From last issue: There are three sufferings, eight sufferings and limitless sufferings.
People have an extremely hard time renouncing their attachment to food. You might want to renounce it, but your tongue and mouth don’t go along with you. Your throat also craves good flavors: “I’m determined to have a little nibble.” Fine eating is foremost among pleasures. You might try to refuse delicious food, but you find yourself unable to. Your desire for food is so strong it’s as if a hand comes out of your throat and says, “Gimme, gimme!” That’s how bad it is. And so take a look! There are people who say they won’t eat after noon, but when evening comes, they want to eat. The precept of eating one meal a day is even more difficult to maintain. One of my disciples acknowledges that he has broken the precept of not eating at improper times. It’s really not easy! But even when served the most delicious gourmet food,the finest delicacies in a hundred flavors--more delicious than candy and sweeter than honey--one can only eat three meals a day. No matter how delicious it is and how much you like to eat, you can’t eat more than than three times a day.
In China there was an emperor who really went to extremes. At mealtime, ten tables, five feet by five feet, were set with all kinds of dishes of food. How could anyone eat that much? You could only eat what was in front of you. He would just look at all that food. He might taste one dish and look at two or three others. That was really excessive, and so it’s a good thing that the imperial system is no longer around. Eating three meals a day is good. If you eat more than that, say four or five meals, or even eight meals--like a certain Dharma Master in Shanghai, which is why he was so plump--it doesn’t do much good, and in fact it brings on many illnesses.
That Dharma Master really knew how to eat. He ate eight times a day, but he only ate a fixed amount of one bowl at each meal. In the morning he would have “Eight Treasures Porridge”--rice porridge made with eight of the most expensive delicacies. Every hour and a half after that, he would have a meal. So he ate eight meals per day, but each meal was very small. He understood how to eat, so he became very plump. Even at the time of his death, he was very fat. He hardly ever got sick, because he knew how to eat. You can learn from that Dharma Master.
If you don’t know how to eat right, you’ll get sick.What kind of sickness? More brings on vomiting and diarrhea. If you are greedy, thinking, “This is so good, I’ll eat two bowls instead of one,” your stomach will say, “That won’t do. I’ve got to clear things out--now!” Then either you vomit the food, or else you rush to the toilet with diarrhea. You might have to make many visits to the toilet, perhaps going ten times a minute! Would you call this pleasure or suffering? You are thinking, “I don’t believe anyone could go to the toilet ten times in one minute.” Well, in this day and age everything happens at rocket-speed, right?
Living in a luxurious house is considered a great pleasure, but although one may accumulate thousands of mansions, during sleep one’s realm extends less than eight feet. All those estates need stewards, and caring for them exhausts one’s mental faculties. Would you call this pleasure or suffering?
The two preceding passages discussed the matters of clothing and food. This section concerns the matter of dwelling. Living in a luxurious house is considered a great pleasure. People are fond of living in elegant, fine houses. But although one may accumulate thousands of mansions, during sleep one’s realm extends less than eight feet.You can’t sleep in all ten thousand houses at once. You only occupy eight feet of space at night. All those estates need stewards. You have to worry about managing your houses and keeping them in good shape. And caring for them exhausts one’s mental faculties. You wear yourself out. Each day your thoughts run: “How am I going to repair this house? What needs to be done on that house?” All day long your mind is occupied with these problems, to the point that your hair starts turning white. These thoughts burn up your mental “gasoline” and you even lose sleep over them.Would you call this pleasure or suffering? Think it over. How relaxing it would be if you didn’t own so much property and have to make so many calculations! So although these things appear to be pleasurable on the surface, if you take a closer look, you’ll discover that they’re a lot of trouble.