Role of Diet
Diet naturally plays a major role in the problem of life.
The Law of Karma is nature’s unseen method of keeping the world in its iron grip so as to keep it peopled and going. It, therefore, becomes all the more necessary that man should guard against contracting eating habits thoughtlessly, heedlessly, and indiscriminately. As we cannot do without food, we must select at least such articles of diet as may prove the least harmful in our Spiritual Pursuit. Our diet should not contract for us unnecessary karmic debts which it may be possible to avoid by a little care. With this end in view, let us study nature.
According to the moral, social, and Spiritual Codes of conduct, one must not interfere with the lives of any animal in God’s creation. In India, this standard of living is enunciated as Ahimsa or non-injury to all living creatures. This led to the vegetarian diet as contradistinguished from the non-vegetarian diet. As we think deeply over the natural and unnatural phases of diet, we come to a better understanding of the problem of gunas or the innate propensities, natural inclinations and latent tendencies that are inborn in all sentient beings.
Diet must be classified into grains, cereals, vegetables and fruit which are classed as Satvic or Satoguni diet that is pure and produces serenity and equipoise, befitting sages and seers.
Satvik, or pure diet of mool – edible roots like radish, turnips etc. –, kand – potatoes –, phal – fruit – and cow’s milk etc., prolongs life and cures a number of diseases and ailments. Its utility has come to be realised even by the medical science. Now-a-days many medicines are prepared from herbs, fruit and grains and these have been found to be very efficacious. The Satvik foods and simple living are conducive to the development of highest culture or civilisation. We must remember that food is made for man and not man for food. Eat to live and not live to eat, should be our maxim in life. By following this course, we create receptivity for higher things in life, ethical and spiritual, leading gradually to self-knowledge and God-Knowledge.
Rajsik or energy producing diet includes besides vegetarian foods, products like milk, cream, butter and ghee, etc., from animals other than cows, if taken in moderation. In ancient India, the use of milk was restricted mainly to the princely order – fighting classes. The limited use of milk was also made by rishis in ancient times, who lived in comparative isolation, all by themselves, and devoted most of their time to meditation in seclusion and they left a lot of milk for the use and growth of the animal progeny.
Tamsik or stupefying diet consists of meat and liquors, garlic, etc., or in fact any other diet, natural or unnatural, stale or fresh. Those who resort to free and uncontrolled eating live to eat and not eat to live. Their aim in life is hedonistic and their slogan is eat, drink and be merry. They indulge headlong in what they call the sweet pleasures of life. When blessed with small powers of concentration, they direct all their energies, mental and physical, towards glory of the little self in them, the egoistic mind. Man is pleased to term this course of action as higher reaction of civilisation. This sort of living is strictly prohibited, by the Masters of the Highest Order, to those seeking the knowledge of the spirit in man and the final liberation of the soul from the shackles of mind and matter.
Man has taken his lessons in diet from the beasts of the jungle and acts like a wild creature. He delights in taking the flesh not only of the harmless creatures like kine and goats, deer and sheep, the innocent fowls of the air and fish of the water, but actually partakes of the human flesh and the human blood to satisfy his insatiate hunger for gold and riches. He has not yet finished his course of self-aggrandisement which he proudly calls progress. He might well ponder over the basic principles on which the Masters advise and prescribe vegetable diet. Vegetables, too, contain life in a latent form, as has now been proved by scientists all the world over. Still, as we have to play our part in this panorama of life on the stage of the world and have therefore to maintain ourselves, to keep body and soul together, we have to depend on produce of the soil.
Now let us come to the point. In the entire creation, the law of nature holds that life depends on life. Like creatures in other grades of creation, man also maintains himself by eating something containing life. Outwardly it appears that with regard to contracting karmas, man is in the same boat with other creatures in the lower strata of life, animals, reptiles, and the like.
Nature has one other propelling wheel working in this material world; the law of Evolution. It provides that all living beings pass from one position to another. As they travel from one order of creation to the next higher, each being has a separate value from the lower one. The basis of determining the face value as well as the intrinsic value is matter and intellect; the more valuable the constituents of matter present in a being in prominent form, the more the intellect and more the value of the being. Saints apply this law in the solution of the problem of diet for man. Whether he heeds it or not, Saints place this law before man, so that he may reform his diet, and avoid, as much as possible, a heavy load of karmic chains in which he is inextricably held fast.
Each kind of diet has its own inherent effect on man, detrimental to the acquisition of the Highest Aim: self-knowledge and God-Knowledge. This law coincides with what man generally accepts although he is unaware of the reason for his actions. Comparing the following data in everyday life will confirm, to man’s surprise, that what he takes as acceptable in social living remains in total agreement with the law of nature here explained.
Man’s body, with all the five tatwas – or creative and component elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether – in full activity is valued the most. This is why he tops the list of beings in the creation and is considered next to God – his Creator. Man’s killing of fellow-creatures is considered as the most heinous of crimes, which merits capital punishment or the death penalty. Next value is placed on quadrupeds and beasts having four tatwas in active operation in them, the fifth, ether, being almost absent or forming a negligible portion. The wanton killing of another’s animal, therefore, entails a penalty equivalent to the price of the animal in question. Then comes the place of birds, with three active elements in them, viz., water, fire and air and hence are considered of a nominal value. Lesser still is the value placed on creatures who have two elements active – viz., earth and fire – and the other three existing in a dormant or latent form, as in reptiles, worms and insects, which are killed and trampled without the least compunction as no penalty attaches in their case. Least value is placed on roots, vegetables, and fruits in which the element of water alone is active and predominates while the remaining four elements are altogether in a dormant state. Thus, karmically considered, vegetarian and fruitarian diet, in fact, constitutes the least pain-producing diet, and man by partaking of these, contracts the least karmic debt.
Now let us see what the Essene Gospel of St John says in this context:
But they (the disciples) answered Him:
Whither should we go, Master, for with You are the words of Eternal Life? Tell us, what are the sins we must shun, that we may never more see disease?
Be it so according to your faith,
and He sat down among them, saying:
It was said to them of old time, ‘Honor thy Heavenly Father and thy earthly mother, and do their commandments, that thy days may be long upon the earth.’ And next afterwards was given this commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ for life is given to all by God, and that which God has given, let not man take away, for I tell you truly, from one Mother proceeds all that lives upon the earth. Therefore, he who kills, kills his brother. And from him will the Earthly Mother turn away, and will pluck from him her quickening breasts. And he will be shunned by her angels, and Satan will have his dwelling in his body. And the flesh of slain beasts in his body will become his own tomb. For I tell you truly, he who kills, kills himself, and who so eats the flesh of slain beasts, eats of the body of death […] And their death will become his death […] For the wages of sin is death. Kill not, neither eat the flesh of your innocent prey, lest you become the slaves of Satan. For that is the path of suffering, and it leads unto death. But do the will of God that His angels may serve you on the way of life.
Obey, therefore, the words of God:
Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat; and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is breath of life, I give every green herb for meat.
Also the milk of everything that moveth and that liveth upon each shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given unto them, so I give their milk unto you. But flesh, and the blood which quickens it, shall ye not eat […].
Then another (disciple) said,
Moses, the greatest in Israel, suffered our forefathers to eat the flesh of clean beasts, and forbade the flesh of unclean beasts. Why, therefore, do You forbid us the flesh of all beasts? Which law comes from God? That of Moses or Your law?
And Jesus continued,
God commanded your forefathers: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ But their heart was hardened and they killed. Then Moses desired that at least they should not kill men, and he suffered them to kill beasts. And then the heart of your forefathers was hardened yet more, and they killed men and beasts likewise. But I say to you: Kill neither men, nor beasts, nor yet the food which goes into your mouth. For if you eat living food, the same will quicken you, but if you kill your food, the dead food will kill you also. For life comes only from life, and death comes always from death. For everything which kills your food, kills your bodies also. And everything which kills your bodies kills your souls also. And your bodies become what your food is, even as your spirits, likewise, become what your thoughts are […].
Source: Extract from ‘The Wheel of Life – Appendix I / (i) Ahar or Diet,’ by Kirpal Singh, 1894 –1974.
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