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Verse 13: The nourishment of samadhi

Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).

  • Food and meditative concentration
  • Samadhi nourishes
  • Chu-len practice
  • Eating for all sentient beings
  • Concentration vs. attachment

41 Prayers to cultivate bodhicitta: Verse 13 (download)

We’re on the 13th of the 41 prayers of bodhisattvas. This one says,

“May all beings attain the food of meditative concentration.”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when eating.

If we can remember this a few minutes, we’ll be able to put it into practice when we eat breakfast.

It’s interesting how food is very often correlated with meditative concentration. For example, when we do the eight offerings on the altar, the food offering is said to help us to create the cause to gain concentration. You might wonder, “How is this so? Because so much of the time my mental wandering when I’m meditating is due to food. So it seems like food creates the opposite of concentration because my mind wanders to it so much.” The reason is because when you have very deep samadhi, the samadhi nourishes you. It nourishes your mind and it nourishes your body, and so the very great meditators, when their minds need to rest, they don’t go to sleep, they just go into very deep samadhi and their mind is nourished by the samadhi.

Also physically their body is nourished because they don’t need to sleep as much and they also don’t need to eat as much. You often find when you’re doing retreat, when you’re doing a lot of meditation, that your body doesn’t need so much food and your mind isn’t so hungry for food either. So, there’s this correlation here.

Also, there’s a practice call chu-len in Tibetan Buddhism, it means taking the essence. They make different pills and you can do it by taking the essence of flowers, or the essence of stones, and you take this essence and put it in the pills and then some of the very great meditators, they take these pills when they’re doing retreat and then they don’t have to eat so much and they can spend more time meditating and they don’t need to worry about how to get the food to eat. So it’s just little pills like this, but they take it and its not that the pills nourish them, its the pills help it, so that the samadhi that they’re developing nourishes them and they don’t need to eat so much. So that’s the correlation between being nourished by food and being nourished by meditative concentration. That actually occurs in all the Buddhist traditions, you see it.

Let’s remember to think “May all sentient beings be nourished by meditative concentration” whenever we eat. It might help us to always eat a little bit more mindfully too, because we usually think, oh yes, you develop a lot of meditative concentration with food, I’m totally a hundred percent into my food, not distracted at all. That’s not meditative concentration, that’s attachment, we want to subdue that and instead generate the bodhicitta.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.