ARTICLE BY INDIAN SWAMI ABOUT DIET|
I am presenting the following article by Swami Narayanananda, because of its exceptionally logical and reasonable explanation of how to choose and determine your best diet according to the environment and location of where you live.
This Swami (a celibate) lived for over 25 years in the Himalayas in seclusion, self-discipline, mind-control etc. He worked very hard, generally having only 2 hours sleep, often none at all, while meditating all night and day in his systematic practice (of Mantra-Jap, meditation, concentration and practise of yoga).
He was finally blessed with Nirvikalpa Samadhi (superconscious state or nirvana) after which he decided to reveal his rare experience in the form of books for the welfare of suffering humanity.
S. Bass, 2008
Food and Drink
by Swami Narayanananda
Food and drink play a very important part in mind-control. With unwholesome food and a heavy stomach one cannot practise meditation and gain concentration of the mind. Besides, a man who is a slave of his tongue or palate is also a slave of lust. For, there is a very close connection between the tongue and the genital organ. A man keen on observing perfect Brahmacharya, must exercise full control over his food and drink.
Many sects and people have very crude ideas about food and drink. Some prescribe strict vegetarian diet, while others have no objection to non-vegetarian food. What generally happens is that, if the founder of a particular sect is a vegetarian he extols vegetarian diet and commands his followers to be strict vegetarians. If, however, he happens to be a non-vegetarian himself he allows his followers to eat fish, meat and the like. Such views, however, are rather one-sided and narrow. It is certainly neither possible nor advisable to prescribe one and the same kind of food for all men in different climes. In deciding what food and drink should be taken we must use our common sense. We must take into consideration the time, clime, constitutional agreement and local availability. Nature has Her own plan concerning this. The fauna and flora of different places and different seasons differ and the people who make use of the local easily available articles of food and drink, remain healthy and feel happy.
In India, some narrow-minded and bigoted people have much hatred for non-vegetarian diet. The very idea of meat-eating is galling to them and puts them off their moorings. They can never tolerate meat-eating. In this connection we would like to mention a little incident. Ten years back while the author was living at Haridwar, a certain Vaish gentleman (i. e., belonging to the merchant class), who was a strict vegetarian put the following question to his Guru (spiritual teacher ): "Sir, a man is a strict vegetarian, but he commits adultery, tells lies, indulges in black-marketing and commits all sorts of evils. Another man is a meat-eater, but he is kind, gentle, chaste, pure and charitable. He commits no adultery and tells no lies. Out of these two men, who is the better and nearer to God? The Guru gave the following answer:
"Dear me, in my opinion, both of the men are sinners but the man who eats meat is the worse sinner." Does not such an answer betray the height of stupidity? And many such awfully stupid persons posing as religious guides are leading some thousands of people along erroneous path. It is such people and their followers that engender quarrels and cause blood-shed under the garb of religion and in the name of God.
How unreasonable are these fanatics ? They cannot imagine and fail to understand the difficulties of people living in different parts of the world. According to these people, the non-vegetarians are all irreligious. But is it true? Can man live without God and religion ? As a matter of fact man cannot do so. So long as he has a living body and the idea of disease and death, man cannot discard God and religion. Truly speaking, there are no atheists in this world in the real sense of the term. Those who deny the existence of God or refuse to believe in Him talk of "Nature, Force, Spirit", etc., in the same light. And the heart of man feels that there is a Supreme Being Who guides his steps and to Whom he must bend his knees.
Take for example, the case of the people living in extreme climates, like the North and South poles of the earth or in Tibet and even in East Bengal (Pakistan). Near the North and South poles the inhabitants cannot grow any kind of corn or vegetable - and their staple food is the flesh and oil of seal (a kind of fish). In Tibet, the people live at a very high altitude. No corn grows there except in the low lying valleys and it is too insufficient to support the whole land. People import corn to some extent either from India or from China and their main food is fried wheat powder (Chattu), tea and meat; for they can rear sheep, goats and yaks on the small grass during the rainy season. In East Bengal, whole fields are under water during the rainy season. As such; they cannot grow any vegetable during that season. Though imported vegetables are available, they are too dear to be purchased by men of ordinary means. But they can get plenty of fish at .a very low price; they can even catch plenty of them without much effort. Instances like these can be multiplied but. these few should suffice our purpose. Necessity is the mother of invention. In all these cases, if the people are to live, they must utilize the easily available articles of food and drink in their region. There is no other way. If the bigots had their way, they would label all meat-eaters as heretics and unfit for religious practices and divine favour and grace.
Ancient Indian Rishis were non-vegetarians
Again, let us cast a glance at the dim past of our land. In olden times the Aryan Hindu Rishis (Seers) were non-vegetarians. They used to take even beef and the heady drink "Soma". Meat and Soma are said to be the favourite food and drink of gods. The Rishis used to offer meat and Soma profusely to gods in worship and during sacrifices. Milk cows were forbidden to be killed, no doubt, but bulls, calves and barren cows were allowed to be killed and eaten. Instances from the Vedas support this statement. Yajur Veda, Satpath Brahmana, Brihatarunyaka Upanishad, Adhyaya 6th, 4th Brahmana, 18th verse runs thus: "He who wishes for the birth of such a son as would be a reputed scholar, frequenting the assemblies and speaking delightful words, and as would study all the four Vedas and attain the full term of life, should have rice cooked with the meat of a vigorous bull or one more advanced in years and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then he would be able to beget such a son." Even the old meat-eating habits of the people are still to be found in many parts of India, where the Brahmins and 'the other three castes take fish and meat freely, as in Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Kashmir and parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha were non-vegetarians
Again, take the case of the great spiritual and moral giants, the great law-givers and the founders of great religions of the world. These rare great men whom the people of the whole world follow and worship as God-incarnates or God-sent men, whose compassion for all living things know no bounds, in whom ignorance had no place and who saw their own Self in each and everything, - all these great Prophets sprang from the non-vegetarian class. Manu, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Nanak, Leotose, Sinto and RamaKrishna were all non-vegetarians. If religion forbids fish and meat-eating as sin and limits its followers to vegetable diet alone, were these great. men, non-religious ? Can sin beget virtue? Can anyone dare deny the highest spiritual attainments, of these great men ? If the high and sublime spiritual attainments of these great men are to be denied, what will become of all the religions of the world?
The Tantriks use fish, meat and wine freely in their worship and so do the Buddhistic Tantriks also. Even Lord Buddha who was prepared to give his own life for the sake of a lamb about to be sacrificed and who preached against animal
sacrifice has permitted his followers to take fish and meat under the following conditions. Vinaya-Pitak-chapter 6-8, page 245: Lord Buddha with his followers attends a dinner given by the King Singa Senapathy. Therein in reply to a querry on meat eating, Lord Buddha says thus - "Oh, Bhikkhus, you should not eat any fish or meat which has been specially prepared for your dinner. Any body eating such a thing will be guilty of the sin called "Dukkat." But I order that you may eat such fish and meat as, you are sure, has not been killed for you."
"It is safe to fill half the stomach with food-matter, one fourth with water and to leave the remaining one fourth empty."
"A man who is a slave of his tongue or palate is also a slave of lust. - The stomach should never be overloaded. It is very injurious and brings on fall."
Ahimsa and Jainism
Jainism stands on the bed-rock of Ahimsa (non-killing or non-injury). No religion has given so much importance to Ahimsa as Jainism has done. Yet, when it deals with ethical-code of conduct for householders, it confronts the difficulty and prescribes for them a milder form of Ahimsa. Jaina Scripture says that any action calculated to do injury to any living being is violence. Speaking harsh words so as to injure the feelings of others is violence of speech. Thinking ill of others or contemplation of injury is mental violence. For a householder, it is not possible to avoid all these kinds of injury in their entirity and therefore he is recommended to discharge his worldly responsibilities with the minimum injury to others.
To give practical guidance in this matter, injury to others has been classified under four heads; viz., 1. accidental, 2. occupational, 3. protective, & 4. intentional.
In India no book is so popular as Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita and Lord Krishna's name is a by-word in every home. Every sect quotes the Gita as an authority in support of its views. But the very advent of Gita was due to Arjuna's refusal to fight a rightful war and kill his own grandfather (Pitamaha), Guru (teacher) and other kith and kin. According to the bigots, Arjuna was right in refusing to fight the rightful war. But Lord Krishna, out of mere compassion and love for Arjuna, preached to him the profoundest knowledge in eighteen chapters, destroyed his ignorance and made him fight the dreadful battle of Kurukshetra. How can we account for Sri Krishna's preaching in the Bhagavad-Gita if the killing of people be an absolute sin under all circumstances?
In this world perfect Ahimsa is impossible
Killing is a sin without doubt. Even to injure another in thought and word is also a sin. Not a single recognised religion asks its followers to kill mercilessly or to be unkind to any living being. In its code of moral-conduct every religion lays much stress on love and compassion for all living beings.
But then, in this world one life subsists at the cost of other lives. The lower life serves as food to higher life. In water, air, etc., there are innumerable living things which are invisible to the naked eye. In mere breathing, walking, talking, drinking and eating vegetables, grains and fruits one kills millions and millions of microscopic organisms. Taking all this into consideration, it would be clear that one can observe perfect Ahimsa only in Nirvikalpa Samadhi; in which state the body becomes almost a corpse devoid of breathing, moving and thinking. Apart from this state, life can continue only at the cost of other lives. That being the case, it is the circumstance and the attitude of the mind which make an act sinful. If the ego or "I" idea is absent while doing an act, one commits no sin. It is the idea of "I" and "Mine" alone that forges the fetters of bondage and makes one suffer hell fire.
In conclusion, and in considering what food and drink a Sadhaka should take, it should be seen what particular food and drink would suit him best. The food chosen should be sweet, pleasant, simple, nutritious and easily digestible.
It must not bring on sense or stomach irritations. Rich food, highly-seasoned dishes, spices, stale and stinking food, sharp and bitter things, sour and pungent things, very hot things, myrobalans, betel-nut and betel leaves, Conjee-oil, sesamum, mustard, asafoetida, garlic, too much of sweets, sugar and salt, food once cooked and reheated after three hours - all these must be avoided. These things are harmful in as much as they produce lethargy and are not conducive to concentration. Those who live in very hot climates should take cool drinks and cold-producing food.
Eating in moderation
But too much of these drinks and food is bad and harmful. So, a Sadhaka must beware and adjust their intake in moderation. And those who live in very cold climates should take heat-producing food and drinks just to make the body and mind work in a normal way.
Every man, in whatever climate he may be living, hot, cold or temperate, must learn to know his requirements and adapt himself accordingly. But, wherever one may live and practise mind-control, one must be very regular in taking food at fixed hours. During the Sadhana period even one morsel of food, more or less, will prove injurious and will upset the mind. The stomach should never be overloaded. It is very injurious and brings on fall. It is safe to fill half the stomach with food-matter, one fourth with water and to leave the remaining one fourth empty. No food or drink should be taken actuated by the desire of taking it. One should never be a slave of one's tongue.
For a Sadhaka, to become a slave of the palate, is an unpardonable sin. It brings on a great fall I also in mind-control and concentration. One must, therefore, exercise perfect control over the tongue. The desire for and hankering after any particular kind of drink or food must be scrupulously checked. Food and drink should be made pure and holy by mentally offering them to God before using them. This mental offering, in full faith, removes all their impurities.
Food and drink become impure under the following conditions and these should be avoided at all costs: - cooked food left over for three hours or more should not be taken by a Sadhaka. If taken, it will produce wind and stomach disorders. When dust, hair, and flies fall in food, it should not be taken. This is rational even from the hygienic point of view. Food should not be taken from the hands of an impure and wicked person nor from one who earns his livelihood illicitly. There is a thing called contagion. By taking such food and drink, a Sadhaka loses his power of concentration and the mind tends to become impure and sinful. Food prepared for the Sraddha ceremony (food offered in the name of a dead person) should not be taken by a Sadhaka. It will prove very injurious.
Apart from these prohibitions, common-sense (based on suitability and availability of things and time and clime) should be the chief deciding factor with regard to one's everyday food and drink.
Chapter 4 from The Secrets Of Mind Control, by Swami Narayanananda, p.44 to 56, (published by N.K. Prasad & Co., Rishkesh, India, 1959)
"In India, some narrow-minded and bigoted people have much hatred for non-vegetarian diet. The very idea of meat-eating is galling to them."
Dr. Stanley Bass