Dangers of Craving for Taste

revised on 2024-07-09

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 22nd April 1962

[Food for thought on dāna. U Aung Zan Wai – a retired politician and his group came to Mogok with Sayadaw and practiced meditation. They offered food to the monks and all the yogis there. He requested Sayadaw for an anumodana talk.]

Sayadaw reminded all of them how to make dāna properly and how to consume food. He said all should make merits to end dukkha (nibbāna) and not for sugatis and wealth in the future to come. All these worldly pleasures are Dukkha, even as we can see a lot of sufferings as human beings. Celestial and Brahma beings also have Dukkha. (See Subrahma Devata’s story). Sayadaw reminded and taught people how to consume food. He said the monks have to reflect on the four requisites before using them. Lay people should also do it. If they don’t know how to do it, at least they should spread metta and health for the donors’ benefits. Consuming in this way does not fall into Debts – to the donors. If consuming with greed, dissatisfaction, and discontentment (criticism of the dānas) or without sati in the process, in the future to come they have to repay the Debts with Khandhas.

Another way is during the consuming process of using sati to observe the mind consciousness on the flavours and discern its nature. This is the consuming of food with the four noble truths (This way is explained in Saṁyutta).

If I ask you, where does food come from? It comes from volition (cetanā). So its origin is ultimate truth (paramattha dhamma). Cetanā is in the mind and it wants to end dukkha. This cetanā is with the knowledge of seeing dukkha that it doesn’t want the pseudo-happiness, fake and crook happiness (Sayadaw mentioned the dukkha of any existences – man, deva, and brahma). So your cetanā is arising with knowledge together. This is the real vivaṭṭa-dāna — giving without clinging to the cycle of existence. If this knowledge arises, kilesa can’t arise.

So it also frees from kilesavaṭṭa – the round of defilement. There is also no action of merit and demerit so it also frees from kamma-vaṭṭa – the round of action. It’s freeing from kilesa - and kamma-vaṭṭas so that the arising of khandha-vaṭṭa – the round of khandha does not arise. If you’re looking for new khandha you're looking for Dukkha (new-dukkha). With the existing Dukkha and looking again for Dukkha is extremely stupid and foolish. This is doing the foolish thing during the giving and offering things. Today the dāna is dāna to nibbāna – (the one who gives has the intention of nibbāna and Sayadaw also is doing the anumodana for nibbāna).

(Sayadaw taught how to consume the foods) During the time of eating, do not eat with lobha, dosa, and moha, but eat it with sending of metta. If you are just eating and going back home, you will pay your debts with the khandhas. With metta and contemplation, you have no debts for it. (Sayadaw explained reflection on foods by monks) Don’t take it as if it’s only taught for the monks. It is related to everyone. It includes metta and paññā, and you are not in debt for the eating. If you eat with criticism, you are at fault with it. Another method is eating with insight contemplation.

With the contact of food and tongue, jivhā-viññāṇa – tongue consciousness (knowing of taste) arises. It arises from causes (here, two causes) and after the arising, it vanishes. If you eat with anicca and do not fall into debts, it is because you do not acquire the khandha. Therefore, whatever you are eating, send metta or eat with knowledge. This is eating with the four noble truths. These two ways of consuming food come from the Saṁyutta Pāli. You all have to eat food to be freed from slavery and with the goal to arrive at Nibbāna.

[Here I want to make some reflections on the craving for taste and flavour of foods and drinks. It can also be a great subject matter in today's modern world. Dr. Nandamalarbhivamsa Sayadaw gave a very good talk on this matter. There are five sensual pleasures that come from the contacts of sense doors and sense objects (eye and sight, ear and sound, etc.). Of the five pleasures, according to the Buddha, craving for taste and flavour is the worst one (our modern situations and problems also support this point). Some people may not crave seeing, hearing, etc., or these things may not be necessary for human survival. For example, modern men have strong cravings for seeing and hearing by using smartphones and other gadgets, which are also not necessary for human survival. Even when human beings do not use them rightly, properly, and wisely, they cause a lot of harm, most importantly their minds are becoming more and more defiled. For most kinds of living beings, eating foods and drinks is important for survival. So, living beings need to eat food, and no one can escape from the pleasure of taste and flavour.]

The last sensual pleasure is related to mind and mind objects. This factor may not be very clear to most people, only to some Buddhists. People with wrong views, wrong faiths, wrong doctrines, and theories and wrong thoughts, proliferation, and fantasies that could affect a lot of humans, societies, and countries. For example, with the help of science and technology we create a lot of weapons of mass destruction such as atomic bombs (e.g., on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), supersonic missiles, etc. Unsustainable economic policy and politics by some politicians and economists, because of their craving for power and wealth, create a lot of problems, chaos, and suffering in societies and natural environments. These people are intelligent fools misusing their knowledge.

In the Saccasaṁyutta, the Buddha’s first Discourse – Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dhamma, the Buddha spoke about Craving – taṇhā as follows: The noble truth of the origin of suffering is this craving, which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, etc. So, taṇhā leads to renewed existence – bhava, which is dukkha sacca. With taṇhā for sensual pleasures, humans can engage in any unwholesome and evil actions. For example, the craving for land has led to disputed and conflicted with each other. It becomes increasingly violent and extreme, causing great suffering. The earth does not belong to anyone; it only belongs to nature. Thus, everyone on this earth should live with each other in harmony and peace. If not, everyone becomes a thief because even our mind and body do not belong to us, let alone all external things.

So the mind is the creator with its craving, and clinging creates all problems and sufferings. Therefore, without Dhamma knowledge, everyone is ignorant and deluded. Dhamma education and training is the most important aspect for every human.

In this modern world, human beings create a lot of problems, suffering, and destruction through the indulgence of sensual pleasure related to taste and flavour. We poison the food chains with pesticides and chemicals – deforestation for meat production and other actions lead to climate change and many natural disasters. For food production (all kinds of food and drinks), using a lot of packaging (especially plastics) creates significant waste problems. All these outcomes pollute the earth and lead to climate change. All these create health problems and ill-being. If we don’t burn and destroy all this waste and instead pile it up every day, it will cover everything on the earth. The downfall of human beings started from a craving for taste and flavour (See – Aggañña Sutta – DN. 27).

In Buddhist texts, five kinds of people are mentioned with regard to craving for foods or taste. One person eats so much that he can't get up by himself. Another eats until his lower robe falls off. Another cannot get up and lies down there to sleep. One overeats to the point that he vomits the food. Even someone can die from overeating.

Among the 40 kinds of meditation objects, loathsomeness of food is taught by the Buddha. Thus, letting go of the craving for taste is very important. By finding disgust in the loathsomeness of food, it is easier to let go of it. There is nothing fragrant and beautiful coming out of the body from eating; it’s only smelly and disgusting. These things include – mucus, sweat, saliva, fat, bile, oil; in nine streams, filth is always flowing from it, including eye secretions, ear secretions, and mucus; from the mouth, it emits phlegm and bile; body sweat, excrement, and urine.

Time and energy for food is not a small thing and involves a lot of dukkha. Food and drinks provide only a momentary pleasure when they go into the mouth, but we use a lot of time and energy to get these tastes. After eating, cleaning up, and dealing with the excretion and urination, it can also be very tiring.

There are more food stalls, restaurants, food shops, and hotels than other kinds of businesses. There is a lot of competition at international levels for tastes. The most silly thing is eating competitions in American, e.g., – who can eat more chillies and quicker than anyone. In Burma, a man hit his wife on the head with firewood because she forgot to prepare a chili dish for which he had a strong craving and killed his wife on the spot at the dining place. For taste, people can even kill or fight each other – e.g., trade wars.

In the time of the Buddha, a monk named Tissa who practiced the dhutaṅga (ascetic practice) of eating only almsround foods and was serious about it.

Later, at his mother’s arrangement, she sent a courtesan to seduce her son with foods which he craved at home. Because of his craving for taste, he returned to lay life. It was like a fish craving for the bait and ending up with death. For Tissa, it was more painful than death because his holy life came to an end, continuing his wandering in saṁsāra. The Buddha mentioned his past life craving for taste that was exploited by the gardener. At that time, he was a deer, and the prostitute (courtesan) was the gardener who seduced the deer with honey grass. The king, who wanted to see the deer, was the bodhisatta. In this jātaka story, we can see the kammic result of any actions as kammavipāka acinteyya (the result of action is inconceivable). Any attachment that becomes a habit is very difficult to give up, similar to the self-view, and leads to sufferings. If modern men can control and be content with the craving for taste for foods and drinks, it could solve many human problems and sufferings in the world (such as health problems, pollution, competition syndrome, etc.). There are many things that can be contemplated regarding the craving for taste.

revised on 2024-07-09

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