Moderation in everything and everything in moderation

In the very first teaching after his enlightenment the Buddha gave a sermon at Bernares. During this sermon he said …”let him be moderate, let him eat and drink according to the needs of his body”.

It is useful to reflect on why this point is important enough to be included by the Buddha in his very first teaching.

At one extreme on a continuum that has moderation of diet in its middle, is greed and gluttony.

Over-indulging in any sensory pleasure fosters strong attachment – the ever-increasing need for more, more, more.

Enough is never enough and our greed can easily turn into other unwholesome behaviours of thought, speech and action if we don’t get what we are craving.

Our grasping and clinging to excesses of food and drink can make us both unhealthy of body and unwholesome of mind.

At the other extreme end of the diet continuum is asceticism, which is characterised by abstinence of any sense pleasure to the point, in regards to food, of near or total starvation. This may seem admirable on the surface, but it does nothing except weaken you to the point where you are unable to function normally as a human being.

We need to function in a healthy fashion if we are to train our mind, be mindfully aware and awaken to see things as they really are.

So, how do you achieve a healthy moderation in your diet?

If you can learn to view food and drink as primarily for giving energy and health, then it changes how you think and behave with everything to do with your diet. It impacts how much you eat and drink, what you eat & drink when and how you eat and drink.

How much you eat & drink, when: 

If your diet is focused on energy and health, you eat only enough to maintain those. Breakfast is the bigger meal of the day and it gets smaller and lighter from there. For example, I have a large breakfast, medium lunch and very small evening meal.

You should keep your body adequately hyrdrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

What you eat & drink:

A balanced diet across the food groups is the best way to promote energy and health. Your personal preferences will help you choose what is appropriate here for your own health and well-being.

Alcohol and soft-drinks or energy drinks don’t do much at all for energy or health. Good old water should be the primary beverage in your diet;  herbal teas, occasional coffee and tea during the day.

How you eat & drink:

If moderation is the driver, you practice eating more slowly so that you can really taste what you eat. Chewing is good for digestion. Focusing on the eating of your meal is another good practice – not being distracted by television or whatever other gadget you have nearby.

If practicing mindfulness, it is good to consider the whole chain of people, animals, plants and anything else that have been involved in bringing this food to your plate. It helps to remind us that we are conditional beings, dependent on so many others just to be able to maintain our energy and healthy through our diet.

May you eat and drink according to the needs of your body.

May you be well and happy.

Stephanie Mohan

2nd January 2013

“He who fills the lamp with water will not dispel the darkness, and he who tries to light a fire with rotten wood will fail.
And how can any one be free from self by leading a wretched life, if he does not succeed in quenching the fires of lust, if he still hankers after either worldly or heavenly pleasures.
But he in whom self has become extinct is free from lust; he will desire neither worldly nor heavenly pleasures, and the satisfaction of his natural wants will not defile him.
However, let him be moderate, let him eat and drink according to the needs of the body.

The Buddha, extract from The Sermon at Benares

Pic – NZ 2009



Categories: Recipes, Reflections

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