Taints to Be Abandoned by Using

Ajahn Yatiko • July 2012

In the Sabbāsava Sutta, All the Taints, the Buddha says we can abandon taints by using the four requisites—robes, food, shelter, and medicine in the appropriate way. It’s an interesting reflection that taints are to be abandoned by consciously using the requisites. Even though we’re renunciants and sometimes we have ideals about getting by with less robe cloth, sleeping outside, eating less, or some other idealistic standard, we always have to remember that the foundation of our lives is based on a very down to earth, grounded, and simple practice around robes, food, shelter, and medicine. Attending to these requisites with mindfulness and care helps us in our spiritual lives—that’s the purpose.

A teacher once told me that when he eats, he does it as an act of loving-kindness to his body. He feeds the body because he’s caring for it and expressing his desire to care for it. The body is quite fragile, and it can be helpful to reflect on whether we are relating to the body with loving-kindness or with a demanding attitude. Based on some ascetic ideal, we might live in a way that is not kind to the body, causing harm to ourselves. For the sake of our practice, we need to care for the body in a mature and balanced way, with kindness and discernment

Food is a valuable tool that allows for comfortable, easy living. We might identify with being really austere monks and regularly fast for lengthy periods of time. Or we might move toward the opposite extreme and take great delight in delicious food. In either case, we need to ask ourselves, Am I caring for the foundation of my practice? Am I using the requisites wisely?

Whether we are relating to the requisites from a sensual perspective or an extremely austere perspective, this is not the path the Buddha suggests. Rather, we can reflect on whether we are using the requisites in a way that supports our long-term practice, and adjust our behavior accordingly. That is a valuable reflection to cultivate, apply, and strengthen over the years.