of any kind."
Master Hsu Yun (1840-1959)
"In our outer training, we should not kill the living but should release all living creatures; we should transmute the ten evils [killing, stealing, adultery, lying, double-tongue, coarse language, filthy talk, covetousness, anger and perverted views] into the ten good virtues [the non-committal of the ten evils].

We should not eat meat and drink alcoholic liquors in order not to produce the sinful karma of unintermittent suffering; and we should know that the Buddha-seed arises from conditional causation, that the commitment of many evil karmas is followed by the certain fall into the hells, and that the performance of many good karmas is rewarded with blessing ensuring our enjoyment of them.

And so the ancients taught us this: 'Refrain from committing all evil actions (and) perform all good actions.' "

Master Hsu Yun was a vegan.
http://www.shabkar.org/teachers/chan/master_hsu_yun.htm
I agree it is up to the individual. I am just showing the issue is far from settled or complete. It is still a controversy and point of debate among buddhists.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Nicholas » Wed Dec 25, 2019 4:04 am

DNS wrote:
Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:39 am
I agree it is up to the individual. I am just showing the issue is far from settled or complete. It is still a controversy and point of debate among buddhists.
That is obvious to anyone. My advice to Dharmasherab or others is to avoid controversy over non-essentials and what one eats is that. Western converts to the Dharma are confused enough as it is, so I do not care to add to it.
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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by DNS » Wed Dec 25, 2019 4:20 am

Dharmasherab wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 2:17 pm
A lot of this is based on my understanding of the teachings of Buddhism (or at least ones which do not conflict with its standards), but I would like to hear the feedback from Buddhists in this forum.

1. Avoiding meat and fish in the diet.
2. Avoiding animal products such as milk and bee honey.
3. Consumption of organic, non-GMO vegetables and fruits.
4. Consumption of whole foods and avoiding processed foods (even when they are vegetarian or vegan compatible as well as junk food).
5. Avoiding non-Sattvic food as they can hinder the clarity of mind and obstruct Samadhi as an extension of the foods which are discouraged in the Surangama Sutra such as onion and garlic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sattvic_diet).
6. Drinking clean water (depending on which country we are in it may be necessary to filter or distill the water prior to drinking).
7. Avoid artificial drinks such as fizzy pop drinks. Only drink fruit juice when really necessary but when drinking, just drink plain water.
8. Drink herbal infusions only when necessary (including tea), as they are mostly non-essential for the well-being of our body and mind.
9. Avoid all intoxicants (including recreational drugs) completely. Alcohol dampens clarity of mind and smoking blocks channels (Nadi).
10. Occasional fasting where on may take the 8 Precepts from time to time where meals are avoided afternoon.
This is just what I do and have chosen to do; for others ymmv.

1. Yes, I avoid all meat and fish (fish and birds are meat too, just not mammals, but still members of the Animal Kingdom).
2. I mostly avoid animal products, but since I still eat them occasionally, that makes me vegetarian, not vegan.
3. When I ate at home, it was organic, non-gmo, but now I eat out at restaurants, it's not likely to be organic.
4. Yes, I try to eat whole foods and avoid processed foods. I'm not a big fan of the meat substitutes, lots of processing and sodium in them.
5. I generally don't eat much garlic or mushrooms, but that's more a preference thing, not religious.
6. Yes, I have reverse osmosis filters at home and the office.
7. I avoid all artificial drinks. I drink only tea and coffee.
8. Yes, some herbal teas.
9. I avoid all drugs and alcohol.
10. I eat OMAD (one meal a day), so that's sort of a fast. There is always about 24 hours between the one large meal.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Dec 25, 2019 8:08 am

:goodpost:
I'm heading (very very slowly, partly because of circumstances) in the same direction, and I know quite a few non-Buddhists also heading in the same direction because of moral/ethical concerns. One motivating factor is a wish to reduce their environmental footprint; it turns out that animal protein is environmentally expensive and Drawdown (for instance) recommends a "plant-rich" diet for this reason - see https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/food/plant-rich-diet.

One thing which I think makes the whole exercise much easier (which in turn makes us more likely to keep going with it) is not to be too hard-line about it. If exceptions to the rule are seen as failures (Christmas dinner, anyone?), they become very stressful for us and for people around us. I like to think of dietary guidelines in the same way I think of the Five Precepts, i.e., they are training rules not Divine Law, following them most of the time is a lot better than not even trying to follow them, and we will get better at it with practice. This is particularly true with food, since eating habits are entangled with our whole culture.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by DNS » Wed Dec 25, 2019 5:20 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Wed Dec 25, 2019 8:08 am
:goodpost:
Thanks, also good point you make below:
One thing which I think makes the whole exercise much easier (which in turn makes us more likely to keep going with it) is not to be too hard-line about it. If exceptions to the rule are seen as failures (Christmas dinner, anyone?), they become very stressful for us and for people around us. I like to think of dietary guidelines in the same way I think of the Five Precepts, i.e., they are training rules not Divine Law, following them most of the time is a lot better than not even trying to follow them, and we will get better at it with practice. This is particularly true with food, since eating habits are entangled with our whole culture.
Often I hear how some omnivores are turned off from vegetarians and especially vegans from the judgmental attitudes. Some who later become vegetarian said they would have done so earlier, were it not for the harassment from veg / vegans.

And then yes, there is the culture issue and family issues. If someone else is doing the cooking, it's no so easy to constantly refuse the meat dishes, lacto ovo dishes. For those, a gradual transition is best, if they are interested in becoming vegetarian, that is.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Dec 25, 2019 10:55 pm

DNS wrote:
Wed Dec 25, 2019 5:20 pm
...And then yes, there is the culture issue and family issues. If someone else is doing the cooking, it's no so easy to constantly refuse the meat dishes, lacto ovo dishes. For those, a gradual transition is best, if they are interested in becoming vegetarian, that is.
Sometimes even if they are not interested in becoming vegetarian. :smile:
My closest extended family consists of two couples and one single-person household. One member of each couple is at least semi-vegetarian and the other isn't, so there's a lot of consideration and adaptation - especially when we all eat together. For instance, if I'm cooking pasta for the carnivores I will toss in just enough bacon or salami to give it the flavour they want - unless we had a lot of meat the previous day, in which case I won't have much sympathy for them. :tongue:

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Dharmasherab » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:10 am

All interesting points. Thank you dear DNS for sharing from your own life experience.

My intention was to see which type of diet is not only most ethically in line with Buddhist standards of ethics but also a type of diet that is optimum for the brain so that it provides the least resistance for the mind from a dietary aspect. This is not about saying which type of diet should be made compulsory for all Buddhists whiles disrespecting other types of diets. This is about, provided that a lay Buddhist was willing to see what type of diet would be the best in providing optimum conditions for the mind.

Also, my focus was not on the aesthetic aspect of food/diet (as in how pleasing food is to our senses) and therefore originally I felt it was not that important to explicitly mention. But given that it was touched upon within the series of comments, it goes without saying that our ability to become enlightened depends on how well we can renounce and transform whatever sense objects that come into contact with our 6 sense bases and the aesthetic aspect of food are also no exception. It should be stressed that attachment to the taste and fragrance of food are among the many things which needs to be let go of. Preparation of food to make it more edible does not always imply exclusively that such efforts are made just for the sake of satisfying taste buds. Looking at this point, it is best to consider food as a source of nutrition and not to spend time to make food tasty. Its the mentality of "eating to live, and not living to eat".

For example, Ajahn Mun would deliberately avoid going to houses that serve food which has been made tasty if he felt that way during Pindapatha. The Buddha gave the simile, of two parents walking through the desert with their child, where eventually the desire to get rid of their hunger overcomes the love for their child. Later they kill the child and start eating his flesh. Then it reaches the point where the hunger is not that strong as the love for the child, where the parents regret eating their own child and they start crying. Likewise, the Buddha encouraged people to look at their food this way, where we only see food as a vital factor for nutrition to keep our bodies alive, and not for anything more than that (which also includes satisfying the taste buds). Therefore we can conclude that food is for the sake of nutrition for we need to live to complete the Buddhist practices, where any reason other than this is extravagant that should be discarded.

To put things into context in our present day, it is very easy to come across types of food that are unhealthy. This unhealthiness does not only impact the body but the mind as well. Today in the food markets, most of the food items as either processed, non-organic, GMO and tick all these boxes. So given that we are living in such an age where unhealthy food which is so common yet so easily accessible, not only as Buddhists but as sensible human beings it makes all the sense to be more selective about what we consume. In Ancient India, the issues and problems that we have now in relation to diet did not exist back then. Access to unhealthy food was almost zero, and as for yogis who lived in the wilderness, they have the healthiest of all diets where they had a healthy body to sustain a healthy mind. It was these types of people back in the Buddha's time who were most receptive to the Buddha's teachings. This is not to say that diet alone was the only reason for their success, but it would be unfair to undermine its importance in bringing inner transformation.

As lay Buddhists (as well as ordained non-monastic Buddhists) have the option being more selective about what goes into their diet. Ofcourse, monastics in most lineages do not have the choice of making their own food or asking for specific types of food. So they have to look at what is being offered to them and then select what would be best for them to eat - which doesn't leave a lot of choice for them. But we as lay Buddhists, one of our commitments is to serve the monastic Sangha. One of the commitments is to offer food to the monastic Sangha. Unhealthy food items being more common means we need to take more responsibility as to what we offer to the Sangha. Remember, that taking care of the monastic Sangha should be seen as taking care of the Buddha himself given that they are following the lifestyle that is most consistent with the way that the Buddha lives. Do not forget that the monastic Sangha are like our parents who show us the way, who have preserved the teachings over the generations. Therefore when it comes to offering food, provided that we are doing that in the most responsible manner, then being selective about what types of food to the sangha is paramount. We want a long life and good health for the monastic Sangha. Offering unhealthy food to the monastic Sangha is irresponsible. I feel there needs to be a re-education of lay Buddhists on how to best serve the monastic Sangha. We need some new consciousness about this among the lay Buddhist population.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by DNS » Fri Dec 27, 2019 11:27 pm

Dharmasherab wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:10 am
My intention was to see which type of diet is not only most ethically in line with Buddhist standards of ethics but also a type of diet that is optimum for the brain so that it provides the least resistance for the mind from a dietary aspect. This is not about saying which type of diet should be made compulsory for all Buddhists whiles disrespecting other types of diets. This is about, provided that a lay Buddhist was willing to see what type of diet would be the best in providing optimum conditions for the mind.
Just my opinion, but I'd say the same foods that are good for the body, especially the heart, are also the best for the mind. High fat foods makes one sluggish, sleepy, less endurance. Long distance runners tend to eat vegan or mostly vegan for the endurance benefits and for the heart. Healthier foods provide better blood circulation, which makes the body perform better, including the brain and the mind.

Magnus Carlsen, current world chess champion and Vishy Anand, former world chess champion, are both vegetarians. It takes lots of concentration to play chess at their level and certainly high intelligence / brain usage. Intelligence is not the only factor as there are other things important for chess including concentration, skill, strategy, but certainly intelligence / brain power is up there as an important factor.

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Dharmasherab » Sat Jan 11, 2020 5:15 pm

Thank you so much for this input DNS. Even I was surprised when I watched Game Changers on Netflix on how modern athletes and sportsmen are changing to a vegan / plant based diet as it increases performance during activity. It shows that there is an impact on this type of diet on the blood vessels. So surely we can infer from this that the blood vessels in the brain must be less cluttered in those who take a healthy plant based diet (which also includes healthy methods of cooking).

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Re: Best possible diet for a lay Budddhist?

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:22 pm

DNS wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 11:27 pm
...Magnus Carlsen, current world chess champion and Vishy Anand, former world chess champion, are both vegetarians. It takes lots of concentration to play chess at their level and certainly high intelligence / brain usage. Intelligence is not the only factor as there are other things important for chess including concentration, skill, strategy, but certainly intelligence / brain power is up there as an important factor.
And here's a Test cricketer ... and other sportepeople.
Australia's vegetarian fast bowler Peter Siddle has chewed up and spat out the suggestion that the absence of meat from his diet was the reason he was unable to recover from his Adelaide exertions in time to play in the pivotal Perth Test against South Africa.

As he prepared to resume as the leader of the hosts' attack in the Test series against Sri Lanka, starting in Hobart on Friday, Siddle flatly rejected the view - proffered by Dennis Lillee, among others - that meat was essential to the diet of a fast bowler. Siddle backed up his rebuttal with the correct observation that his ability to maintain high pace and accuracy for long periods has in fact been helped by the lifestyle change, which he made earlier this year.

"I struggled to bowl over 50 overs [before becoming vegetarian] so, to bowl 64, I think that's an improvement," Siddle said at Bellerive Oval. "So I'm probably in a better place than I ever was. ...

Siddle's pre-season admission that he had foresworn meat has been the cause of some mirth among those who harbour cliched views about the dietry habits of fast bowlers, even though he made the change with plenty of support from Cricket Australia's dieticians and support staff. The team performance manager Pat Howard has previously pointed to the decorated examples of the triathlete Dave Scott, the AFL footballer Brett Kirk and Martina Navratilova's tennis mastery as examples of vegetarian success in elite sport.
https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id ... an-critics

:coffee:
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