Food and the Mind

Swami Veda Bharati holds the prestigious title of Mahamandaleshwara in the Swami order of monks. He is also the Chancellor of HIHT University, Dehradun, which was established by Master Swami Rama. He has authored approximately 18 books on Indian spirituality including a 1500 page comprehensive commentary on two of the four chapters of Patanjali's Yoga-sutras. Before taking the vows of Swamihood in 1992, Swami Veda Bharati was known as Dr. Usharbudh Arya.

Food and the MindMind and the senses have a very strange and paradoxical relationship. Mind thinks that if the senses get satisfied then the desires will go away or vanish for ever. But senses are quite weird. Once they taste an 'experience', they want to repeat it for the inherent pleasure in that, even though the pleasure is just momentary. The pleasure centers in the mind, gets addicted to 'that' experience and craves for repetition. Once the mind starts relenting to the craving of senses, it ends up becoming their slave rather their master, which it should be. As a result one becomes slave to the desires, to the craving of sensory pleasures.

The tongue being the sense of the taste is the most vulnerable to the temptations of all the senses. It enslaves the mind like no other sense. We all know that the primary purpose of the food is to provide nourishment and sustainability to the body but the tongue wants to experiment with different tastes. The result is apparent. The food industry is a billions dollars industry today.

For the people desiring to progress on spiritual path, disciplining the taste buds is very important. Small quantity of the balanced and nutritious food, which is simple and Satvik in nature, contributes to the austerity and quietness of the mind. Rajasik and tamasik food, even though tempting to eat, are not good for the health in the long run. Any food which creates reactions and uneasiness in the body and is hard to digest is not good for health anyway. It is not easy to do sadhana or spiritual practices if the body is sick since the whole energy gets diverted in digestion and assimilation of the food in the lower chakras.

Suggestion for the spiritual practioners is that after understanding one's physical constitution and food capacity, one should eat just enough to sustain and avoid over eating. The food should digest easily and quickly. The food which is not easy to digest or creates conflict with one's energy field should be avoided. For ages futile mindless debate is continuing about onion, garlic, vegetarian versus non vegetarian but the bottom line is that whatever one eats, the food servings should be small, nutritious, balanced and simple. A spiritual practioner should avoid alcohol and late meals since they obstruct the growth of sadhna. Its good to eat early since the best time for spiritual practices is early morning hour when the air and noise pollution is minimal. It would not be such a good idea to wake up with undigested food and acidity since the quality of one's spiritual practice will be greatly affected.

One on the spiritual path needs to be aware of an important fact that when we knowingly indulge in a detrimental life style, it will severely impair our spiritual growth. The energy moves upward only when the body is healthy and vibrant with positive energy. Majority of people are heedless to the need of disciplining food habits for the progress in spiritual journey. The tradition of fasting is related with that. But fasting without really understanding the 'true resolve' behind it, turns it into a superficial ritual. If whole day one's thoughts are traveling towards food while fasting, the very purpose of fasting is defeated. While fasting many people end up eating more fruits and sweets, save grains, and become sicker. There are others who sleep and fast the whole day but wander and eat the whole night.

We have developed such routines for our convenience. The purpose of developing mental resolve and spiritual well being, for which the experienced people in almost every society innovated such exercises, stands obliterated.

Combining silence with fasting and making a mental resolve to dedicate the whole day of fasting for introspection and self realization while meditating, gives a quantum leap on the spiritual path. The word 'Vrata' literally means 'sankalpa' or resolve and not just fasting.

Legendary Sufi poet Kabeer says that the path of spiritual journey is a virtual climb, the one who reaches the top finds the fruits of divine bliss and the one who falters, falls down and gets annihilated.

Randall

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