Control Over Diet



Acharya Mahapragyaji


One friend asked, `is it possible to change myself or shall I for ever continue as before?" I said, "Change is the law of the world we live in. Man can be transformed. If one does want to change, it is certainly possible. It is not possible for those who do not want to change."

"Change is the eternal law. Every material object undergoes some kind of change every minute. However, it is the special characteristic of man to bring about a change in a particular direction, if he so desires. You can also change."

He further asked, "How can I change? Kindly teach me the way. Is it possible to change habits?" I said, "Sure, they can be changed. If we cannot change our habits, all talk of salvation is futile. Then existence has no purpose whatsoever. Everything becomes meaningless if man does not or cannot change. Diligence is extolled because through it the seemingly impossible is rendered possible. To change one's habits, one has to change one's diet."

He said, "This sounds strange. What has diet to do with the transformation of habits? I eat because I like to eat, for taste, for the gratification of the palate. How is it connected with habits at all? There does not seem to be any relation between diet and habits."

I said: This is what our imperfect mind decree. But the fact is that a man, who cannot control his diet, cannot change his habits-there is an intimate relation between the two. Habits originate from the very fountainhead of the centres of consciousness. There are located in the brain innumerable centres of consciousness. It is these centres, which determine man's nature. A man enjoys sleeping; the control centre of sleep is located in the brain. A man laughs, weeps, things and deliberates. All these activities have different centres of their own. There is the centre of memory, of imagination, of intelligence. All the mental disposition have their centers in the brain. The nature of a man is determined by the centers that are awakened and get activated. The centres that are awakened and get activated. These centres are stimulated by electrical and chemical changes produced in the brain itself. Like the body, the brain too requires nutrition. There are tonic for the body; the brain too requires nutrition. There are tonics for the body; the brain too demands its own tonic. Modern scientists are busy evolving newer and better tonics for the brain.

Esoteric men of ancient times made a great many discoveries in this field. Ayurvedic books are replete with the accounts of these. There are available in these ancient tomes full-scale descriptions of materials that nourish and strengthen or starve and weaken the brain and the nervous system. The brain works though electrical and chemical energy. Chemicals are formed by the food we take in. Food then becomes a factor in the activity of the brain and the formation of habits. The quality of the food taken determines the quality of the chemicals produced, which in turn affect the activity of the brain. The activity of the brain determines our behaviour, thought and habits.

So, without understanding food, we cannot change habits. Without effecting refinement in food, one's nature remains gross. Whatever other changes one may introduce in one's life, without a change in food habits, no real transformation of oneself is possible. The two are vitally related. Accordingly, we must, first of all, consider the food we take in. Food here is used in its most comprehensive meaning- not only the food that goes in through the mouth, but whatever our organism accepts from outside. The air we breathe in through our nostrils is also food. Likewise the language particles, which make up our speech; also thought particles, which we gather for reflection. The vital breath, language and thought particles, etc., are all included under food.

The food we take in greatly affects the quality of our brain. A man downs a glass of wine at a stretch. Immediately, control over the brain is relaxed. The man gets drunk. What disturbed the equilibrium of the brain? The drink he consumed. Wine, too, is a kind of food. Another man takes hemp. The earth and the sky seem to mingle into one, and the world around him starts whirling. This because of the food he took in-hemp, too, is a kind of food. We are well acquainted with the effects of intoxicating drugs. Someone has a weak memory. He makes use of brahmi and shankhpushpi; his memory improves. The scientists today are engaged in research to discover different kind of chemicals, which help improve memory; at the same time chemicals, which weaken or destroy it. They work on the premise that intelligence and memory is not necessary for every one.

If those who indulge in theft, loot or murder, and those who are ferocious, are divested of their memory, it will certainly help curb crime. It is to reduce the incidence of crime that the scientists are working on drugs that would weaken memory. Simultaneously, they are also working on drugs that would increase memory. In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, there are many substances, which advance memory-gorakh-mundi, satavari, brahmi, shankhpushpi, etc. Modern scintists are concentrating upon the qualities of various substances and they are busy developing different kinds of drugs. The Ayurvedic masters discovered many substances and laid down procedures to convert these substances into chemical fluids. The process and the fundamental aim is the same in each case-to discover materials and develop from these, syrups and tonics that would increase mental capacity. Of course, both alternatives are available: mental power can be increased as well as decreased.

There has been a good deal of research into the effects of various kinds of food on the body. However, research into the ways and means of bringing about a fundamental transformation in human character has not been so extensive, both in Ayurved and Allopathic. Nevertheless, the Ayurved masters have spoken of different kinds of food-vital, nutritive, stimulating, restorative.

There are vital foods that strengthen and help maintain life; potent foods that increase the potency of the body; fiery foods that greatly stimulate the body; and there are foods that restore energy, and there are many other kinds.

There are three kinds of substances-those that tranquillize, those that excite and stimulate, and those, which help, keep the balance. There are substances, which suppress the wind, the bile and the phlegm; others, which stimulate these; and still others, which maintain the wind, the bile and the cough in a balanced condition, in equipoise. They do not allow the equilibrium to be disturbed.

Substances, which stimulate the bile, also provoke anger. The bile and anger are intimately connected. A man with augmented bile cannot but be angry. A man with augmented phlegm cannot but be greedy. Some people are greedy. Even after listening to spiritual discourses hundreds of times, their avaricious mentality remains unchanged. But what are these poor souls to do? As long as the phlegm is dominant in them, how can they get rid of their greedy disposition? Their mental condition is not changed. However, the moment the fury of the phlegm slackens, their greedy mentality undergoes a transformation. There is an intimate relationship between greed and the phlegm. Again, substances, which provoke the wind, also give rise to despondency.

The man with too much of wind is always sunk in despair, deeply depressed, afflicted with mental langour. There is an intimate relationship between the wind and all these bad humours. Man's life is bound up with food. Hospitality too begins with food. Wherever two men or women get together, they talk of food.

Once a man invited a friend of his to dinner. "There is a marriage," he said, "You must come to dinner." The friend reached the house at the appointed hour. He found his host vigorously brushing his donkey's skin and giving the animal a thorough bath. He was somewhat nonplussed and demanded, "What are you doing?" The host replied, "This donkey of mine is going to be married today. I am, therefore giving it a bath." "O," said the friend, "So, it is this donkey's marriage! Was it for this you invited me to dinner? Well what are you feasting us with? The host replied, "O dear, don't be so impatient! Whatever the bridegroom eats, you will also eat."

Nothing in the world is discussed so much as food. Four kinds of tales are found in Jain literature-tales relating to women, to devotees, to the country and to the king.Tales relating to devotees are tales relating to food. These are not idle tales, without a cause. Man is bound up with nothing so much as food. Food helps form the body, the blood, the flesh, and all other constituent elements of the body. Beyond the usual seven constituent elements is vigour or virility, which also owes its being to food.

The last named quality is also known as electricity in today's language. All the bodily chemicals are derived from food. The whole cycle of life is kept going by food. Our very disposition is determined by the food we taken in. It is possible to evaluate the personality of a man on the basis of the food he eats. The man, who has not factually analysed the food he takes, will not be able to understand his own unique individuality. How can such a man analyses or change his habits?"

The questioner further said, "After this elaborate discussion, it is fairly clear that purity of food is necessary for changing one's habits. But what does this purity of food imply?"

I said, "Not in my words, but in the words of the book entitled Manonushasanam pure food means wholesome, frugal and right food. The food which is beneficial in quality and quantity and unadulterated is clean food. That is what purity of food implies."

The questioner was not yet satisfied. Many doubts assailed him still. The questioner is free, not so the respondent: the latter is bound by the former. The questioner further asked? "How do you define `beneficial food'?"

I said, "What is beneficial is too big a subject to enter into right now. What determines after all whether something contributes to our well-being? Our body has many important parts-the brain, the heart, the liver, the lungs, the spleen and the kidneys: the sense organs: the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue and the skin-these too are significant. The whole of the nervous system has its own importance; it is not possible to define what is beneficial for all. Some substances are good for the brain; others are useful for the nervous system. Substances, which are good for the sensory nerves, may not be so good for the motor nerves. One substance may be good for the heart, while quite a different substance may be useful for the eye.

It requires tremendous knowledge to determine what substance is good for what limb? Some people accept a partial view of what is useful. Some physicians have said that pippal (pulp of the pippal tree) is very useful. It is true that in a case of low vitality, of weak digestion, the use of pippal is effective. But the excess of everything is bad. In a case of low vitality one may take pippal with advantage. But afterwards, when vitality is restored, and digestion no more a problem, the continued use of pippla can prove harmful. What is useful is determined by place, time and quantity. Without reference to place, time and quantity, all take of what is useful is redundant.

In a particular situation, taking salt may be necessary. But if a man continues taking salt thoughtlessly, he may be afflicted with various ailments. According to Ayurvedic system of medicine, heart disease is caused by excessive use of salt. An excessive salt-eater becomes bald; the salt also weakens the kidneys. In various diseases of the heart, the salt turns out to be a powerful cause. There is a saying in Ayurved to the effect that pippal, jaggery and salt must never be taken in excess. All these are useful, when taken in moderate quantities. All three becomes harmful, when taken beyond a limit. In ancient literature there occurs the mention of the people of Saurashtra eating too much salt. They used salt in place of sugar. They would put salt even in milk. That is why lost their virility and also feel and easy victim to heart disease. Here and there we find people preparing a vegetable dish just out of salt. Just as we prepare dishes of green vegetables like peas and bottle gourd, those people prepare dishes made up of nothing but salt and water. And they put spices into them too. An attempt is made to make salt saltier. And such a preparation is eaten with much relish, though it can never be useful from any point of view. It may be tasty, but not at all beneficial. The non-vegetarians take a lot of salt. They require more salt to digest the meat. Thus non-vegetarianism becomes an open invitation to various diseases.

What is beneficial or harmful is not determined on the basis of a one-sided view. Various aspects have to be taken into consideration. Beneficial in what way? With reference to the country? Or time? Or age? A child needs proteins most. It also needs milk. But after an individual has crossed from childhood into youth, and he still continues to take proteins to the same extent, he is simply inviting trouble. Any substance used in moderate quantity and with due respect to age, time and the obtaining situation is beneficial. Milk is a useful food. But if taken immoderately without reference to time and quantity, even this best of foods becomes harmful; nectar turns into poison.

The second question is, what is a `frugal' diet? Not only useful, but also moderator. That `moderate' refers to quantity. It is essential to know fully what food should be taken and in what quantity.

Immoderation is eating is a fault in an ascetic. It is a demerit in him to consume food beyond a certain measure. According to Ayurved, immoderate eating constitutes a serious fault, for a compulsive eater involuntarily invites a number of diseases.

There are two kinds of diet-light and heavy. In light food, the wind is dominant; it contains more of the fire-element, and is, therefore, easily digestible. Heavy food is water-dominated. Neither wind nor fire is dominant there. It is therefore indigestible. Eating heavy food in excessive measure creates disorders and perversions. Some people in Rajasthan are very found of sweets. The words, `food' and `sweets' have almost become synonyms. There can be no hospitality without serving sweets. It was unthinkable to invite a person without offering him sweets. Excessive consumption of sweets, mild and butter-all heavy foods-resulted in many people looking old by the time they ware 30 years. They began to experience all the characteristics of old age rather early. They fell a victim to importance. Death at or after forty came to be considered nothing unusual. All that is changed today. Nowadays, men of 40 to 60 consider themselves to be young. Heavy diet makes a man old before his time. Heavy foods are good to look at, very tasty, but are lacking in digestive elements and are therefore difficult to digest. Undigested or partly digested food creates problems, often resulting in untimely death. In dietetics, knowledge of the right quantity is necessary. Even light food may not be taken in excess. If the food is heavy, the quantity should be even less. But social behaviour is rather strange. Ten to 20 people meet, they sit down together to eat and the principle of quantity is quite forgotten. Heavy foods are tantalizingly displayed in heapfuls: one course after another is served till the stomach is full to bursting point. Only then does a man withhold his hand. This shows that he has no idea whatsoever about the quantity of food to be taken. Thus unwittingly people behave towards those whom they love in a manner so atrocious as no enemy would adopt towards his bitterest foe. Our enemy is not able to do us as much harm because we watch each action of his with suspicion, and are thoroughly vigilant. However, we are not so vigilant against a friend or a person we are found of. Whatever they do, we feel, they do for our good. Thus a man who is not vigilant, invites by overeating a number of diseases through sheer negligence, while at the same time he experiences a feeling of being loved and cared for. He thinks that he never enjoyed such welcome and such hospitality before, that he had had a wonderful time! How tasty was the food! How delectable all the eatables! He forgets that by immoderate eating he is only inviting various diseases. Discretion in the matter of quantity is absolutely necessary.

Thirdly, the food should be good and pure. That is the finding of deep research in dietetics. Pure and good food is that which does not pervert the states of consciousness. The food which gives rise to luminous thoughts, to vibrations of lotus-white, is pure and good. The food, which contaminates the mind, producing vicious thoughts, exciting passion and lust, anger and greed and violence, is tamsik food (inspiring darkness and ignorance) or rajsik food (inspiring luxury and exhibitionism). The food inspiring sensations of black, blue or brown cannot be pure and good; it is tamsik food; it activates the lower centres of the body. The satvik food (endowed with qualities of purity and goodness) awakens the centres of the body above the navel, activates them. The anand kendra (the centre of bliss), the vishudhi kendra (the centre of purity), the gyan kendra (the centre of knowledge), the darshan kendra (the centre of insight) and the jyoti kendra (the centre of light) all become activated by satvik food. It is necessary to come to know the intimate relationship between food and body, the psychic centres and the mental dispositions.

Man is endowed with unlimited wealth, an inexhaustible treasure. And yet he has reduced himself to the state of a beggar a beggar who begs good habits from others, who solicits wisdom and memory from others. He goes wandering about the whole earth, seeking to develop his intellect and memory. How to b6 well behaved? How to cultivate good habits? He is seeking every~ where, everlastingly, without ever paying any heed to the treasure within himself indeed, man has become a mere beggar. A beggar is one who begs alms from others. Not only he who sits on the crossroads and asks for money, but every solicitor, every man who looks to others for deliverance, or for anything, is a beggar pure and simple.

A beggar sat on the path by which the royal procession was passing. A policeman came and said, "Go away from here. The king is riding through this place." The beggar said, "Why should I? The road belongs to all. I'll stay where I am. The king has no authority to order my removal." The policeman said, "The king's word is law. He can do what he will. He is so powerful that he can order anyone out of his kingdom." The beggar said, "O, is the king so powerful? Well, let him order all the mosquitoes and all the flies out of his kingdom. If he can do that, I'll recognise him as a king indeed." The policeman stared at the beggar wondering what kind of man he was. Then he said, `It is not possible to drive out the mosquitoes and the flies. But our king is a great man. His palaces are guarded day and night." The beggar laughed and said, "You call him a king! He seems to be a prisoner. The Jail is guarded day and night. Tell the king to do away with the watch."

Meanwhile, the king's procession drew near. The beggar joined the procession. There stood a temple on the way. The king descended, entered the temple, lay himself prostrate before the idol and prayed with folded hands, " O lord, be merciful, be good. Let my riches multiply! May my tribe increase! May greater glory and comfort come to me!" The king went on praying like that. The beggar stood in a corner and listened to every word uttered by the king. After his prayers were over, the king, as he came out, saw the beggar and said, "Ah, so you want alms. All right, ask and I'll give whatever you want." The beggar said, "Yes, I did come to beg. I thought here's a king, he must be very rich and prosperous. He will give me alms and remove my poverty. However, not only did I see, but I have also beard with these ears of mine that you are the greatest beggar alive. What can one beggar give to another? I seek no alms from a beggar. I am a small beggar, you are a bigger one.

Such is man's situation today. He owns a treasure house of inexhaustible powers, but he is constantly begging others for something or the other. He can recognise his own powers if the desire for spiritual pursuit is awakened `m him. Spiritual training implies an attempt at recognising one's latent powers. Inside man, there is limitless knowledge, inexhaustible bliss, and infinite power. When a man takes the first step towards knowing these powers, he becomes capable of self-knowledge.

The practice of-Preksha Meditation is an undertaking for acquiring self-knowledge. This undertaking finds its successful culmination only in the complete transformation of man himself, to effect this transformation; it is necessary to achieve purity mi food. Wholesome, austere and unadulterated food serves to bring about this transformation. As Meditation matures, the electricity of the body undergoes a mutation; the bodily chemicals also change; the psychic centres become more active. The centres which should he dormant, remain so; those that should be active., are roused into activity. The lower centres go to sleep, the higher centres are awakened. The day this awakening occurs, one experience in oneself a new world altogether, the beginning of a new life, and then a man may proudly claim, "The' wealth hitherto undreamt of is now in my grasp; the enlightenment I sought has now com- to pass.

Questions and Answers

Q. Bodily chemicals change through change in food, and habits change through chemical changes. Experiments are being conducted nowadays to change man's temperament through synthetic chemicals. How would you differentiate Meditation from these?

A. The formation of chemicals takes place not only through food, but also through feeling. We can produce important chemicals through feelings; we can change them through feelings. Meditation constitutes a process for bringing about chemical changes in the body. Food is a helpful factor. Right food helps to create the right type of chemicals in the body. This greatly facilitates Meditation in the creation and transformation of a man's disposition. Synthetic chemicals are not altogether safe; these have their dangers. The scientists themselves acknowledge this fact. The manure made of cow-dung is natural and its use results in increased production of wheat. Synthetic fertilizers increase production but they also spread poison. Synthetic chemicals are like synthetic fertilizers; their use is not free from danger. Synthetic chemicals are being increasingly used in experiments oil rats and monkeys. Not many experiments are being conducted with these on human beings; such an undertaking would be too risky. If we set about changing the chemical composition of the body through Meditation and natural food. it would be altogether safe and beneficial.

Q. You have talked of five kinds of clairvoyance, pertaining to the front, the back, the right, the left, and the centre. It is not clear. Will you kindly further elaborate it?

A. Full clarity will come only when you yourself have gamed clairvoyance. But certain facts can be given. There is in our body the central nervous system. Beside it, to the right and the left, are two other nervous systems known as sympathetic and parasympathetic. These systems further branch out. The source of the centres of consciousness rises from behind and comes up to the Fore. Therefore during Preksha Meditation we meditate upon the front Part of the body as well as upon the part behind. When Meditation matures, we concentrate upon the left and the right side. We also concentrate on the top of the head. The objective of such meditation is to render the body transparent as a crystal.

In order to achieve clairvoyance it is necessary to make the body transparent. Until the body is made transparent, until the chief centres of the body become a part of the magnetic field, the rays of knowledge cannot filter through. The lamp is burning. If it were covered with a thick lid, no light would come out; it would remain hidden. If this lamp is covered with a gauzy lid, the light will filter through the orifices and if the lid is transparent, the light win radiate on all sides. For knowledge to manifest itself, it is absolutely necessary that the centres of consciousness become clear and pure.

Some people say that there is no mention of the centres of consciousness in the spiritual tradition of Jainism. They ought to know that the entire discussion of clairvoyance and its five-fold manifestation in Jain literature is nothing but a discussion about the centres of consciousness. In the commentaries of Nishith and Nandi, the commentator has elaborated on clairvoyance using the very same examples, saying that just as rays of light radiate on all sideg from the transparent lid on the burning lamp, similarly the rays of knowledge micandescent radiate from every part and every centre of the body that has become pure and transparent. Two forms of clairvoyance are given:

Finite - knowledge radiating from one part of the body.
Infinite -knowledge radiating from the entire body.
Clairvoyance can manifest itself in any part of the body. A little finger can manifest it. The finger becomes so transparent that rays of knowledge radiate there from. Stop moving the finger, and there would be no Para-psychic powers. This marks an important development in the field of spiritual training.

Q. "At is the difference between the chit and the mind? How does desire come into being?

A. The chit is the master, the mind a mere servant. The chit is the instrument of consciousness, and the mind an instrument of intellectual activity; it is not an instrument of consciousness, but an instrument of the body in which consciousness working in harmony with the body.

The source of desire lies very deep. Desire does not originate m the physical organism. It originates in the unconscious mind. In the language of spirituality it may be said that desire is born of primal drives and environment. It is not related to the present body or to present life alone, but is bound up with innumerable past manifestations and with all the subtle bodies working with the past. Thus, desire may be the result of outside factors or inner functions. Deep inside somewhere there flows a continuous stream of desire. Whenever a cause presents itself, desire is manifested outside. To study desire we will have to explore the depths within.




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