Just wanted to post the introduction to a book I was working on. Although I do not consider myself a Buddhist, I have been influenced by many Buddhist points, and I believe they have an excellent stance on diet!
I could not agree with more with a previous poster who believes that the importance of animal protein is greatly exaggerated.
“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.” -Buddha to king Pasenadi
A lot of westerners mistake the heavy stetted Chinese god Hotei for the Buddha. However, as described in the Buddhist texts, and as later depicted in Greco-Buddhist art, the historical Buddha Siddhartha Gautama had a body like the Greek god Adonis.
Since childhood I have always been a little overweight and decided to mimic the Buddha’s diet to attempt to recondition my eating habits. I, like most people, detest diets or anything that suppress’ my appetite, so I decided to start off slow. Firstly, I adopted the Buddha’s advice on when to eat and what position to sleep in. With only these two changes in my lifestyle I immediately lost ALL of my excess body fat. So, those who doubt their ability to follow the complete ‘Buddha diet’ to the “T” should first consider starting out with two simple changes in their lifestyle.
One of the first changes should be the rearranging your eating schedule. The Buddhist texts stress the importance of eating in the day time and not in the night time. Here, medical research has confirmed that eating before bedtime is the cause of many of the modern worlds (especially western nations) ailments. This step may seem easy enough, but in reality it is difficult for those with an abundance of food to fall asleep on an empty stomach. For several nights (probably one!), I tossed and turned in what seemed to be an eternity of hell. The following morning, to the best of my knowledge, something happened to me that had not happened in recent memory. That was, I woke up with a fierce appetite. This happened to me every morning and I would gorge on all types of food (bacon, eggs, cereal, bread and butter, etc….) I figured, since I was suffering so much at night I deserved to eat as much as I wanted in the day time. Almost immediately my nighttime hunger pains were replaced by a certain light and energetic metabolic rapture. Even though I was eating a lot of junk food and meat, I was still loosing weight! I stress that the followers of this diet should go out of their way to stuff themselves in the daytime so that come nighttime they are naturally disenchanted with food.
Another important change that should be attempted first is the realignment of your body’s default posture. When awake, or moving about, it is important to recognize that your body’s energy source is transformed in the midsection. The diaphragm is dependant on heart pressure which is dependent on several important factors such as diet, breath regulation, posture and mentality. Here the Buddhist texts would add that when breath, posture and mentality are perfected the physical body can be sustained by eating only wood or hemp and even nothing (most abundant source of protein on the planet is nitrogen in the air which cannot be absorbed by your body without intense heat, or Agni breath, which some Buddhists claim to have mastered).
Your body’s posture is perfected when your backbone is taught like a well tuned guitar; this is the point were someone is mindful of their lower back throughout the day and they neither seize up nor loosen the rigidness of their back.
When sleeping, it is important to incorporate the use of your right side in supporting your frame. Basically, because your heart is on your left side and the left lung is slightly retarded compared to the left lung, when sleeping on your right side there is less weight pushing down on your heart which allows it to pump blood more effectively. As with the other lifestyle adjustments this also adds to your longevity. This posture in Buddhism is known as the lions posture and it is also interesting to note that, along with many other Buddhist originals, it would make its way into an early Coptic account of Jesus were it is written that Jesus laid down on his right side. Also in reading a bio of Mohamed, who is called “the Prophet”, it was said that he was fond of sleeping on his right side.
I gave these two points of advice to three of my family members and four of my friends. They all had the similar results of weight loss, increased muscle density, increased vigor, and in regards to their bodily functions several of them have told me of their increased continence.
For those who would like to progress further on the Buddha diet, they should likewise see dramatic results by following the eating style of Buddhists as described in the earliest monastic code. Of course, it should be noted that whereas the previous two steps are relatively easy adjustments, some requirements of the monastic code require extreme restraint. But these steps should not be taken as absolute rules, as even many Buddhists would interject that we must know when to break the rules and not hesitate to find a middle ground between severity and indolence. Again, it should be noted that the Buddha diet should be adjusted to the practitioner’s lifestyle and bodily requirements. For, instance those who have a very physical job and do not wish to practice meditation as an aid to overcoming the bodies dependence on food should eat good plant protein (like hemp seeds) and a good plant fat that comprises around 2/3 of their diet.
Some modern nutritionists would take issue with the Buddhist method of begging for food because it obviously downplays the need for any careful calculations regarding protein, carbohydrate and fat requirements. Firstly, it should be noted that monks who were sick and required food as medicine were not bound by any of the rules regarding diet. Secondly, it is a well known fact that our bodies only require protein because of stress, or the production of catabolic hormones that eat away the body’s muscle while taking digested food and storing it as body fat. Reversely, when people secrete positive, or anabolic hormones, the body burns fat and builds muscle, and their protein requirements are reduced dramatically . Thirdly, I don’t think that anyone could argue that most nutritionists today, although implying a holistic approach, do not place any significance on meditation and mindfulness in there understanding the bodies absorption and excretion of food.