Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monks sickly on diets without work or yoga

CC Liu, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly
Theravada monks with alms bowls in hand (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Eating a decadent diet -- white rice, meats, burned and carcinogenic vegetable oils, sugar, synthetic flavorants and excitotoxins -- has long term consequences. Exercise keeps the aging (oxidizing) effects at bay for lay people, who color their hair, get false teeth, and endure various and sundry skin treatments. Monastics do not have it so easy. Their sedentary lifestyle, often missing the heart of a monastic's duty of meditating on a regular basis, is full of toxins, calories, and excess, the essence of craving. In ancient times there would also have been ample work duties and what we recognize as yoga postures (asanas) to keep the body limber and unconstipated. Now doctors are documenting the predictable results:

A research study indicates that almost half of Thai monks are overweight or affected by noncommunicable diseases
Thai monks (Markus Gebauer/
The study focused on the health concerns of Thai monks and how to offer them food during the upcoming Buddhist Lent [Vassa, the Rains Retreat when monastics refrain from travel].

The survey’s participants included 246 monks from the Dhammayuttika Nikaya [an ascetic strain of forest monks that comprises only 10 percent, as contrasted with most Thai monks who are members of the Maha Nikaya school] and Mahayana movements in 11 provinces. [Since there is next to no Mahayana presence in this overwhelmingly Theravada country, it is likely that the study authors or reporters are mistaking Maha Nikaya and Mahayana.]

Forty-five percent of the monks experience varying levels of obesity, while 40 percent of them face such diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and allergies, partly due to the rich, oily, and sugar laden foods offered to them by the Buddhist faithful.

The average monk’s only sporting activities is walking in the morning while on rounds seeking alms and sweeping temple courtyards. Only around 21 percent have annual health checkups.

According to the study, some monks have more than three evening drinks each day, for they must abstain from eating food. However, some of the drinks offered to monks are not healthy, as they are mostly soft drinks with sugar, leading to diabetes.

A dual track campaign is being prepared to teach monks to select healthy drinks and also to inform food donors about healthy food when offering alms to monks.

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