Prof. Jitendra Rajput Almost everyone could live healthily for a century if he just followed a life of plain living and high thinking. For many reasons, however, people live unhealthy lives and die prematurely. People poison their digestive tract with meat, alcohol, and various chemicals used in junk-food coloring and preservation. They also poison their bodies with licit and illicit drugs, pain relievers, sleeping pills etc. really, it’s a wonder that the average lifespan is as long as it is now.
Yoga is meant for the reestablishment of our lost relationship with Krishna. Generally, one joins a yoga society in order to improve his health, to reduce fat. People in rich nations eat more, become fat, and then pay exorbitant prices to so-called yoga instructors in order to reduce. People try to reduce by all these artificial gymnastics; they do not understand that if they just eat vegetables or fruits and grains, they will never get fat. People get fat because they eat voraciously, because they eat meat. People who eat voraciously suffer from diabetes, overweight, heart attacks, etc., and those who eat insufficiently suffer from tuberculosis. Therefore moderation is required, and moderation in eating means that we eat only what is needed to keep body and soul together. If we eat more than we need or less, we will become diseased.
It is well known that nutrition dramatically influences the mind and senses, and the reproductive system in particular. Rich nutrition increases reproductive activity, and minimal nutrition diminishes it. Througout history, people have avoided meat and restricted their diet in order to calm the senses. In all relgious calenders there are fast days. Fasting is practiced among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists. In fact, fasting, vegetarianism and celibacy were common even among Pythagoreans, Gnostics, Essenes, neo-Platonists and Manichaens
In Bhagavad gita [BG 17.8-10], food is classified according to the three modes of nature : goodness, passion and ignorance. As humans, we can choose the type of food we eat. Lower animals cannot do this, for they eat by instinct. For spiritualists, foods in mode of goodness is preferred. Food in goodness produces purity of mind and health of body and thus increases our lifespan. Moreover it nourishes the inner self, stimulating memory and enabling us to remember our spiritual identity and eternal loving relationship with God.
The purpose of food is to increase the duration of life, purify the mind and aid bodily strength. This is its only purpose. In the past, great authorities selected those foods that best aid health and increase life’s duration, such as milk products, sugar, rice, wheat, fruits and vegetables. These foods are very dear to those in the mode of goodness. Some other foods, such as baked corn and molasses, while not very palatable in themselves, can be made pleasant when mixed with milk or other foods. They are then in the mode of goodness. All these foods are pure by nature. They are quite distinct from untouchable things like meat and liquor. Fatty foods, as mentioned in the eighth verse, have no connection with animal fat obtained by slaughter. Animal fat is available in the form of milk, which is the most wonderful of all foods. Milk, butter, cheese and similar products give animal fat in a form which rules out any need for the killing of innocent creatures. It is only through brute mentality that this killing goes on. The civilized method of obtaining needed fat is by milk. Slaughter is the way of subhumans. Protein is amply available through split peas, dal, whole wheat, etc.
Foods in the mode of passion, which are bitter, too salty, or too hot or overly mixed with red pepper, cause misery by reducing the mucus in the stomach, leading to disease. Foods in the mode of ignorance or darkness are essentially those that are not fresh. Any food cooked more than three hours before it is eaten (except prasädam, food offered to the Lord) is considered to be in the mode of darkness. Because they are decomposing, such foods give a bad odor, which often attracts people in this mode but repulses those in the mode of goodness.
Remnants of food may be eaten only when they are part of a meal that was first offered to the Supreme Lord or first eaten by saintly persons, especially the spiritual master. Otherwise the remnants of food are considered to be in the mode of darkness, and they increase infection or disease. Such foodstuffs, although very palatable to persons in the mode of darkness, are neither liked nor even touched by those in the mode of goodness.
A serious sadhaka must be temperate. Although wholesome foods in goodness are physically and spiritually beneficial, they should be eaten in moderation. Foods high in protein, such as cheese, should be consumed sparingly. One should never eat more than necessary. It is a yogic principle to fill the belly half full with food in the mode of goodness, a quarter full water, and then to leave a quarter empty for the circulation of air. Such moderation is materially and spiritually healthy. A glutton can never be focussed in spiritual life, for control of tongue is absolutely necessary for control of the genitals. The perfect sadhaka is always lean and alert, never fat and lethargic. The tongue and genitals are intimately connected in the human organism. When the tongue is stimulated with foods in the mode of passion, the genitals are also excited. If the tongue is well controlled, the genitals will also be controlled. Therefore food should be simple, nonirritating, and nonstimulating. Spices should be used sparingly. The stomach must never be overloaded, especially at night, for that will increase the chance of nocturnal emission. We should always remember that our body is a instrument that belongs to God, provided to us to utilise wisely in His service. When we eat the food offered to God in love, then it not only nourishes our brain providing strength, but also nourishes the soul awakening the love of God.