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Food (àhàra) is material nutriment ingested by organisms to satisfy the pangs of hunger and to sustain the body. In ancient India food was categorised as either hard or soft (S.I,162) and could be consumed by being either eaten, drunk, chewed or sucked. The Buddha praised moderation in eating (Sn.707) and encouraged this in his monks and nuns. To this end and for reasons of health, he made a rule that they should not eat after noon. ‘I do not eat in the evening and thus I am free from illness and affliction and enjoy health, strength and ease’ (M.I,473). The Buddha also suggested to his disciples that they recite these words as a reflection before eating. ‘We will eat in moderation. Reflecting wisely we will not eat for fun, for amusement or for physical attractiveness but only for the maintenance and continuance of this body, for allaying the discomfort of hunger, for assisting in living the holy life and with the thought “I will end the old desires and not give rise to new ones and thus be healthy, blameless and live in comfort” ’ (M.I,273). The Buddha said that when you give a hungry person food you give them more than just a material substance, you also give them all the things that food imparts - life, beauty, satisfaction, strength and intelligence (A.III,42).


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