Science in Jainism - Food


By Mr. Ketul Kamdar, E-Mail :


What to eat and what to avoid : Modern Science has proved beyond doubt that you are what you eat. It simply means food plays important role not only in person's exterior looks but also the way a human being thinks from inside, feels, reacts and behaves. In ancient times Jainism divided food into three types - Tamasi, Rajsi and Satvik.

Tamasi : Tamasi food produces degraded conditions of mind and so it remains on the bottom of the chart. To attain spirituality and Moksha one has to do away with this kind of food. It is not only vicious but also responsible to give birth to actions and thoughts leading to bondages ie. `Karma'. Some types of Tamasi food are-
All types of wines made from fermentation of fruits, 
a. Stale food,
b. Fermented food,
c. Meat etc. (Non - Vege)
Consumption of this type of food results in various physical ailments like indigestion, ulcers etc., to mental and spiritual blockages due to loss of senses, aggression , self centered behaviour and induces, negative and destructive thoughts and lustful thoughts.

Rajasi:- Rajasi Food is full of taste, variety and tongue liking. This food also aggrevates disorders as specified in Tamasi food but the extent is less. Types of Rajasi food are-
a. Liquor,
b. Fish,
c. All types of meat,
d. Eggs,
e. pungent food,
f. species,
g. onion
h. garlic
i. tomatoes
j. tea, coffee
k. carbonated drinks etc.
Maximum portion of Rajasi food rather than being used by the body is thrown out as a waste. It aggravates violence in behavior and impatience and it affects the immune systems of the body thus making it a breeding ground for small to big diseases.

Satvik : Satvik is a healthiest food for the mind, body and thus spirituality. It keeps mind in a perfect balance of calmness and peace, gives body a fantastic aura thus increasing the longitivity. It is mood refreshing and a person is always in a state of bliss. Types of Satvik food are-
a. Cow milk
b. Fruits
c. Vegetables
d. Dry fruits
e. Cereals
f. Ghee
Very minimum portion of this type of food is a waste and this gives a human body all the necessary ingredients to build highly immune, strong, energetic structure having minimum risks of diseases and mental imbalance. Thus prompting highly positive and result oriented actions, giving one an ability to stay calm in all kinds of situations.

What Food to avoid
So according to Jain conduct non eatable foods is classified as follows :
1. Multisensed food :- Like animals , meat etc.
2. Under ground foods :- Which invites destruction of a lots of other surrounding life form.
3. Intoxicants :- Which makes one lose control over himself , for eg . Wine, liquor
4. Unworthy organic materials :- Such as human wastes.

Types of Vegetarians
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian.
Does not eat any kind of flesh. No fish, no crabs, no chicken no caviar etc. Not even cod liver oil! Generally prefers to keep these creatures alive than kill them. But a lacto ovo vegetarian can eat other animal products that do not cause aimals to die in the process of creating them like milk, cheese and eggs.

Pesce Vegetarian.
Just like lacto-ovo but allow the eating of fish on the basis that fish do not feel pain like other animals because their nerve endings are not very 'fine tuned'. (contributed by nora wafaai)

Lacto Vegetarian. 
Same as lacto-ovo above but does not eat eggs.

Ovo Vegetarian.
Eats eggs but no dairy products and milk.

No eggs, no dairy products. Generally believe that the suffering that animals in modern and not so modern animal farms cause suffering and that we should not enjoy that in any way.

I only know of one religion ( Jainism ) that does not only forbid the eating of animals but also of vegetables that have to be killed in order to eat them. So fruits are ok but mushrooms are not.

Vegetarian Food and Health
The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.

Major Causes of Deaths in Singapore in Year 2000
Cancer, heart disease and stroke are the top three major killer of Singaporeans. Together, they account for more than 60% of our total deaths.  Sadly, this is gloomy news for us. It seems that if we were to carry on the average lifestyle of a typical Singaporean, with all the fast-food burgers and chicken rice, we are very likely to be associated with expensive medical bills and painful medications and operations

In 1957, there were no fast-food chains in Singapore, and our consumption of meat and dairy products was so much lesser.  When a country becomes more affluent and consumption of meat and dairy products increases, so do the rates of cancer, heart disease and stroke. This trend can be observed all over the world.

A closer look at Cancer
The culprits for increased incidence of cancer in Singapore are simply colorectum, breast and prostate cancer, all of which correlates strongly with meat and dairy consumption

Dr Karmen KY Wong, Consultant Oncologist of Gleneagles Medical Centre, has made the following recommendations, in an article in the webpage of the Singapore Medical Association, to reduce cancer risks

  • Choose most of the food from plant sources

  • Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources

  • Be physically active : achieve and maintain a healthy weight

  • Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages

A closer look at Heart disease and Stroke
A vegan diet is one of the most natural and effective way to stay away from heart disease and stroke.

The Protective Vegetarian Diet
Plant foods are the only source of fibres and complex carbohydrates. Besides that, many plant foods are rich in folate which protect against heart diseases by lowering the homocysteine in the blood. Plant foods also contain plenty of antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, which protects your body cells from damage by free radicals, which are responsible for the occurrence of cancers. In addition, plant foods are the only source of phytochemicals, which protect our health in many ways. What's more, all plant foods contain absolutely zero cholesterol, and almost all contain insignificant amount of saturated fats.

The Psychology of Meat-eating
Have you tried to cook a piece of meat in hot water and eat it without seasoning? Now, still without any seasonings, take a bite off a piece of watermelon or raw cucumber. Which do you seriously prefer?

We become so used to the strong taste of seasonings used in meat that vegetables begin to taste bland. But we are not born with such unhealthy preferences. Most of our taste are acquired, and we can learn to really enjoy our vegetables, to be once again sensitive to the natural but subtle favours of vegetables without the seasonings.

The Comparative Anatomy of Eating
Humans are most often described as "omnivores." This classification is based on the "observation" that humans generally eat a wide variety of plant and animal foods. While most humans are clearly "behavioral" omnivores, the question still remains as to whether humans are anatomically suited for a diet that includes animal as well as plant foods. The below is summary of the comparison between the body structures and functions of carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, and humans.

  • Humans do not have the nails, mouths and teeth suited for a carnivorous diet.

  • Carnivores and omnivores swallow their food whole; while herbivores and humans have to chew their food extensively.

  • Stomach acidity, with food inside, for humans is pH 4 to 5; while carnivores and omnivores have pH less than 1, which is necessary for proper digestion of carnivorous diet.

  • Carnivores and omnivores have much shorter lengths of small intestine compared to herbivores and humans.

  • Carnivores and omnivores have short, smooth and straight colon, which is necessary for quick transition before toxins from decayed flesh cause problems for their body; herbivores and humans have long, winding and sacculated colon.

  • "Stomach type" is not conclusive that humans are not herbivores, as not all herbivores have multiple chambers like that of cow.

Restriction on timings for food consumption

Food must be cooked and eaten during day-light hours only.

1. Cooking food at night leads to the killing of various creatures by the fire. In ancient times when there were no adequate lighting such creatures could even be large ones such as birds, snakes, rodents, squirrels, lizards that could be hiding in the wood or coal. Insects that are attracted to fire could fall straight into the food. In modern times, where one may have bright lights for cooking at night, killing of insects attracted by light and their falling into the food still presents a strong possibility. Further more while eating at night, a number of insects are attracted to the smell of food and could easily become a part of ones food. In a different context, going to bed soon after late meals is not a good health practice. Eating before sunset, i.e., a couple of hours before going to bed does have relevance.

2. All food must be cooked fresh daily. Food cooked during the day light should be consumed within the same day, but cooked food left overnight is prohibited. There are various possibilities for such a guideline, for example to avoid the wastage of food as there were no refrigerators during ancient times, with inadequate storage facilities insects may crawl into the food left overnight, the sun's UV light acts as a protection against growth of bacteria in the food, but in the cold and darkness there could be rapid growth of bacteria or fungus perhaps not large enough to be visible to the eye. For the same reason, flour and spices should be ground fresh, and they and a number of other foods must be used within a specified period which depends on the season and the product. As an example ground spices and flour of any grain has a validity of 3 days during the rains, 5 days in summer and 7 days in winter. This practice also ensures freshness, flavor and good taste of these ingredients. How much more scientific could one get during ancient times, when we know that even in today's scientific world all food products on supermarket shelves, even though mostly chemically preserved, are marked with an expiry date.

3. Doctors advise that we should take food four hours before sleeping. When you will take meals at ten in the night then when shall you sleep?

In this way, we see that Jain-conduct and Jain thought on Food are agreeable with nature, are fully scientific; the only need is to present them rightly and powerfully.



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