Food for Thought

I watched a program on public broadcasting exploring the ideas of philosophy relating to food. Many ancient traditions look at food as medicine and the aesthetics of taste. How we discover our relationship with food also involves how we deal with our passions. Unfortunately, philosophers over time began to see food as too mundane for contemplation, and critical thinking became more involved with conceptual reflections about truth and beauty. We lost our connection to taste.

We are innate tasters. The human experience is nothing without visceral connection to the world of the senses. It is how we make ‘sense’ of the world. Noticing the mind’s response to sensory input is a big part of the spiritual path. It is essential to notice the way we interpret the data provided through the eye, ear, nose, skin, and tongue. We then establish a sentry of moderation, a guide to the middle way between overindulgence and deprivation.

Buddha’s basic teaching on our relationship to food was centered around moderation. He warned of gluttony. In the Dhammapada, Buddha says, “The person who is lazy and a glutton, who eats large meals and rolls in his sleep like a pig which is fed in the sty, is reborn again and again.” If we cannot overcome laziness and direct the energy of our senses with awareness, we are destined to repeat the same unskillful activity over and over again. This is why we work to refine our perception/sensation of reality. Then we can truly enjoy a good meal. We can savor each bite like it is the most precious gift and use the nutrition through compassionate activity for the the benefit of all beings.

So, next time you sit down to eat, offer a prayer of gratitude and watch your mind. I always need to slow down the shovel and create a metaphorical feather. Eating with a feather is not so easy, but it does focus the mind. We can become aware of the precious gift of life each time we lift a utensil to our mouths. And we give back by transforming the life on our fork into loving kindness for all beings. How we eat becomes how we act. “Nourishment to love” would be a good mantra. 

Maybe we need to rethink how we define ourselves as a species of tasters. Homo savory?

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