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391 LESSON 01 10 2011 Donapaka Sutta King Pasenadi Goes on a Diet
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391 LESSON 01 10 2011

Donapaka Sutta King Pasenadi Goes on a Diet

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The Narratives for the Levels of Departmental Curricula- Course

Unraveling Logic in Buddhist Texts I

SN 3.13

PTS: S i 81

CDB i 176

Donapaka Sutta: King Pasenadi Goes on a Diet

translated from the Pali by

Andrew Olendzki

© 2005–2011

Alternate translation: Walshe

Once when the Buddha was living at Savatthi,
King Pasenadi of Kosala ate a whole bucketful of food, and then approached the
Buddha, engorged and panting, and sat down to one side. The Buddha, discerning
that King Pasenadi was engorged and panting, took the occasion to utter this

When a person is constantly mindful, And knows when enough food
has been taken, All their afflictions become more slender — They age more
gradually, protecting their lives.

Now at that time the brahman youth Sudassana
was standing nearby, and King Pasenadi of Kosala addressed him: “Come now,
my dear Sudassana, and having thoroughly mastered this verse in the presence of
the Buddha, recite it whenever food is brought to me. And I will set up for you
a permanent offering of a hundred kahaapanas every day.” “So
be it, your majesty,” the brahman youth Sudassana replied to the king.

Then King Pasenadi of Kosala gradually settled
down to [eating] no more than a cup-full of rice. At a later time, when his
body had become quite slim, King Pasenadi stroked his limbs with his hand and
took the occasion to utter this utterance:

Indeed the Buddha has shown me Compassion in two different ways:
For my welfare right here and now, and also for in the future.

Translator’s note

Who would have thought weight-loss could be so
easy! In this brief exchange the Buddha is suggesting that over-eating is the
root of obesity, which hastens the aging process and threatens one’s life, and
that this only occurs when mindfulness is weak or absent. If we eat slowly and
with a great deal of attention, it can more easily become apparent (if we are
truthful with ourselves) when an adequate amount of food has been consumed.
Interestingly, he seems to be saying that wisdom will provide what is needed to
refrain from further eating, rather than the modern conventional view that it
requires will-power or self restraint.

Always one to play on words, the Buddha says
that all our afflictions (literally, all our unpleasant feelings), and not just
our bodies, will “become more slender.” Perhaps this is what Pasenadi
is referring to when he says the Buddha’s teaching has not only helped him slim
down his body (the immediate benefit), but the general increase of mindfulness
and diminishing of greed will help with all aspects of the spiritual life (and
thus with his rebirth in the future).

The commentary to this text informs us that
the king did not engage Sudassana to utter the verse throughout the entire
meal, but only once he had started eating. The idea is not to cultivate an
aversion to food, for food itself is not an evil. As with so much else in the
Buddha’s teaching, it is a matter of understanding cause and effect, and of
using food skillfully as a tool for awakening rather than allowing oneself to
be caught by the latent tendencies of attachment, aversion and confusion that
might be evoked by our relationship to food.

Notice the language of the last line of the
Buddha’s verse. The word for life (aayu) is the same one as in the
Indian medical tradition of Ayurveda (=knowledge of life), and is regarded as
something that can be squandered or carefully guarded. When approached with
care, the preservation of life also slows down the aging process. The image is
not one of conquering illness or death (for this comes only from full
awakening), but of treating the precious resource of one’s own vitality with


DOB 550 Unraveling Logic in Buddhist Texts I - 1 credit

Delivery Mode: Residential

Course Description:

This course prepares
students to understand the logical arguments found in classic

Buddhist texts and oral
teachings, focusing on applying the principles of logic and

Tibetan-style debate. It
offers a methodical training in the underlying structure of debate

as found in texts,
building on skills acquired in Clear Thinking class. We will formulate

reasonings and track a
debate in a text. Of the three types of reasons, the emphasis will

be on understanding
reasons of nature.

Prerequisites: DOB 501, DOB 502

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