Did the Buddha do intermittent fasting? The answer is: Yes.
When I first became a monk, people were shocked about how I gave up eating after Solar Noon and I have not eaten dinner in over 20 years. Sometimes I switch to one meal per day, but I often find a light breakfast, mostly liquid foods or rice soup, with a full lunch works best for me. These days, many people are using intermittent fasting as a form of weight loss and when I describe my Buddhist monk diet, they give a nod and say “Intermittent Fasting… It’s Healthy.” I guess I’m always one step ahead of mainstream society!
So what did the Buddha say about intermittent fasting?
There are quite a few quotes and they often repeat themselves in other locations. The first example is when The Buddha talks about eating in one sitting. That means He not only eats only one meal per day, but if He gets up from His seat, He does not eat again. That is why it is called “Eating in one sitting.” Most others eat one meal per day and while they usually do it one sitting, it does not matter if they got up for a minute or two, etc. Basically, one who follows this practice is fasting every 23:30 hours.
So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’sMn 65 With Bhaddāli:
Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the
“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:
“Mendicants, I eat my food in one sitting per day. Doing so, I find that I’m
healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably. You too should eat
your food in one sitting per day. Doing so, you’ll find that you’re healthy and
well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably.”
When he said this, Venerable Bhaddāli said to the Buddha, “Sir, I’m not going
to try to eat my food in one sitting per day. For when eating once a day I
might feel remorse and regret.”
“Well then, Bhaddāli, eat one part of the meal in the place where you’re
invited, and bring the rest back to eat. Eating this way, too, you will sustain
Here you can see that The Buddha ate in one sitting and because of the positive effects he experienced, he recommended it to others. However, not everyone could do this practice, so The Buddha said that it was allowed to eat before Solar Noon.
The rules for monks:
The Buddha formulated a rule that all serious yogis, novice monks (child monks) and fully ordained monks should not eat after Solar Noon. If one does, they break their precepts. Below, you might recognize a quote that sounds similar to the 8 precepts of a serious yogi or the 10 precepts of a novice monk. Well yes, they are related. You can see a link about 5, 8 and 10 precepts here.
They avoid injuring plants and seeds. They eat in one part of the day,MN 27 The Shorter Elephant’s Footprint Simile:
abstaining from eating at night and at the wrong time. They avoid dancing,
singing, music, and seeing shows. They avoid beautifying and adorning
themselves with garlands, perfumes, and makeup. They avoid high and
luxurious beds. They avoid receiving gold and money,
For fully ordained adult monks, we have a rule about eating at one part of the day which is called vikālabhojanasikkhāpadaṃ which is the 37th pācittiya (confessable) rule.
37. Should any bhikkhu chew or consume staple or non-staple food at the wrong time, it is to be confessed.https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/vin/sv/bhikkhu-pati.html#pc-part4
Eating at the wrong time is the moment after Solar Noon occurs. It is not necessarily at 12:00 PM. Sometimes it is later, and sometimes it is before. It depends on the GPS location and also the time of the year. In Kaua’i, Hawai’i, I’m sometimes able to eat as late as 12:40 PM because the island is further West yet shares the same time zone as Honolulu. I often use the smartphone app called LunaSoCal, and the website https://timeanddate.com
What do Harvard Medical professors say about intermittent fasting?
PROFESSOR DAVID SINCLAIR of Harvard Medical School, is one of the foremost experts on anti-aging therapies. He is 50 years old. What do you think about how old he looks? One of his most simple and effective recommendations that one can do today without drugs is Intermittent Fasting. This is a small excerpt from this web page here.
TL: Fasting can activate our survival circuit, as you explain in the book. What is the survival circuit?
DS: It is a system that has been in our cells for a long time. It’s in all life on the planet. And it serves to keep us alive for longer, healthier for longer, when we’re under threat.
So when we are doing a bit of exercise, if you run out of breath on the treadmill, that ‘s good. If you’re hungry; you skip breakfast and have a late lunch, that’s good. That will raise NAD levels. So the NAD (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) chemical in your body will go up and your sirtuins — these protective enzymes, the main players in the survival circuit — will get activated.
We say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or whatever doesn’t kill you makes you live longer. But a little goes a long way.Quote from https://www.everythingzoomer.com/health/2019/10/02/lifespan-author-david-a-sinclair-on-exercise-reverse-aging-and-fasting/
A hybrid of two meals:
As The Buddha would tell you Himself and The Harvard Medical Professor confirms, it is healthy to eat this way. As I have stated before, I usually prefer a light breakfast, usually of rice porridge before a substantial lunch. I like to be on a light breakfast so that if needed, I can always switch to a one meal without much of an adjustment period. This happens when I decide to live off of alms from the village.
The Buddha also recommended this.
“Mendicants, there are these five benefits of rice porridge (congee). What five? It wards off hunger, quenches thirst, settles the wind, cleans the bladder, and helps digestion. These are the five benefits of porridge.”AN 5.207: Porridge
It is considered healthy to do intermittent fasting by The Buddha and also by anti-aging experts, such as David Sinclair. You can try it and see for yourself. Remember, it takes a week or two to get used to it and please check with your doctor before trying anything recommended on this website.
Attribution for bowl: Modified by Bhante Subhuti cc-by-sa 4.0 original picture is credited below
By Amitchell125 – Own work based on Meridian on celestial sphere.png, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=105539264