By Nhat Quan
All living things depend on food, this is an important fact of life. It is important because of the need for food, and because of that necessity, it is equally important that you understand the properties of food so that eating and digesting food is really beneficial for your life.
 Learn about food, you will find that the Buddha taught you a morality about nutrition and at the same time showed you the method to get rid of the suffering and harm caused by food.
 According to Buddhism, life is composed and formed by two physical and psychological factors. Therefore, material and spiritual foods are the most important things needed to nourish and sustain life. Food follows life like a shadow with a picture, in any situation, life cannot be without it.
 Of course, money and material possessions have a certain important role in life, but the reality shows that many times in a luxurious castle and full of money in hand, they are still sad to death because of lack of food, because there is no food. You don't have to have money to have everything.
For ordinary people, the problem of eating and food is often understood in a simple way. That is, eat on an empty stomach, eat to live, and food is specific dishes such as rice, porridge, sticky rice, noodles, vegetables, fruits, salty foods, vegetarian foods, sweet foods,..., depending on the needs and preferences of each person. Recently, people have looked at the matter more closely. Many movements and organizations advocate vegetarianism, a diet to reduce fat to prevent and treat diseases of fat or blood sugar...
 According to Buddhism, the word food has a broader meaning, applying to all substances that nourish and sustain life, including psychological and physical. And the matter of eating also has its properties. Please take a look at these features.
People eat physical or spiritual foods, which are digested and become nutritional materials for human maintenance and nourishment. Many scientific studies and cultivation practices show typical experiments: Choosing to eat and digest gentle, nutritious, and suitable material foods to make the body's visceral cells make people healthy and strong. Digesting spiritual food with compassion, joy, and equanimity transforms the soul, personality and human demeanor to be imbued with purity, gentleness, and joy.
Thus, eating is to maintain and nourish the physical body of living beings or the dharma body of saints so that the body can exist, the spirit is happy, and the body healthy. In the three realms, the plants or foods to nourish the human body are called the food of the world. And the vegetables to grow the dharmakaya, wisdom, and enlightenment are called the dishes of the Out of World. There are four ways of eating in the world and five ways of eating out of the world. The four ways of eating in the world together with the five ways of eating in the Out of the world are collectively called the nine ways of eating. First, you learn the world's four ways of eating. These four ways of eating according to the Ekottarikagama Sutra, book 41 explain as follows: These four ways of eating are for the purpose of growing the body of birth and death in the world.
A- The four ways of eating in the Desire Realm with the human world include:
- Round food, emotional food, thinking food, and consciousness food.
1- Rounded food
Rounded food or Partial food is the material food that nourishes the physical bodies of beings in the human world. You all understand that this kind of food is very necessary and related to human life. A hungry stomach makes people tired, and miserable, and if they are too hungry, they will be malnourished or sick. Without food, people will die. To survive, you must eat. To earn food is to pay the price of immeasurable, boundless hard work and bitterness. To earn a living, each person has to work hard and suffer a lot and at the same time create a lot of pain and suffering for the life around them.
 Because of eating, from the original meaning to the evolving meaning, living things and animals bite each other, living things kill people, people kill living things, people are cruel to people, forget all affection, and even fight fiercely, then war kills each other for economic interests.
Every day you must eat to live. If you eat meat, you must directly kill the lives of animals, or indirectly accept others to kill for you such as the work in slaughterhouses, hunting in the fields, in the mountains, and in the sea or lake. If you are a vegetarian, you must also destroy the herbs. And in order to have the beds of vegetables and fruits, in the work of planting and protecting, which have taken a lot of insect lives, ants have been killed just because they have to eat to live like you. If you keep digging into this perspective, you must be heartbroken to realize that this world is a big slaughterhouse in which each of you has a part, both the perpetrator and the sinner.
Now you learn more about the meaning of each type of food. First of all, Round Food is also called Partial Food, also called Hand Food, also called Piece Food.
a- Partial food:
It means dividing food into small pieces, each small portion to eat, so it is called partial food.
b- Rounded food:
That is, holding round food and putting it in your mouth to eat is called Rounded Food. This is how the ancient Indians used to squeeze food with their hands, then put it in their mouths to eat.
c- Piece food:
That means crushing food or breaking it into pieces to eat, it is called Piece food.
d- Hand food:
That is, holding the food in the mouth should be called hand food.
The four types of food just explained are within the meaning of Rounded Food mentioned above. According to the Buddhist Great Dictionaries, Volume 4, Pages 3997-3998 The section on Food is explained as follows:
Partial food: That is, eating and drinking by taking the scent, taste, and crystals of physical contact in material things to make it healthy and beneficial for the senses in the human body, so it is called Partial Food. Partial food has two types: Raw part and subtle part.
a- Raw part:
That is, the physical nature of common plants to eat is easy to see such as: In rice, beans, noodles, fish, meat...etc.
b- The subtle part:
That is things for drinking and aromas such as incense, oil, perfume, etc.
Thus, Round food means eating by bringing food into the mouth with your hands to nourish the body like the human world, etc.
2. Touch Food:
Also called Happy Food and Warm Food
a- Touch Food:
The second type of food is Touch food. You have six senses: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. These senses are in contact with form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and dhammas. You must know whether contact will bring poison to your body or not?
For example, when you watch television, your eyes are exposed to images and colors. Adults as well as children, while watching movies, must know how to practice the right view. You must know that there are TV programs that contain a lot of toxins such as violence, hatred, and lust, these movies you, and especially children, should not watch. There are movies that give you understanding, compassion, determination to help people, and determination not to make mistakes. You can watch that movie.
Even promotional images arouse people's desire, lust, or fear. Or when you read a newspaper without mindfulness, you can absorb a lot of toxins. After reading the newspaper you may be exhausted because what you read can make you depressed, anxious, and disgusted. Even everyday stories can carry toxins. It is contact food.
The right view gives rise to mindfulness and mindfulness also gives rise to the right view. You should know that seeing, hearing, and contacting are what makes your body and mind healthy, light, and peaceful, you should be in contact with those substances every day. As for the things that make you tired, sad, worried, and angry, you should avoid contact, that is mindfulness of contact food.
Thus, contact food is a feeling through the mind as the subject, that is, the mind acts in contact with the external environment to immediately produce sensations and wills to nourish and grow the body, so it is called contact food...
Touch food, also known as rejoicing food, plays an important role in your life. You are not only nourished by rice and material things, but also by the love of your parents and life partners. The joy, happiness, and love of those around you can sometimes nourish you more than rice. Anyone born into a life without being nourished with love, when they grow up, they easily become vindictive, bored, and easy to become criminals. Because they are not maintained in a happy environment, their hearts are damaged. A person who is raised in a loving environment and grows up in a happy environment is likely to succeed in life. They have a kind heart and are easily born from the heart.
          So, if you know how to nurture life, in seven or eighty years of life, you will have countless conditions to dedicate your presence to the community and bring joy to yourself and to everyone. The strange thing that few people notice is that everything you give comes back to you. The love, faithfulness, and care, you give to your loved one, is not lost anywhere, but it comes back to yourself. Having someone for you to love and give love is enough to be happy. If you think that love is the basic foundation for opening the human heart, then having someone to love is a gift.
          Contact food is also understood in another way, such as eating by using the mouth instead of hands and feet to directly contact food such as eating like pigs, chickens, dogs, etc. Contact food here means eating with the way to use the mouth to contact food directly without using the hands and feet to bring food into the mouth is like the way humans eat. People bathing, and wearing clothes are also called Contact Food.
             b-  Happy food:
          That is, when in direct contact with the object's scene, it gives rise to joy and pleasure, liking to grow the body, so it is called happy food. Like people who love to watch plays, watch movies, and go out all day long without feeling hungry.
          c- Warm food:
          This kind of warm food is for birds and other animals with similar lives such as pigeons, peacocks, etc., after laying eggs, immediately incubate them directly until the eggs hatch just become a new child. They incubate eggs for the purpose of creating warmth so that they can hatch into offspring, it is called warm food.
          3- Think food:
          Thought food has the effect of thinking, remembering all the wholesome and unwholesome dharmas. In this sense, thought is understood as thinking and remembering very strongly of the mind. It is the will, the will to live, the will to survive, the rebirth, the growth. It is this will that is the driving force that stimulates action called karma, which causes successive rebirths up and down in the three realms. It is in this sense that the Buddha called contemplation the thinking food for karma, and it is also a kind of daily food for the thinking life.
          Those are also the wishes you want to fulfill in your life. The desire to be the director of a large trading company, or the desire to obtain a doctorate, such desires infiltrate you like food. Desire is a food called thought food. A strong desire will give you the energy to fulfill your ambition. But there are thought foods that make you miserable for the rest of your life, like:
          - Fame, profit, wealth, and form.
Want to be healthy and happy, want to help family and society, want to protect nature, want to practice to transform to become an enlightened being to save lives, etc. All thoughts like these belong to the category of thought food that can lead you to peace, to happiness.
 Every day in life, from moment to moment, people are constantly thinking, comparing, and calculating from one thing to another. The past, present, and future. Personal story, love story, family, wife, and children. The story of the country, the society, the story of the world. The intrigues, plans, changes, formation, creation, discovery, construction, destruction, love, hate, sadness, joy... This is one of the causes of stress today. The more advanced life is, the more complicated thinking becomes, and the more mechanical it becomes. Life gradually lost its innocence and peace. It is only when you practice meditation that you easily realize the overlapping messages of thoughts and their forces invading your mind and life. Happily, for you, thanks the path of meditation practice, will help you to clearly identify thoughts to counter them, and eliminate toxic foods. Food of the will, food of karma means the effect of the will to wish you a good state and existence, that is, the state of existence is prolonged, so it is called thinking food. In other words, the sixth consciousness with respect to the conditioned object immediately gives rise to the thought of wanting and the thought of hoping that the senses will continue to grow. Honestly Discuss for:
- The vowing power of thought makes the root of life active.
And Mahayana Discuss, section 44, page 620 explains that:
- Because the past's own karma causes the root of life to continue without end, it is called Thought Food. Thus, all beings whose lives are created by thoughts in the past, or whose lives are created by thoughts in the present, are called thinking food.
4. Conscious food:
Consciousness is knowing, perceiving, and knowing the sensations arising from the six sense organs in contact with the six sense objects. Consciousness is named according to whatever object it arises from. Eye contact with materiality gives rise to the effect of seeing, which is called eye-consciousness. The ear to hear the sound gives rise to the hearing effect, which is called the ear-consciousness. The same goes for the other senses such as the nose, tongue, body, and mind. As for the mind, by taking the mind as the source and the object as the mind, understanding arises, which is called mind-consciousness.
 Because of the relationship and effect of consciousness on things like that, it is called conscious food, meaning that food is knowledge for all things and is also food for the life of knowledge. Due to the kind of food of the Mind that relies on Alaya Consciousness as its body and relies on the power of the three previous ways of eating to be able to produce retribution for the next life for the purpose of maintaining the body and life of sentient beings, not destruction should be called Conscious Food. Beings in the Formless and Hell realms often use this way of eating.
This kind of food is also an expression of consciousness, which includes self-dignification and situational adornment. Self-Dignity refers to the person you are composed of the Five Aggregates, and Conditional Dignity refers to the circumstances around you. Because of your actions from many past lives, you now have the Dignity of yourself and the adornment of this situation. The dignity of self and dignification of circumstances are both manifestations of the mind. When doing cognitive work, the mind is like the body receiving food. If in the past your mind received harmful foods, today your mind shows dignity to itself and dignifies bad circumstances. What you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think, imagine, all of these are like rivers flowing into the ocean of mind. And your ignorance, hatred, and sorrow all return to the ocean of your mind. So you must know what food you take into your mind every day. Have you eaten loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, or have you eaten restlessness, lethargy, and relaxation?
Contact food thought food, and consciousness food all pass through all three realms, that is, sentient beings in the three realms mostly use these three ways of eating, so it is called all three realms. Only round food is limited to the Desire Realm, and especially to beings in this world
It can be said that Conscious Food is the way to eat with the Mind, and the food for the Mind-Consciousness to use is the flavor of the dharmas. Particularly for those who have died, after leaving the body of the stinking flesh, they immediately rely on the body with the Mind-Consciousness, so it is called the body-consciousness, also called the Bardo body. Those who rely on body consciousness eat with conscious food, and their food is the scent of the sacrifices that most beings in the Hell, hungry ghosts, Asura, and Heaven realms belong to the Desire Realm. All of them use this kind of food. As you know the eating and drinking of beings in the five realms are:
- Heaven, humans, Hell, hungry ghosts, Animals.
          B- The Five Ways of Eating Out of the World
          The reason why the way of eating is different is that they have many forms that are born from four different types:
          - The type born from eggs,
          - The type born from a fetus,
          - The type born in damp places and
          - The type born by the transformation from one form to another.
          Therefore, compared with the saints, the four types of beings mentioned above are ordinary people and they eat and drink differently from that the sages. These four ways of eating of the four kinds of sentient beings in the five realms are also called Unrefined Food, which means the way of eating impure. Different from the four ways of eating ordinary people, the five ways of eating the sages are called the pure food, which means the five ways of eating very clean, and also called the Out of World Food, that is, the five ways of eating of the Out of World. These are the five ways of eating commonly used by Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Sravakas. The five ways of eating the Out of the world saints include:
          1- Meditation Food:
          That is, Practitioners use the Zen method to benefit the Spirit, that is, those who enjoy the joy of Meditation, so it is called Meditation Food.
          2- Food Dharma Joy
          That is, when a practitioner listens to the Dharma, they immediately generate joy in his mind, causing the growth of good roots and the benefits of intellectual life, so it is called Food dharma Joy.
          3- Vows Food:
          That is because the practitioner wants to save sentient beings, eliminate afflictions, and soon realize Bodhi's fruition, they make a large vow to nurture and practice thousands of good deeds, so it is called Vows Food.
          4- Mindful food
          That is after the meditator has stabilized his mind and will, they often remember all the good deeds Out of the world has attained, so it is called Mindful Food.
          5- Food of liberation:
          That is, when practicing the Noble Path of the Out of World, the sages have broken the bondage of the Karma of Defilement and are no longer oppressed or dominated by the suffering of birth and death, so it is called Liberation Food.
          This is the name of the five ways of eating the Out of the world. These five ways of eating are established as the basis of Dharma Joy of the power of Meditation, of the power of Right Vows, of the power of Right Thought. Through the power of Meditation, the power of Right Vows, and the power of Right Thought, after having cut off afflictions and studied the Buddhadharma, they immediately generate Dharma Joy. Dharma joy often nourishes life and maintains the seed of Wisdom, so it is called eating. The five ways of eating of the Out of World plus the four ways of eating of the World above become nine ways of eating, called the Nine Foods.
          In order to live a peaceful life for yourself and for others, you should be very discerning in recognizing the properties and effects of foods, especially conscious foods. Realizing clearly to transform the False Discrimination Consciousness into the Wonderful Wisdom of Observation, seeing things in perfect equality. Thus, the toxins contained in the conscious food will be purified, becoming healthy and nutritious food for the cultivation of the liberation that you have always wished for.
          In short, sentient beings need food just like a car needs gas and fuel. Food is the cause of the creation of the three realms and leads living beings around in samsara. Only when gasoline or fuel energy is no longer available, the car will stop running. In other words, in the physical world, you are controlled by your physical body, so walking, standing, lying down, and sitting are all obstructed by rain, wind, and hot and cold temperatures. Sometimes you feel good, sometimes you feel tired. These are the basic dominations that no one can escape, even the Saints, if they have a body, are still controlled by that body.
Buddha taught:
          - In daily life, while consuming, you must also know that your food is created by the suffering of others, of other living things.
And so, you need to practice to be liberated from the four types of food in the Desire Realm or the world, as the Buddha said:
         - The four types of food are disgusting, you need to get bored with food.
          Knowing that food is the main source of energy to nourish the body, any food has its limits. Beyond this limit it no longer works, so meditators eating with a feeling of pleasure should only stop to a certain extent. Passing that level, returning to the normal form body also needs to eat, need to breathe, that is, from the highest state of the highest realm and then fall to the lower realms, back to the Desire realm. Hence the concept of reincarnation.
           The four types of food in the Desire Realm or the world mentioned above have two opposite characteristics, nourishing or destructive, pleasant or painful, sublimation or debauchery. A person who loves himself is someone who knows how to nourish his body with healthy food, drink, and clean air, who knows how to nurture the six senses with happy emotions, and who knows how to increase his will to serve others. And most importantly, know what you are putting into your mind every day to guide the noble holy life or the lowly mundane life now and in the future. When you know what you're putting into your mind that you know how to practice, then you can go even further, that is, you can eat purer foods that are the foods of the Outers of the world:
          - Meditation food
          - Food Dharma Joy
          - Vow food
          - Mindful food
          - Food of liberation
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