By Swami Veda Bharati
Indian psychology has delved deep into the profound impact of food on the mind
We have so far dealt with a few of the emotional situations that arise in our life. The Indian system of psychology goes into the depth of how our inclinations towards certain types of emotions are generated and how they may be changed.
One of the sources of our personality traitsis food.
“From the food are the beings born,” says the Bhagavad Gita.
“Food verily is the mind,” state the Upanishads.
“Whatever kind of food one eats, the same kind of mind s/he creates for oneself,” is a common proverb in all the modern languages of the subcontinent of India.
These are the criteria adopted for purity of food:
• How is it earned? Honestly or dishonestly?
• From what pure and impure (nonviolent and violent) sources are it obtained? The word ‘Violent’ could refer to either injustice to or exploitation of others, or outright killing of creatures.
• What are the natural qualities of the ingredients (light, satvic, nourishing, fresh)?
• With what kind of (clean or unclean) body and what kind of mind (loving and joyful) is it prepared?
• Is it cooked in order to ensure that all constituents are well blended and balanced?
• What kinds of vessels are used for cooking?
• How does it look aesthetically? Is the flavor pleasing? Is the texture palatable, saliva-producing, and digestible?
• What kinds of vessels are used for serving?
• With what kind of attitude (indifferent, reverential) is the food is served?
• With what kind of state of mind is it eaten?
• What is the level of control with which the food is approached?
• Is it adequately chewed in order to extract every micro-nutrient, and make digestion easier?
• Is the stomach left partially empty so as not to burden the respiratory, cardiac, digestive, circulatory and cerebral systems?
• Is the practice of digestive breathing or conscious brief postprandial siesta observed so that the food is converted into prana?
The Bhagavad Gita (17.8-10) goes into some detail of the three kinds of food:
The foods that increase life-span, mental capacity (satva), strength, health, comfort and a pleasant and affectionate feeling, are flavorful, rasya),[moderately] oiled, stable, heart-satisfying – such foods are loved by satvic persons. (17.8)
Bitter, sour, [too] salty, very hot, sharp, dry, causing burning –
Such foods are favoured by the rajasic persons, and cause pain, grief (sadness, depression) and illness.(17.9)
Now well cooked, that have lost their flavor, smelly, stale, leftovers of others, not fit for offering in sacraments (such as meats) – such foods are favoured by the tamasic persons.(17.10)
Rajasic and tamasic foods (obtained by violence and by visiting death upon others), breed rajasic and tamasic moods.
Rajasic and tamasic moods incline us towards rajasic and tamasic foods.
Foods breed moods; moods incline us towards certain foods.
It is unfortunate that many who claim to be spiritually advanced, have not made the very first yama, ahimsa, as their primary motto in the area of food. How would they conquer anger? How would they overcome depression?
We need to bear in mind that among the constituents of our personality are the five koshas, sheaths of the levels of consciousness, sheaths of identities. Of these the exteriormost with which we commonly identify is the annamaya – that made of food, the body. For most people, yoga practices begin with this identity sheath. How can we benefit fully from the yoga asanas if we have not paid attention to that which constitutes this sheath – our food?
May the meals prepared thus nourish hearts and minds along with the palate and the body. May the healthy bodies and minds thus obtained be fit instruments for achieving the goal of spiritual liberation, moksha.
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