Author Topic: A nitpicky question: Did the Buddha eat while under the Bodhi tree?  (Read 1623 times)

Offline upasaka1

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From what I've read regarding the story/myth of the Buddha, he meditated under the Bodhi tree for 49 days or so without moving. However, he did so right after realizing the futility of his six-year experiment with asceticism or self-abnegation which led him to the path of the Middle Way.

How, then, did he meditate for seven weeks under the Bodhi tree without eating? Is not that the same old path of self-abnegation that he had just forsaken?

I guess what I am asking is: Did the Buddha eat and tend to his bodily needs while meditating under the Bodhi tree for seven weeks straight?
It is never mentioned in any of the stories or myths of his life that I've read. It is always presented like he was an immovable stone for seven weeks. If so, that sounds like asceticism to me.

I am not very knowledgable or well-read about the life of the Buddha. If anybody knows the answer to this question, please post. I know it is a nitpicky question that is academic or somewhat besides the point to the main thrust of the teaching. But the story of the Buddha in this one regard (his seemingly ascetic meditation under the Bodhi tree) appears to contradict his teaching (the Middle Path).

Please correct me if I am naively misunderstanding or missing something. Thanks.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: A nitpicky question: Did the Buddha eat while under the Bodhi tree?
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2015, 01:12:51 am »
From what I've read regarding the story/myth of the Buddha, he meditated under the Bodhi tree for 49 days or so without moving. However, he did so right after realizing the futility of his six-year experiment with asceticism or self-abnegation which led him to the path of the Middle Way.

I think Bhikkhu Pesala gave a pretty good answer over on Dhamma Wheel.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: A nitpicky question: Did the Buddha eat while under the Bodhi tree?
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2015, 07:32:11 am »
Medically speaking, most doctors agree that healthy humans can go up to eight weeks without food as long as they have water. People have gone longer and been fine, and people have starved to death in less time. Being strong and in good physical shape can help you survive longer, but so does having extra body fat. The body stores energy needed to live in the form of fat, carbohydrates and proteins. The carbs are the first thing to be used up without more food coming in. The fat goes next, which explains why people with more of it can survive longer. Then the proteins go. If you get to the point that your body is using up proteins, basically the body itself, then you're in bad shape.

more here >>>

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: A nitpicky question: Did the Buddha eat while under the Bodhi tree?
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2015, 05:59:37 am »
Hi,  upasaka1:

Here is your answer from :

109. Siddhattha practiced a wide variety of special forms of asceticism and
then began to reduce his diet until finally he arrived at the point where he was
eating nothing at all. He became so thin that his whole bony frame was clearly
visible, yet this hard practice did not discourage him one bit. One day, while he
was meditating alone, he fainted because of exhaustion. At that time a shepherd
boy just happened to pass by. He immediately realised that Siddhattha was
about to die because he had fasted too much, for the people of that place all
knew that this holy man had eaten nothing for many days.
110. So he ran back to his flock, pulled out a mother goat and returned to the
place where Siddhattha had fainted. Then he helped Siddhattha recover
consciousness by feeding him goat‟s milk. Now Siddhattha felt better and
began to think: “How did I faint and revive, why am I better now?” Finally he
concluded that without the goat‟s milk from the shepherd boy he would have
died before ever attaining enlightenment.

111. The shepherd boy received Siddhattha‟s blessing and returned to his flock
with great joy for having the opportunity to help to revive the holy man he so
revered. Siddhattha continued to sit and meditate under the tree, and at dusk he
heard a group of girls singing on their way to the city: “With strings too loose,
the lute does not sound. Tighten the strings too much, they will break apart.
Not too loose, not too tight, the lute sounds nice !”
112. Siddhattha was deeply moved by the girls‟ song. He had tightened his
strings of life too much! Should he die before attaining enlightenment, all the
hardships he had gone through would be fruitless. Tormenting one‟s physical
body was certainly not the right way to seek the ultimate truth! So he decided
to stop practicing asceticism and only to continue his mental diligence in his
search for ultimate enlightenment. From that time on, Siddhattha regularly
went for alms and ate every morning.

113. Now Siddhattha‟s health was completely restored, and his complexion
became as glowing as gold, the same it was when he lived in the royal palace
before. Although Siddhattha was quite clear now that attempting enlightenment
by practicing strict asceticism was just as impossible as twisting sand to make a
rope, the five monks who had followed him felt quite otherwise. They still
firmly believed that practicing strict asceticism was the only way to
enlightenment. When Siddhattha gave up asceticism and returned to normal
eating habits, they thought he had become a glutton, so they left him alone and
went to Isipatana (now Sarnath) near Varanasi.

114. One morning a girl named Sujata, who lived in the village cooked a pot of
delicious rice porridge milk and brought it over as an offering to Siddhattha.
After presenting the offering, the noble girl said: “I wish you success in your
aspiration as I have succeeded in my aspiration!”.* Siddhattha ate the porridge
she offered him and felt it was very beneficial in improving both his physical
and mental strength.
* Sujata had made a wish that a child be born to her, and then she offered food
to Siddhattha to show her gratitude.
115. That same day, Siddhattha went for a bath in the Nairanjana River; then
he sat down under a sala tree by the riverbank and meditated, hoping to attain
enlightenment in the silence of the night, when no one might be passing by. At
dusk Siddhattha left the sala tree and walked to a large Bodhi tree, which he
had chosen previously as the place for his meditation. On the way he met a
straw-peddler named Sotthiya and accepted from him an offering of a bunch of
straw. So he made a seat with the straw and sat down under the large Bodhi
tree, facing east.

116. Having sat down under the Bodhi tree, Siddhattha made a vow to himself:
“Even if my blood dries up and my muscles shrink leaving skin and bones
only, I will not leave this seat until I finally and absolutely achieve the goal of
finding, for myself and all mankind, a way of deliverance from the suffering of
the cycles of life and death.” In short, Siddhattha sat under the Bodhi tree and
vowed that he would not quit the spot until he had attained enlightenment.
117. Siddhattha let go of all outside disturbances, and memories of pleasures
from the past. He let go of all worldly thoughts and devoted his whole mind to
search for the ultimate truth about life. He asked himself: “What is the origin of
suffering? How can one be free from suffering?” Since Siddhattha was still a
young man, only thirty-five years old, images of the pleasures provided for him
by his father, when he lived in the palace, still appeared in his mind from time
to time.

118. To calm his mind, Siddhattha turned his attention to his breathing. At first
many distracting thoughts and images appeared in his mind. But Siddhattha
resisted all those temptations and gradually entered into first, second, third and
fourth jhana. Finally his mind became very calm, like a pond of still water. He
was in a deep samadhi.
119. In the calm of samadhi, Siddhattha searched mentally, trying to find the
origin of his own life. Thus he acquired the power to remember his previous
lives. He remembered first one life, then two, then three, then up to many
thousands of his lifetimes.
Having so ended ignorance about his past, he then directed his purified mind to
see the rebirth process of beings in different worlds. Thus he also acquired the
divine vision (clairvoyance), the power to see the disappearing and reappearing
of beings. He saw that all beings pass from one life to another according to
their kamma (thoughts, speech and bodily actions). Those beings who had done
bad deeds had been reborn into sorrowful states of existence, and those who
had done good deeds had been reborn into happy states, all according to their

120. Having so ended ignorance about the future, he directed his purified mind
to fully realise the 4 Noble Truths: the universal suffering, the cause of
suffering, the end of suffering and the way to this end. He then saw as it really
is: the suffering - the cycle of rebirth; the cause of it – the craving (selfish
desire) and ignorance; the end of it – the ending of the craving (Nibbana); and
the way to that end – the Middle Path between the two extremes of selfindulgence
and self-injury, the Noble Eightfold Path. Seeing that, his mind was
liberated from all suffering. He then realised that his rebirth was finished, he
had lived the noble life and had done what was to be done, so there was no
more of that for him in the future. This was the third Insight-knowledge that he
gained. So, at the age of 35, Siddhattha Gotama became Buddha, the Supreme
Enlightened One.
121. Having attained the Supreme Enlightenment and freed himself from all
suffering, the Buddha remained contentedly in the happiness of Nibbana; that
is, the happiness arising from both cessation of all craving and liberation from
all suffering. A week later he emerged from the meditation and reflected on the
dependent arising (on how the life process arises, continues and ceases).

Read much, much more about the life of Buddha here:
« Last Edit: July 28, 2015, 06:04:09 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.


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