Jain Food Habits | Night Eating Facts

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.

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  1. Dear Sanglikar Ji,

    The real reason behind not eating at night is to lower affection towards food. People who eat at night have more affection or "raag" towards food and that kills the infinite happiness of the soul.

    You only talked about "Himsa", here I want to raise a question; can you kill anyone or do you have the powers to kill any organism. The answer is "NO" but you are just the medium and medium doesn't do anything but being present.

    The real point is people who eat at night are not soul centered and if I talk about the Vayavhaar they don't care about Himsa. They want to enjoy the pleasures (which are actually nor pleasures instead they are hurting their own soul, because they enjoy in raag).

    I saw a similar article about eating roots and somehow you were trying to justify it, but it cannot be justified in any means and also I want to make a point its not only people of Gujrat who don't eat roots but the whole jain community, may be in your area it may not be prevelant but the area I hail from, no one eats and its far more common in Digambers.

  2. The basic reasoning of eating in daylight in old times is quite logical and has meaning. However, your contention that the practice of & recommending eating early is 'orthodox' is highly misplaced. It is only the pseudo 'modern' and pseudo 'advanced' Indians who bash our traditional value & culture in the name of it being orthodox and suggest that eating late is even scientifically OK. I have traveled thru the world a little and have found that except in India most of the people have their dinner/supper around 7.00 PM. I would not like to debate the subject, but would surely like to suggest that we should refrain from making sweeping and generalized statements that all that our culture and values profess are outdated and 'orthodox'.

    Aditya Jain
    New Delhi

  3. I do not want to go into discussion of being orthodox or rational thinker.

    But two points related to "night eating" ara:

    1> there are certain things that science can not and will not be able to perceive like soul, and extreme small particles. In similar way, there are very small insects or life substances that science can not perceive.

    One example is having infinite living beings in root vegetables.

    Between sunrise and sunset, having sun light means there is no small life sprouting while in night, there will be no sun light which will increase small life substance in environment, specially in food.

    And that is why eating at night means killing those small life substances which we can not even perceive in fully illuminated place.

    2> If we are Jain and we are proud of being Jain, we should have full faith in words of Tirthankaras, our gods.

    Tirthankaras were omniscient, and so, he was able to see past, present and future. Because Tirthankaras were able to see future , he would have seen that in future, there will be an invention of electricity. And after seeing that he still wanted to preach that we should not eat after sunset. IF we doubt that 100 years before things were different and now it is different. We are doubting knwoledge power or our Tirthankaras.

    If we are proud Jain and we feel proud on our "VitRaag" Tirthnkaras, then we should fully obey all his preaching without doubt.

    One might want to debate about autneticity of preaching of Tirthankaras. I do not want to go into that debate.

    My point was to convey another perspective on this food habit on not eating after sunset. In the spirit of "Anekant Vaad", let us all judge our own desires, our own predudices and our own attachments and figure out what will be best for our soul's progress towards liberation.

  4. The concept is not only about the falling of insects in plate. The concept behind this is that in night lot of mircoorganism and other smaal organism use to grow which were not present in the presence of sunlight due to ultraviolet rays of sun.
    Even in bright light u cannot see all those organism.
    Im sorry to say that the comment poster neither know the scientific facts nor he went to the depth of jain literature.
    Also, the Jinwani, which is the voice of Jinendra cannot be surpassed by such kind of debates and facts. If it is wriiten in jinwani, then it is the fact becos jinendra bhagwan is sarvagya and know what nobody can.
    I am not orthodox jain who is wriiting this, i am a scientist and know both the scientific facts and jinwani very weel.
    Even today science is too infact infront of our holy jinwani.
    So, i request u to not misguide the people who r trying to follow the path which jinendra bhagwan has shown us.
    Jinwani sab tark-kutark se pare hai, isse jinwani to galat nahi hoga, haan aisa karne walo ka raasta jaroor galat ho jayega.

  5. I may not agree with your argument completely but I liked the second last paragraph.

    I appeal people to focus on more important things which have bigger impact on the society.

  6. Mahavir ji
    There are many reason for which it is concerned a night eating is a sin
    U shuld be having some scientific knowledge before commenting on this

    As nightt arrives it is also a fact that micro-organisms grow at faster rate as compared to when sun light is present

    Also most of the stomach problems like gas or sedt etc are sue to night eating
    Even Ramdev baba believes in early eating

    There is also a scientific fact that early eating helps in digestion as solar rays help it gives the energy. Also if u will look plants prepare their food in the day time when sun rays are present. So this it also shows that how sun rays are also imp

  7. Agreeable post.I know many relatives of mine who are mean,arrogant,morally corrupted and absolute hypocrites.They don't eat in night,but,don't even give a thought to help someone.They are filling their house with money by fraudy means.

  8. Nice Post, I agree with u, but we do not comment on religion beliefs, anyway gud informative post.

  9. This shows how stupid you are and how much Jainism you have understood. They are not orthodox Jains, they are real Jains unlike you who just claims to be Jain by name only.

  10. Hello Mr Sanglikar,

    It is not a question of "orthodox" or "modern" as you state - that muddies the water. It is about what is true (as in makes sense logically) and what is not.

    Jainism is one of the most rational religions I have found - which is so so rare in any religion since the basis is faith.

    As many intelligent commentors on this page have stated - 1) increase of microorganisms at night 2) even the western world fully acknowledges the benefits of eating really early and sleeping by 9pm and 3) this is about self-control and not go on eating till all hours of the night

    Some commentors have confused the issue by talking about jains who don't eat in the evening and are hypocrites and corrupt. How are the two related. Clearly these jains are not true jains - who ever said that just because they dont eat in the evening and then go and abuse basic tenets of jainism they are jains?
    How are they examples anyway? And more importantly how does their bad behavior in life somehow make the jain principle of not eating in the evening bad???

    Jai Jinendra - Peace to all

  11. I am not not a practicing Jain nor educated in the Jain Religion. I appreciate your article about some tenets of this religion. Living in the west we concur that eating before susnset is better for the digestion. Moderation is essential to a healthy being no matter what your religion is. Thank you for the insight and reasons Jains choose to eat before sunset.

  12. I am a Jain. I do not follow my religion completely as it is practically impossible for me looking out at my schedule. I also had several questions like the one's you have commented in your post about Jainism, so I started to follow things which I felt were logical or I found enough reasons to support those practices.
    Yes I do believe in the following quote:
    Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. and may be thats why I relate it to the Practice of not eating in the Night. However what you claim that these things are modern observations and never mentioned in Jain Literature. Did you really check yourself & verify the scriptures??? The dinner timings and Gap and Peoples sleep hours did you get any survey done or have some astronomical figure to claim what you claim about peoples habits??Sure they might be generalized but still its hard to claim all that? And as you say and Divya also commented about corrupt and mean people & bad money, How can you judge the whole religion looking at Individuals??. They do not reflect the whole society, and by that I mean I have always met people who are wonderful in nature. May be I am always lucky to have good people around and therefore have good views for Jains. The kind of post you have put, I might have put myself few years back, but trust me the Old guys were too knowledgeable & had far more sense than the modern world. As i read somewhere Science without religion is lame and Religion without science is blind led to a quest of finding the same and most of the religions are say that they are scientific based(chk youtube).. Maybe the middlemen who pass on the information to us might be wrong doers as they cannot accept religion going down(you see religion has tremendous power till date to motivate humans and in Past the Church has done so, making it orthodox) But then it's upto us to go and read those scriptures and make sense out of it.(sadly we don't have time) ....I say all this coz many other Jainism practices are good and regardful (chk wikipedia)...So to eat in night or not its upto you to choose, based on Jainism or on what doctors me I can list down hundreds of things which Scientists and docs have accepted in modern world, which were already stated by Religions and that makes my belief for Ratri Bhojan.
    chk this video it's nothing related to topic but might interest all who have commented.

    To the first part I fairly support you as I believe there is nothing like sins, as it was only created for use to follow strictly, the rules and regulations of religion, as in Nobody forces you to do things in Jainism you are at your liberty, however it is sad to know people say that It's a Sin to eat at night. There is no thing like Sin in context to the subject

  13. hello everyone...well dis topic would be always be a matter of debate..but i would not challenge the scripts written by the ancient learned people...but according to logical thinking i would definitely support wat mahavir ji has said!!!

  14. respected sanglikar sir,
    May be you are right on your part......what you say u feel it. But on my part i must say you that i have achieved the control on my soul by following the path of jainism.
    now...i see life in a new way.

  15. Well guys, Sanglikar ji is clearly saying that eating before sunset for scientific reason is absolutely not mentioned in the jain literature. Also, you are worried about the microorganisms which may be alive when you are eating them but what about plants, roots and vegetables which are alive as proved by science. Are jains not eating live beings? Obviously it was only proved in 20-21st century that trees have life...have the religions which propogate not eating live beings rectified themselves? Think about it.