Eat To Live, Not Live To Eat
The necessity to replenish our body and fulfilling hunger is one problem of all being as the Buddha said, “Hunger is the worst illness”. He said that because the other illness can be cured in a matter of time, but hunger is incurable from the day we are born until the day we die.
It can be cured for a limited period of time, but all human beings need to eat to stay alive and to prevent other illness that could arise from malnutrition. A hungry man without discipline is capable of doing anything when he is hungry, even to resort to killing, stealing and lying. This is the result of desire, stemmed from a wanting mind; not because of hunger itself.
In fact, the issue of eating is not a major issue for living beings if they know how to do it in moderation. Eating becomes a way of replenishing our body to enable us to stay alive. However, on the contrary to the theory, we produce food and promote it to be comsumed for pleasure. This creates a disturbance to the balance of our mind and body. The more we eat, the more disturbances are caused. There is a saying; “If we eat to live, there is no problem; but if we live to eat then that’s when the problem starts”.
The reason being that food has to either be found or bought, and once human beings understand the concept of eating just what the body needs, then life will be without problem. It will not be so hard for human beings to earn a living.
Eating is like a disease with which we are born with. It is something we must heal on a daily basis; otherwise, it will lead to other irritations such as greed, hatred, delusion, attachment, envy, etc. Therefore, before starting his teachings, the Buddha had always considered the capability of his listener to ensure that they were in a state capable of receive his teaching; which can be illustrated by this story;
One morning, the Buddha was in Jetavana monastery, and knew that a poor man who learned and practised his teaching, was ready to progress further. With that reason, he went to Aravi city. There, that man was informed of the coming of the Buddha and was very delighted to have the opportunity to hear dhamma from him. That day, he had lost his cow so he had to go into the forest in search for it. After having found it, he rushed to the Buddha. However by that time, the Buddha, monks and people had already finished eating and the people were waiting patiently for the Buddha to start teaching.
The Buddha had not started preaching as he knew that the poor man was coming to the assembly and would only start after his arrival. After the poor man had arrived, the Buddha had asked that he be given some food to eat as he knew that the poor man was tiered and hungry. As soon as the poor man had his food and was full and felt totally relieved the Buddha began his Dhamma talk. The topic was on the “Gradual Instruction” (i.e. generosity, morality, kamma and its result, non attachment, and going forth) and Four Noble Truths (i.e. suffering, its cause, its solution, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering). All those that were there to listen had understood the teaching.
Some monks accused the Buddha for acting improperly by waiting for the poor man to arrive before starting the Dhamma talk and thus wasted many peoples time. When the Buddha heard of this, he explained to the monks that he had come here specific for the purpose of the poor man, because if he had been left in a hungry state, he would not have understood any Dhamma that he was delivering.
The story is one example of the problems hunger can cause mankind. If we let ourselves be overwhelmed by it, it can block hinder our progress in life. This does not mean that there are no way out for mankind to overcome hunger. We still possess the ability to learn from it, to consider it, and put it into action as the Buddha had once said, “Eat to live, not live to eat.” Human beings will find contentment by following that. By knowing our own moderation in eating, learning why we have to eat and what to eat so that we can maintain a healthy life. We can then empower ourselves to learn and practise for the better and break any break away from any obstacles in life; to be happy and healthy.