A Bucketful of Food (Moderation in Eating)

Venue: TIMS

This is a story (SN 3.13) of yet another encounter between the Buddha and King Pasenadi of the Kosala kingdom. Once, after he had consumed a meal of a bucketful of rice and curries, an over-satiated and extremely uncomfortable King Pasenadi went—huffing and puffing—to see the Buddha. Upon seeing the king’s condition, the Buddha recited a gātha or verse:

“When a man is always mindful,
Knowing moderation in the food he eats,
His ailments then diminish,
He ages slowly, guarding his life.”

I think this is a rather important advice to many of us, who stuff ourselves food for whatever reason. Probably worse than that would be to stuff others with food. “Eat more lah! Don’t be embarrassed. You’re so thin. You should eat more.” You probably have heard—or said—such things. Such advice must have cause much untold suffering.

Some people have the tendency to put on weight and thus should try to eat less. Some others would always be thin even if they eat a lot. In my case, if I eat too much, I’d lose weight besides feeling sick. So, in any case, we should try to be mindful to eat moderately, just as the Buddha advised, so that we would be healthier and don’t age quickly. This is my policy: When the stomach says that it has had enough, it means that it has had enough. Never mind what the Maras inside and outside say.

King Pasenadi must have understood how important it was for him to remember the Buddha’s advice . So he asked a brahmin youth, Sudassana (Pali meaning “good looking”), who was standing behind to memorize and recite it to him whenever he is having his meal, for which he shall be paid a hundred kahapana (which is probably the largest currency unit at that time and place) daily. The youth immediately agreed to that easy and well-paid job.

So, having learnt the verse from the Buddha, he recited it to the king whenever he has his meal. Thus, with each reminder, King Pasenadi gradually reduced the size of his meal, from the super-size one bucketful to a pint-pot measure.

After some time, he slimmed down and became quite pleased with it. This is a simple, natural and safe way of slimming down, isn’t it? No need to go to any slimming centre. Just follow that simple advice by the Buddha. If, like the king, you think may not be able to remember it whenever you eat, you can ask someone else to remind you; perhaps a family member, a friend or a number of them to be safe. They might enjoy it too and wouldn’t charge you for it.

King Pasenadi then realized and acknowledged that the Buddha showed compassion for him in regards to good pertaining both the present and future life.

May we too have enough compassion for ourselves to remember and follow this wisdom of eating moderately so that we may be youthful and healthy.

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