Friday, June 4, 2010

Eating at Night

By Mahavir Sanglikar

For orthodox Jains, eating after night is a sin. The logic behind it is that after sunset, there are lot of insects and invisible creatures everywhere, and if you eat after sunset, these insect and creature can fall in your food. Thus you will eat them unknowingly with your food, and you will be a cause of killing them. Obviously, for the orthodox Jains, the night eaters become great sinners.

Many Jain monks always like to speak against night eating in their discourses. For them, bashing night eaters has become a top priority thing.

Now, let us see what were the facts behind banning night eating, and is it practical to eat before sunset in modern days.

Just before one hundred years, there was no electricity in India. Soon after sunset, there was a blackout like situation everywhere. Not only Jains, but also people of all communities used to eat before sunset. There was no difference between human beings and animals on this front. It was a natural thing for all of them to eat before sunset and go to sleep after it. Sleeping at 7 to 8 P.M. and to wake up at about 4 A.M. was a routine thing for most of the people. Literary references confirm these facts. Even today, there are many villages in remote areas in India, where electricity has not reached yet. The routine life of people there is similar to the abovementioned situation.

Entry of electricity in India changed the lifestyle of people rapidly. This process was boosted by industrialization and the entry of radio and television. Today the timings of going to sleep and waking up are very different from the timings mentioned above. Generally people go to sleep after 10 to 11 P.M. and wake up at 6 to 7 A.M. Note that in both the situations, the sleeping period is 8 hours, which is ideal for human beings.

Now coming to the point, it is very practical for most of the people to take a dinner at 8 PM to 9.30 P.M. They eat at bright light and there is no question of falling insects in the food plates. Everybody knows it. Realizing this, the bashers of night eating are saying now that eating before sunset is better for health as it allows a gap between eating and sleeping. If you eat at night and soon go to sleep, it would create health problems etc.

Now, some questions arise. Was the practice of eating before sunset for health reasons? The answer is: No! No Jain texts say that one should eat before sunset for his/her health. The only reason they give is the falling of the insects and creatures in the food plate.

Well, now coming to the so-called health benefits of eating before sunset. In prior times, the people used to eat before sunset, say at 6.00 P.M., they were going to sleep at 7.00 to 7.30 P.M. Now people eat at around 9 P.M. and go to sleep at 10 to 10.30 P.M. In both the situations, the time gap between eating and sleeping is about 1 to 1.30 hours. This proves that the health reason is a new ‘invention’, invented just to force the out of dated practice on people.

The truth is that orthodox people do not want to leave most of such outdated practices even if they have become just madness. Although they do not know ABC of Science, they try to find ‘science’ in such practices. But they are very confused people, as eventually they like to bash science also, and at the other times they have to take support of science. It is just ridiculous!

Jains should stop to follow and promote such out of dated and stupid practices and work on awaken the people on bigger sins like frauds, thefts, lies and hatred etc. It is a very shameful thing for Jain community that they are on forefront in economic crimes and offences. Shameful thing is that most of the Gutkha manufacturers belong to Jain community. They are responsible to spread cancer like diseases in Indian youth. But the Jain monks like to invite these Gutkha kings in their so-called religious functions. After all, Jainism is running on bad money!

Jains should remember that any religion is measured on what the follower community does and not on what is written in its scripture.


  1. Beautiful thought man!!!!.. even i had the same feeling.. V ppl believe that eating early in the night v r following jainism... Jainism never told to belive things blindly.. with time everything changes . Like you told about invention of electricity, similarly v drink boil water to kill germs .. its not a tradition, so if filter kills germs whts the need of boiling water n then drinking the same..

    There are lots of theories which were followed at our ancestors times, bt we need to think at border perspectives..

    Good article man!!

  2. Hi Mahavir Sanglikar,

    Its true that in the olden days there was no electricity, maybe thats why "eating before sunset" was a good thing.

    But you know what, I have read the following also:
    -In the evenings, the number of insects one can see increases, whether its in the sky or on land. (You notice this more evidently when in a garden, and especially so in the rainy season.) Would you agree?
    There are so many insects which we dont even end up noticing because they are way too tiny for us to notice unless we started staring at every speck of dust on the floor, because literally that's how small some of them are!

    So, even if you are having supper ( in the evening) whist the electricity is turned on, the average number of insects ( not visible to the naked eye) etc being around is higher after sunset. So electricity is definately helping us see our food better to avoid the macroscopic insects getting in , but not the smaller ones.

    Did you know that " a drop of water contains millions and millions of life forms." This is written in real old Jain scriptures, centuries and centuries before the microscope was invented and any scientist ever discovered. So now you know that Jains were way ahead in the sense they wanted to be careful of their actions not just at the macro level but also at the micro level. And this is why Jains are told to make do with as little water usage as possible, to avoid walks on grass in the evening, to not pluck vegetables and flowers after sunset...all in an attempt to reduce trouble to smaller life forms especially when it can be avoided.

    And yes, it is all in the scriptures. Perhaps, you can read more original ones and expand your research so you know that it was a pure scientific reason to advocate eating before sunset, not just because those days didnt have electricity!

    Please get real - you have very religious people in all sects and offenders it Jains, Christians, Sikhs , Muslims etc...
    So whats this stuff about Jains being the pan masala makers. There are strict Jains who take pains to follow as much as they can in their day-to-day living and human-human interaction...but ofcourse there are some who are everyday red meat eaters also! Its for one to decide how they want to live and if they want to increase their piety and relinquishment and improve their human behaviour in context of ahimsa to macro/micro levels!!

  3. महानुभाव शायद आप के दिमाग में कुछ ज्यादा ही जैनिज़्म के खिलाफ भरा हुआ है . रात में भोजन करना इसलिए मना किया है की रात को अल्ट्रा वायलेट किरने नहीं आ पाती और सुछं जिव पनप जाते है . यदि आप आज किसी ऐसे भी बल्ब की नीछे बैठोगे तो आख kharab हो जावेगी

  4. रात में भोजन करना इसलिए मना किया है की रात को अल्ट्रा वायलेट किरने नहीं आ पाती और सुछं जिव पनप जाते है ..... ऐसा जैन धर्म के कौन से आगम में लिखा हैं? सायंस की बाते मत करे, या फिर सायंस की सब बातों को मानना सीखिए.

  5. Hello, My perception from my experience to eating early is the following: For my meditation sessions in the evening (technically called as Pratikramana though I follow my own concepts), the atunement of the day's karma's, I like to be awake and aware. Having had early dinner say at 6:00 PM , keeps my stomach lighter and this helps me to meditate at around 8:00 PM. There are times when I am not able to eat at 6:00 PM in which case I do eat after my meditation session. However, I do question, why do we need to eat a dinner at all? Aren't we all going to sleep and let our body rest. If so, putting food into our stomach 2 hours before going to bed (whatever time that is) will cause the stomach to be active digesting food while we are asleep and the energy is anyways is not needed because the rest of the body is at rest.