The Spiritual Aspect of the Vegetarian Diet
Everyone seeks rest and peace, but they remain as elusive as ever. All our efforts in this direction come to naught and prove fruitless. Why? Because we work on the wrong lines. Man lives on two planes, the outer and the Inner. First, we have to settle things outside to bring peace on the outer plane before we can enter within.
There are three factors that count a great deal in this connection:
- Right occupation
- Right conduct
- Right diet
The Greatest Purpose of human life is that one should know one’s self and know God, and all the rest is mere dissipation.
Sound mind in a sound body is a well-known aphorism. One has therefore to work for these before anything else. We have to keep both body and mind in a healthy condition before these can be used as instruments for Spiritual Advancement. For this, we have of necessity to resort to food. We cannot do without food for keeping the body and soul together. Our first and foremost problem then is food, for food conditions body as well as mind.
Right type of food, rightly earned, rightly taken helps a lot in this direction. One must, therefore, earn his daily bread by the sweat of his brow, as the saying goes, and should not depend on others’ earnings. We must for our livelihood engage in some honest and useful pursuit, may be physical or mental, but it must be free from all guile, hypocrisy, ill will and animosity, for karmic law is inexorable in its working.
Every action leads to reaction and thus the endless series rolls on interminably. Hence, the need for an honest living, howsoever poor it may be.
You cannot have riches by honest avocation. Riches grow by the groans of the poor and the downtrodden, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, and thrive on the lifeblood of our fellow beings.
We ought not, therefore, to run after rich food and dainty dishes, for these bring in their train much bloodsucking and are tainted with the untold miseries of the lowly and in the long run make us miserable as well.
All of us are being consumed in the invisible fires of hell, and yet know it not.
Food, as you know, is made for man and not man for food. We have to make the best use of food like all the other things of life.
One who is a slave of the palate can not do anything useful. By a righteous control of the palate, we can control our entire physical and mental systems.
A simple diet is more nourishing and wholesome and conducive to Spiritual Advancement than all the so-called delicacies which the modern culinary art provides. It will always give a comfortable feeling and serenity of mind, help you to live within your means however limited they may be, without extending your hand before others.
When I was about to retire after my long government service, I was asked by my Chief if I would like to have an extension, but I politely declined the offer saying,
I don’t want any extension as I know how to arrange my affairs within the limited amount of my pension.
Now, foods are of three kinds:
• SATVIK – Pure foods: milk, butter, cheese, rice, lentils, pulses, grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
• RAJSIK – Energising foods: peppers, spices, condiments, sour and bitter things.
• TAMSIK – Enervating foods: stale foods, eggs, meat, fish, fowl and wine, etc.
Out of the above, we should always prefer Satvik or pure foods. These do a lot of good. Again, even of these, we must partake a little below the saturation point of the appetite. When we get delicious foods, we are tempted to eat more than what is actually needed; and the extra food taken, instead of giving extra health and energy, proves baneful.
The food which is not digested properly and assimilated in the system causes colic pains and aches and in some cases even cholera, and one has to pay with one’s life itself.
Do not overload the motor of your stomach, else you fall an easy prey to nausea.
A surfeit of even what is good does prove harmful at times. A moderation in victuals and viands helps in the growth of vital powers in man.
In the Puranas, ancient Hindu scriptures, there is an allegory of the Food-god complaining to the Lord Vishnu, the Sustainer of the Universe, that people misused him a great deal. To this Lord Vishnu humorously replied,
Those who eat you too much, you must eat them up, for that is the only remedy.
Fresh air is the most essential part of our food. One must take long breaths, retain them a while and then exhale them out fully so as to cast out all the impurities of the body. Besides, one must drink a lot of pure water and take fruit juices to flush the system through and through to make one clean.
But avoid all types of hot and soft drinks, spirituous liquors, and intoxicants, for they render the mind and intellect morbid. Grains and fruits should form our normal and staple foods.
Man, as said before, must earn his livelihood for himself by all fair, legitimate, and honest means. Again, it is the moral duty of the housewife to cook the Satvik food with heart engrossed in sweet remembrance of the Lord. A food cooked like this, with the mind entrenched in the Beloved and the hands engaged in the work, becomes a manna from heaven and proves a blessing to those who partake of it.
The Great Master, Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji Maharaj, often used to give us an instance of an Indian peasant with his hands on the plough but singing paeans of soul-enthralling songs to his lady love. Such indeed should be our attitude in these things.
In the year 1921, I was working as Accounts Officer in the Sikh Unit No. 36. I got an orderly-cook in the field. I told him that I would not mind what his life was in the past, so long as he cooked my food while repeating the Holy Names of God on his lips and did not allow anyone to enter the kitchen and divert his mind in idle talk. The cook promised to do this and everything went well for two or three days, but on the fourth day as I sat for my meditation I felt that my mind was not steady. In the middle of the night, I called the cook and inquired of him if there was anyone else with him in the kitchen while he was preparing the food. At first he denied it, but ultimately confessed that a person had come and had engaged him in conversation and thus diverted him from the sweet remembrance of God. He was warned against this and thereafter he always followed my behests scrupulously.
This then is the best criteria to weigh one’s Spiritual Advancement and the purity of the foodstuff that one takes, both in procurement and in preparation.
Sheikh Saadi, a great mystic poet of Shiraz in Persia, always preached to divide the stomach into four compartments: Two for filling with a limited quantity of simple diet; one for pure and dear water; while reserving one for the Light of God.
We read of an incident in the life of Hazrat Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam. One day a physician came unto Him and offered Him his services for the sick and ailing in the Umat, the Prophet’s following. He remained there for about six months in idle indolence, as none of the Prophets followers fell ill he approached the Prophet and asked for his permission to leave as no one there felt the need of his services. Hazrat Mohammed, with a gentle smile on His lips, said goodbye to the physician, saying: So long as the congregation followed the instructions, there would be no chance of any of them falling sick, for they all lived by one panacea:
To always eat a little less than what one may, in his hunger, otherwise like to take; to lead a chaste life with honest earnings.
Baba Jaimal Singh Ji, a Great Master in His time, used to buy some loaves of bread or chapatis and would wrap them in a piece of cloth and hang them on a branch of a tree. He would devote Himself to meditation all the day long and when He would get up from His Samadhi, He would take one loaf of bread, soak it in water, and partake of it before going into meditation again.
Whole wheat bread is a complete food in itself and we deprive it of vital elements by removing the husk and by grinding it into white flour by power-driven mills and thus destroy the phosphorus and oil in the grains and make a terrible mess of it.
I very often witnessed with my own eyes Hazur Baba Sawan Singh’s food which was always very simple and consisted of just a few wholesome items in very small quantities.
All the Saints live on a very frugal repast. So did Shamas-i-Tabrez, a Muslim devout, and Swami Shiv Dayal Singh Ji, both of Whom lived by the principle:
Eat less and remain happy.
With a life of simple food and high thinking coupled with high morals and chaste conduct, one needs no tonics which glut the market in these days.
The luxurious food not only upsets the motor of the stomach but leads to dire consequences that at times prove very dangerous. Very often persons complain that they do not seem to progress on the Path, but little do they realise that it is due to faulty diet and wrong living. Prophet Mohammed, we read, lived mostly on barley-bread.
The Satvik food keeps the head and heart free from all types of impurities. We every day read that crime and corruption are on the increase and various types of special police squads are formed to meet this growing menace.
Eat, drink, and be merry
is the order of the day.
Everyone wishes to have a good time in travelling and in visiting places of enjoyment and in watching movies, etc., and all beyond his scanty means. But how to get more money? Nothing but Aladdin’s wonderful lamp can help you to it. An honest man can hardly keep his body and soul together.
But very few can escape the temptations and snares of the glittering world. Most of us live a lustful existence: some suffering from the lust of eyes, others of ears, and still others of various lusts of the flesh.
We have no consideration for the wives, daughters, and sisters of others and follow them blindly.
The world is in the grip of a fast-growing retrogression.
A man is known by the company he keeps.
If you want to know how your children are growing, have an eye on their companions and from them you can easily judge your children.
We have all been created by God. All of us are embodied souls. Soul is of the same essence as that of God and God is in all of us and we should, therefore, love one another.
That is what St Paul taught all His life.
It is written in the Koran:
O human beings, do good, be good to your parents, relatives, orphans, the needy and the poor, your neighbours, and your fellow beings, such a life pleases Allah. Allah is within each one of us, the haughty one who is selfish is not cared for by God.
A Master Saint always enjoins:
- Love and reverence for all creation from highest to the lowest.
- Observance of non-violence even in the depths of the heart.
- Non-injury to one’s feelings by thoughts, words, symbols, and by deed.
- Kindly treatment towards all.
- Cheery temperament.
- Faith in the innate goodness in man.
- Avoidance from giving bad names to others.
- Non-indulgence in slanderous and amorous talks and idle pursuits.
- Avoid accusations, for they boomerang with greater intensity.
If one is keen for God-realisation then one must not hurt anyone’s feelings, for heart is the seat of God. Have you ever realised that a mango seed when embedded gathers all the sweetness from the soil, while a pepper seed attracts all the bitterness in it? As a man thinks, so he becomes. Nothing is good or bad in the world, but our thinking makes it so. We, like the one or the other of the seeds, draw upon impulses from the atmosphere as suits our own mental make-up.
We have in Mahabharata, the great epic poem of ancient India, that outer signs of a chaste and clean life are good deeds.
Just as a tree is known by the fruit it bears, so is a man by what he does.
This is a great teaching of a great value. It helps a man to flourish and receive a good name both here and hereafter. He will be the friend of all creatures for he resolves not to hurt or kill any of them, not even the humble bee nor the lowly ant. Such a person will surely know the Truth one day.
Prince Dhritrashtra, the son of Kuru the mighty king of Bharat, once hurled a rebuke on Gandiva, the great bow of Arjuna, the Pandav Prince. Arjuna got angry and, touched to the quick, put his arrow on the Gandiva. Lord Krishna, who happened to be near at hand, asked Arjuna what he was doing. Arjuna replied that he, as a Kshatriya prince, had taken a vow
that if anyone would say a word against my mighty bow, I would not spare him.
Lord Krishna said,
O Arjuna, could you tell me the fruit of Dharma or Righteousness. Is it pain or pleasure?
that Dharma or Righteousness consisted only in the resultant love and harmony.
So one must first think of the result before doing or even contemplating any deed. It will certainly prolong one’s span of life.
A person with a virtuous life will never entertain any evil idea against any person and will never lose his temper and get excited. Such a one gets longevity in life.
The life process is calculated by means of breaths. Normally, breathing is going on very rhythmically-some ten to twelve per minute. But when a person is in a paroxysm of rage and is excited, he takes twenty to twenty-three breaths in a minute. Thus there is a veritable truth hidden in the saying that good deeds or virtues prolong life, while evil deeds or vices shorten the span of one’s life.
you may even do meritorious deeds, but if you do not live a good moral life you are nowhere.
Try to live by the precept of the Master and then alone your words can have weight with your friends. You cannot preach of chastity with lust in your heart and a leer in your eyes. You cannot dupe people for any length of time. Sooner or later the cat will be out of the bag.
The public cannot trust you blindly for long and take you at your face value. Excuse me, if I were to question as to why societies and preachers very often get a bad name: it is because they do not live by the teachings they preach to others. A Godly Person is possessed with a right mind and right heart.
He has both within and without a perfect spring of peace. His dealings are fair, open, and unquestionable. Truth springs from the very bottom of His heart. The audience is spellbound and gets a feeling of comfort by hearing Him, as His utterances are drenched from the cooling effect of the loving and chaste thoughts within Him and everyone feels satisfied. A one among many, He stands as a tower of strength, because of the purity of His heart.
Lord Tennyson, a great poet, speaking of Sir Galahad, one of the Knights of the Round Table, puts in his mouth the words:
My strength is like the strength of ten because my heart is pure.
It is said that out of the abundance of heart a man speaks. On the other hand, if a person is selfish and mischievous, he cuts with his own axe the tree of his life on which he sits with complacency. Everyone will be afraid of him and live in terror of him. People dread even to see his face and consider him an unlucky anathema.
A righteous person on the other hand has eyes on his weaknesses and through self-introspection weeds them out one by one.
Swami Shiv Dayal Singh Ji advises that one should pick up his failures one by one and cast them out.
All other Saints have said this thing in the same strain:
- Love thy neighbour as thyself
- Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you.
The whole of the religious philosophy hangs by these two cardinal principles. If one puts before him these two golden rules, his life will surely be transformed. The person who has no element of sympathy in his heart nor a human touch, is not fit to be called even a man and he cannot know God. He who treats his enemies lovingly will disarm them in no time.
Insofar as you can, try to do no injury to anyone. Be good to all and you will be at peace with yourself and be a radiating centre of loving grace around you. The prayers of others to whom you may have done good will help you.
The good thoughts of others will swarm around you with a benediction. The very idea of doing good will first affect you and draw all good vibrations from the surrounding atmosphere.
In a nutshell, we have just laid a Panch Shila or five fundamental truths on which we can build the wonderful mansion of Spirituality.
- Non-violence in thought, word, and deed.
- Love for all and hatred for none, irrespective of position, wealth, or learning.
- Selfless service – physical and financial – and a willing share in the joys and sorrows of others.
The Living Master cuts asunder the Gordian knot of an initiate. The disciple of the Master refrains from sins. Those who will follow the above will enrich their lives here and hereafter.
They will control their mind and outgoing faculties by coming in contact with the Living Word of God through the Living Master Saint.