Dietetic Discipline: Take Sattvic food, Suddha Ahara. Give up chillies, tamarind, garlic, onion, sour articles, oil, mustard, asafoetida. Observe moderation in diet (Mitahara). Do not overload the stomach. Give up those things which the mind likes best for a fortnight in a year. Eat simple food. Milk and fruits help concentration. Take food as medicine to keep the life going. Eating for enjoyment is sin. Give up salt and sugar for a month. You must be able to live on rice, Dhal and bread without any chutni. Do not ask for extra salt for Dhal and sugar for tea, coffee or milk.
The fourth instruction is a little lengthy. It concerns an important aspect of our daily life—the food we eat. You all know the well-known saying: “Eat to live. Do not live to eat.” Food is indispensable to life—it supports life, it sustains life. It gives the needed nourishment and supplies the body with necessary building blocks in the form of carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals, amino acids, vitamins etc. It therefore contributes to health. But if you eat immoderately it can destroy your health and bring about various illnesses like dyspepsia, gastritis, colitis, dysentry, diarrhoea and other chronic diseases.
The same food which is indispensable, beneficial and necessary, can turn into your greatest enemy if you do not have control over your tongue, if you do not observe the rules of moderation, if you do not try to get a knowledge of nutrition, knowledge of food and correct eating, knowledge of the effect of food on the body and mind. You will not know how to eat wisely. You will be living to eat, not eating to live. Therefore, Gurudev gave this admonition: “In diet you must have discipline,” and He has devoted a fairly long paragraph for this particular instruction. He has also said: “Keep your diet simple, bland. Do not indulge in too much of tamarind and chillies, onions and garlic, sour articles, oil, mustard, asafoetida. Be very sparing in these. Keep your food simple.
Eating for enjoyment is a sin. Take sattvic
(pure) food.” In Gurudev’s commentary on the Gunatraya Vibhaga Yoga
in the Bhagavad Gita Jnanopadesh,
in Practical Lessons in Yoga
and in many other books He has given a complete list of sattvic and tamasic ahara
(food). That also he has given because then we will know what to avoid. “Do not overload the stomach. Give up those things which the mind likes best for a fortnight in a year. Eat simple food. Milk and fruits help concentration. Take food as medicine to keep the body going. Give up salt and sugar for a month. You must be able to live on rice, vegetables and bread without any pickle. Do not ask for extra salt for vegetables or extra sugar for tea, coffee or milk.” So, if you want to be a self-controlled person you must be able to control the tongue.
There is a saying: Jitam sarvam jite rase
“All the senses are controlled if the tongue is controlled.” Therefore moderation is the keynote and not indulging in articles that are likely to be tamasic
and disturbing to your spiritual evolution. Avoid them and take in moderation even that which is good. There is a saying in Tamil: Adhikam aanaal amrutamum visham.
“If you take beyond measure, even nectar may become poison.” This is an over-statement. Nevertheless it brings out the truth that if you exceed the correct dosage, if you become immoderate then even nectar can turn into poison.
However, it does not mean that you should become a fadist in food, your mind will then meditate more on food than on God. Draw up a certain dietetic regimen and adhere to it without deviation. To be obsessed with the thought of food is not good. When someone asked Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai: “What is Bhagavan’s advice about diet?” Very tersely, he said in Sanskrit: “hita-mita-bhukta
”—be an eater who is moderate, be an eater who eats only that which is conducive to health and that which agrees with you. Experience will tell you what foodstuffs do not agree with you and upset you, then do not take that.
Fast on Ekadasi, food is the one thing that constantly goes into our body from birth until death. That which goes inside and becomes part of us is certainly likely to influence and affect our entire make-up, not only our physical health, but its quality affects the mind also. Its subtle vibration becomes our second nature (svabhava) and then it goes to form the mind-stuff (chitta). Food has therefore a threefold effect—it affects the body, the mind and the sub-conscious mind. Hence these general instructions. Moderation is the keynote, so fast once in a fortnight and try to discipline yourself.
The importance of these instructions are: whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, all your life you have to be eating food. It is the one thing which goes into you constantly, without missing a single day, except on Ekadasi. Therefore it is of great importance to know how to eat, what to eat and what not to eat. This Physical body is called annamaya kosha
(food sheath). This sheath is pervaded by food and naturally it is the one element which enters, and goes to form our brain cells and mind-stuff. Now you can understand the inevitable, inseparable, continuous and constant relationship of man and food—food and man. You will now understand how very important it is that your food should be of the right quality and in the right quantity.
So reflect upon this fourth instruction. Ponder its deeper meaning for you, especially with reference to ethical and spiritual life, with reference to self-mastery and self-control. Then you will understand its place is indispensable, necessary.
In this Kali Yuga, the body is sustained by food, and therefore food is inevitable.
Great research has been done in nutrition in Western countries, in the field of medicine and health. But then, it is from a different angle. It is from its composition so that it will form a balanced diet, but not from the angle of rajasic, tamasic and sattvic
food. A knowledge of both, at least some knowledge of both, is essential. God bless you. May anna
[TWENTY IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS, A Series of talks on Swami Sivananda’s Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions.]