Foods

Posted: 28/06/2013 in Routine

When nourishment is pure, nature is pure. When nature is pure, memory becomes firm. When memory remains firm, there is release from all knots of the heart.


Examining Your Total Diet

Each day that we live, we are striving for the middle path, the balanced life, the existence which finds its strength beyond joy and sorrow, beyond pleasure and pain, beyond light and darkness. But in order to arrive at this state of contemplative awareness, we must begin at the beginning, and this week our study is diet: physical, mental and emotional foods. According to the ancient science of ayurveda, nature is a primordial force of life composed in three modes, qualities or principles of manifestation called gunas, meaning “strands” or “qualities.” The three gunas are: sattva, “beingness;” rajas, “dynamism;” and tamas, “darkness.” Sattva is tranquil energy, rajas is active energy and tamas is energy that is inert. The nature of sattva is quiescent, rarefied, translucent, pervasive. The nature of rajas is movement, action, emotion. The nature of tamas is inertia, denseness, contraction, resistance and dissolution. The tamasic tendency is descending, odic and instinctive. The rajasic tendency is expanding, actinodic, intellectual. The sattvic tendency is ascending, actinic, superconscious. The three gunas are not separate entities, but varied dimensions or frequencies of the single, essential life force.

The food we eat has one or more of these qualities of energy and affects our mind, body and emotions accordingly. Hence, what we eat is important. Sattvic food is especially good for a contemplative life.

Tamasic foods include heavy meats, and foods that are spoiled, treated, processed or refined to the point where the natural values are no longer present. Tamasic foods make the mind dull; they tend to build up the basic odic energies of the body and the instinctive subconscious mind. Tamasic foods also imbue the astral body with heavy, odic force.

Rajasic foods include hot or spicy foods, spices and stimulants. These increase the odic heat of the physical and astral bodies and stimulate physical and mental activity. Sattvic foods include whole grains and legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables that grow above the ground. These foods help refine the astral and physical bodies, allowing the actinic, superconscious flow to permeate and invigorate the entire being.

People who are unfolding on the yoga path manifest the sattvic nature. Their path is one of peace and serenity. The rajasic nature is restless and manifests itself in physical and intellectual activities. It is predominant in the spirit of nationalism, sports and business competition, law enforcement and armed forces and other forms of aggressive activity. The tamasic nature is dull, fearful and heavy. It is the instinctive mind in its negative state and leads to laziness, habitual living, physical and mental inertia. As it is by cultivating the rajasic nature that tamas is overcome, so it is by evolving into the pure sattvic nature that the continual ramification of rajas is transcended. It is important to maintain a balance of our several natures, but to attain toward the expression of the rajasic and sattvic natures in as great a degree as possible.

As you examine a menu closely, you will find that you may allow your inner guidance to tell you what is most appropriate to eat. The desire body of the conscious mind may want one type of food, but the inner body of the subsuperconscious may realize another is better for you. It is up to you to make the decision that will allow a creative balance in your diet. This awakens the inner willpower, that strength from within that gives the capacity for discrimination.


Moderation Is The Keynote

I call our diet “nutrition for meditation.” We watch what we eat. Each type of food taken into the body tends to make us aware in one or another area of the nerve system. When we eat gross food, we become aware in the gross area of the nerve system, and less aware in the refined area of the nerve system. When we eat refined foods, such as fruit and vegetables that grow above the ground and absorb sunlight, this then makes us aware in the refined areas of the nerve system. When we are aware in the gross areas of the nerve system, over time the cells of the physical body begin to reflect this and cause the body to become gross in appearance. When we are aware in the refined areas of the inner nerve system predominantly — the psychic nerve system, the superconscious nerve system — the cells of the body also respond and we begin to look more refined. Therefore, ayurvedic nutrition for meditation and the practice of hatha yoga asanas are an aid in refining the physical body by allowing awareness to travel through the perceptive areas of the nerve system that are inner, refined and blissful.

However, we do not want to put too much emphasis on the consciousness of food, lest our entire nature become wrapped up in our stomach, and our subconscious and its astral body constantly involved in eating. To allow this would not only be detrimental to our own diet, but it would be an unnecessary disturbance as well to those about us, since we would be held in a strange emotional mold.

In deciding what foods you will buy and eat, listen to the voice of your intuition, which knows best what your current physical body needs are. It is possible that your forces might become too sattvic, too delicately refined, for the kind of activity and responsibilities you are engaged in. If this is the case, perhaps you should have a little rajasic food for balance. Likewise, you may become overstimulated from time to time through eating spicy foods, or foods with too high a concentration of sugar. In this case, you may need more fruits in your diet to raise the vibratory rate of your physical and astral bodies. Should your inner consciousness tell you that you are too rajasic, refrain from eating tamasic foods, those with lower rates of vibration. Eat more of the foods that grow naturally above the ground.

Of course, we have an emotional diet as well. Emotion is a condition or color of the mind. Emotions will always be with us as long as we have a physical body, but there is a difference between having emotion and being emotional. We have to balance our emotional activity. Our entertainment, our cultural pursuits, our social activities should be balanced and blended with everything else that we are doing. It would be a good idea to plan an entire month’s emotional diet along with your physical diet. Decide ahead of time what music you wish to hear, what plays, movies or concerts to attend. Think of your reading, the people you plan to be with, the traveling that may be involved. Make a list of those things which you conceive to be beneficial to your emotional diet, but proceed along the middle path, not too much to one side, not too much to the other. Look for a balanced emotional color in your life.


Choosing Your Mental Diet

Have you ever given thought to the diet of your mind? Of course, our physical diet and our emotional diet are also diets of the mind, because they affect our consciousness. But let’s now consider the intellectual processes. How much information, how many facts is it necessary and healthy for us to ingest in a single day? It’s a good idea for a devotee to budget his reading, to choose and discriminate what he wants to make a part of himself through the process of mental digestion. We have to discriminate to the nth degree whether or not we will have the time and the capacity to digest everything that we desire to place in our minds. For instance, quickly reading an article in a newspaper might stir your mind and emotions. If it is not properly digested, it could conceivably upset your whole day. In the realm of intellect, the commonsense rule “Don’t eat when you are already full” also applies.

You may read a book of philosophy, and if you have time to digest it, well and good, but many people don’t and suffer from philosophical indigestion. They have read so many things and only digested a small part of what has passed through the window of the mind. Then again, it is one thing to digest something, and it is still another to assimilate it and make it a part of you, for when it becomes fully a part of you, you have a hunger and room for something more.

Many people come to lectures and then tune themselves out and simply benefit from the vibration created by the teacher and others in the room. They tune themselves out so that what is said is not absorbed consciously, but rather subconsciously. This is a good method for those who are still digesting material received from previous lectures. Another practice that makes for a very good mental indigestion pill is that of opening a spiritual book and allowing your eye to fall upon a random sentence on the page. Often you will find it will accent ideas that you are currently concerned with.

Just as you would participate in a seminar, gaining from the interpersonal relationships, so can you learn from the intrapersonal relationship established between your perceptive state of mind and the conscious and subconscious states of mind. When you awaken to the point where your inner mind teaches your personality, you are involving yourself in the “innerversity” of your own being. But this will not occur until you have balanced your physical and emotional bodies to the point where they are functioning at a slightly higher rate of vibration.

Add to your contemplative lifestyle a hobby or craft. Working creatively with your hands, taking physical substance and turning it into something different, new and beautiful is important in remolding the subconscious mind. It is also symbolic. You are remolding something on the physical plane and by doing so educating yourself in the process of changing the appearance of a physical structure, thus making it easier to change the more subtle mental and emotional structures within your own subconscious mind. Energy, willpower and concentrated awareness are needed for both types of accomplishments — hard work, concentration and concerted effort to produce an effective and useful change in either the physical substance or the mental substance.


Balance and Discrimination

Observe your life objectively for a minute and decide how much of a working balance actually exists between your physical, emotional, mental and actinic aspects. Know that you have the power to begin to readjust this balance if you find you are taking in too much “food” at one time or another. Apply the concept of diet to all the areas of your life. Every experience that we ingest is going to produce its own reaction. In surveying our own internal balance of tamasic, rajasic and sattvic tendencies, we need to apply the power of discrimination so that everything we take into our mind and body can be easily and harmoniously digested and assimilated. Life becomes more beautiful in this way, and we become the master of our forces, because we have given the guiding power of our lives to actinic will. But no diet is of much value to anyone unless it can be consistently applied through the power of decision.

Life becomes overly complicated, a series of self-created and unnecessary involvements, when we live too much in the tamasic and rajasic natures. It is necessary to slow down the activity of everyday life by entering into sattvic awareness as a matter of practice. Life is tiring and overactive in the conscious, physical plane when it is not balanced and tempered by the sattvic nature. The greater the sattvic activity, the greater the activity of the spiritual being that man is.

Here is an internal concentration exercise. Allow the activity of your brain to relax. Let the muscles of your body relax. Let your eyes relax and easily shut. Visualize in your mind’s eye a menu with three panels. On the left panel of the menu are all the prepared and cooked foods of the tamasic nature, which are instinctive, heavy and often indigestible. These are the foods which would satisfy the purely instinctive man. In the middle panel are the rajasic foods, such as spices, garlic and onions, which provide physical energy and stimulation. On the right panel of the menu are the sattvic foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, which calm, balance and prepare the body to hold the actinic vibration of a higher consciousness. Let’s examine the three parts of this menu and see where our consciousness is guided from within.

Let us visualize another menu now — which is the menu of our emotional diet. On the left panel are the instinctive, sensual pleasures of the moment and the more raucous forms of entertainment. On the middle panel are the routine emotional experiences of everyday life with family, friends and work associates. On the right panel are high cultural and artistic expressions. Fill in your own list of specifics and see where your consciousness leads you.

Visualize now another menu in three panels. On the left side of this menu are books, magazines, newspapers or websites that lead us into our tamasic, instinctive nature, be they novels, stories, articles or Hollywood exposes. On the middle panel are those intellectual studies, items of current interests and news which stimulate our rajasic mind and therefore require the close use of discrimination. At certain times, some of these readings might offer just the required understanding and intellectual clarity to elucidate important areas of your conscious-mind existence.

On the right side of this menu are the sattvic writings and studies, the scriptures of East and West, the great philosophical ideas of Socrates or Emerson, the dissertations of Plotinus or Kant, the sayings of Lao-Tzu and Confucius, Tiruvalluvar or the Upanishads, Adi Sankara, Ramakrishna or Gibran. Compose your own list and then balance out your mental diet by studying this menu from your inner consciousness.


Diet and Consciousness

It is wise to have a free mind, a clear, serene and relaxed attitude toward life before partaking of food. That is why people on the inner path traditionally meditate for a moment, chant a mantra or say a prayer before a meal. A simple practice is to intone “Aum.” This harmonizes the inner bodies with the external bodies and frees awareness from entangled areas. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot chant Aum aloud, then chant it mentally. Take several seconds before you begin your meal to recenter yourself in this way. You will find that your food profits you very well. There are many traditional Hindu ayurvedic guidelines for eating. A few rules that we have found especially important include giving thanks in a sacred prayer before meals; eating in a settled atmosphere, never when upset, always sitting down and only when hungry; avoiding ice-cold food and drink; not talking while chewing; eating at a moderate pace and never between meals; sipping warm water with meals; eating freshly cooked foods whenever possible; minimizing raw vegetables; avoiding white flour and refined sugar; not cooking with honey; drinking milk separately from meals; including a balance of protein and carbohydrates in all meals; cooking with ghee or olive oil only; experiencing all six tastes at least at the main meal (sweet, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter and salty); not overeating, leaving one-third to one-quarter of the stomach empty to aid digestion; and sitting quietly for a few minutes after meals. I might add that ginger root is a magical potion. Our ayurvedic doctor has taught us, and experience confirms, that fresh ginger can settle your stomach, relieve a headache, help you sleep if you are restless and keep the agni, fires of digestion, strong, especially while traveling. Grate two inches of fresh ginger, then hold the mash in your hand, add slowly an ounce of warm water and squeeze the juice into a glass. Repeat three times. Drink this extract fifteen or twenty minutes before meals. It is also quite necessary to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Inadequate water intake results in dehydration, giving rise to many common ailments.

Let us realize this law in our consciousness: we don’t want to place anything into our physical, emotional or mental being that cannot be digested, assimilated and used to the best advantage in giving birth to our highest consciousness. Let every second be a second of discrimination. Let every minute be a minute of realization. Let every hour be an hour of fulfillment. Let every day be a day of blessing, and every week a week of joy. Then, in a month’s time, look at the foundation that you have laid for those who will follow you. Let the past fade into the dream that it is. It is only experience, to be understood as such in the “now.” In keeping life simple through our powers of discrimination, we give our greatest gift to community, loved ones, country and the world, because we are beginning to vibrate in the superconscious realms of the mind. Your very presence is a blessing when you live in the eternal now, in full command of your life’s diet through the process of discrimination.


Restraining Television

Television provides so much of the mental diet of so many people today that it deserves special attention, lest it become a deterrent to a balanced, contemplative life. Television at its best is the extension of storytelling. We used to sit around and tell stories. The best storyteller, who could paint pictures in people’s minds, was the most popular person in town. Television is also the extension of the little theater, and as soon as it became popular, the little theater groups all over the country became unemployed. It is the extension of the stand-up comedian, of vaudeville, drama, opera, ballet, all of which have suffered since television has become a popular mode of entertainment. In every country, at every point in time, humans have sat down and been entertained, and entertainers have stood up and entertained them.

Today, television has become an instrument to convey knowledge and bring the world together, set new standards of living, language, styles of dress and hair, ways of walking, ways of standing, attitudes about people, ethics, morality, political systems, religions and all sorts of other things, from ecology to pornography. This vast facility unifies the thinking — and thus the actions — of the peoples of the world. Today, at the flick of a finger with the magic wand, one can change the mental flow and emotional experience of everyone watching for the entire evening.

Saivites know that our karmas are forces we send out from ourselves — creative forces, preserving forces, destroying forces, and a mixture of either two or the three — and they usually come back to us through other people or groups of people. Television has afforded us the ability to work through our karmas more quickly than we could in the agricultural age. On TV, the “other people” who play our past experiences back to us, for us to understand in hindsight, are actors and actresses, newscasters and the people in the news they broadcast. Saivites know nothing can happen, physically, mentally or emotionally, but that it is seeded in our prarabdha karmas, the action-reaction patterns brought with us to this birth. Therefore, on the positive side, we look at television as a tool for karmic cleansing.

Saivites know that the object of life is to go through our experiences joyously and kindly, always forgiving and compassionately understanding, thus avoiding making unseemly kriyamana karmas in the current life which, if enough were accumulated and added to the karmas we did not bring into this life, would bring us back into another birth, and the process would start all over again. The great boon that television has given humanity, which is especially appreciated by Saivites, is that we can soften our prarabdha karmas very quickly by analyzing, forgiving and compassionately understanding the happenings on the screen, as our past is portrayed before us, and as we work with our nerve system, which laughs and cries, resents, reacts to and avoids experiences on the TV.

Television can be very entertaining and helpful, or it can be insidiously detrimental, depending on how it is used. Therefore, fortify your mind with a thorough understanding of what you are watching. Television works on the subconscious mind. This is an area of the mind which we are not usually conscious of when it is functioning, but it is functioning nevertheless, constantly, twenty-four hours a day. Television works strongly on the subconscious minds of children. If they watch TV for long periods of time, they begin to think exactly as the programmers want them to think. Responsible parents have to choose just what goes into their children’s minds, as well as into their own minds. It is advisable to prerecord the shows you wish to watch, avoiding sexual scenes, obscene language and excessive violence; and even then be ready to fast-forward through inappropriate scenes that are found today even on PG-rated programs.
Insights from Astrology

Astrology explores the stars and planets as they move in the heavens and their subtle effects on our physical, mental and emotional condition, mapping the ebb and flow of our karma. Astrology plays a very important part in every Hindu’s life. An established family is not complete without their master of jyotisha. Guided by the stars from birth to death, devout Hindus choose a shubha muhurta, auspicious time, for every important experience of life. Astrology has been computerized through the efforts of brilliant jyotisha shastris of both the East and West. In our ashrama, we use jyotisha quite a lot to determine the best times to travel, meditate, begin new projects or just rest and let a harsh time pass. Experience assures us that astrology is a reliable tool for maintaining a balanced life and flowing with the forces of nature.

We take a metaphysical approach to the “good” or “bad” news or predictions that astrology brings from time to time. When unfavorable times arise which have to be lived through, as they all too frequently do, we do not carp or cringe, but look at these as most excellent periods for meditation and sadhana rather than worldly activities. Just the reverse is true for the positive periods. However, spiritual progress can be made during both kinds of periods. Both negative and positive times are, in fact, positive when used wisely. A competent jyotisha shastri is of help in forecasting the future, as to when propitious times will come along when advancements can be made. A positive mental attitude should be held during all the ups and downs that are predicted to happen. Be as the traveler in a 747 jet, flying high over the cities, rather than a pedestrian wandering the streets below.

For raising offspring, an astrological forecast can be of the utmost help. A baby predicted to have a fiery temper should be raised to always be kind and considerate of others’ feelings, taught to never argue with others. Of course, good examples must be set early on by parents. This will soften the inclination toward temper tantrums. Fighting the child’s natural impulses will just amplify them. A child of an independent nature should be taught early on to care for himself in all respects so that in the life ahead he will benefit society and bring honor to the family. So much can be gained by reading the chart when approached with the attitude that all that is in it is helpful and necessary to know, even if it seems to be bad news. Difficulties need not be bad news if they are approached as opportunities to grow in facing them.

We have for years in our monasteries lived by the Hindu calendar and system of time divisions known as Lahiri Ayanamsha Panchanga. All purnima, amavasya and ashtami days (full moon, new moon and the eighth day of the fortnight) are days of retreat. They are our weekends. To be in harmony with the universe, at least our little galaxy, it is important to observe these days for happy, healthy, productive living.

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Comments
  1. darion says:

    Physical = Sharirika
    Mental = Manasika
    Emotional = Ragatmaka
    Foods = Ahara

  2. stefania says:

    Nice job, it’s a great post. The info is good to know!

  3. greta says:

    There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  4. kshal says:

    hi all, sorry for the late reply. thanks for the comments. Greta, to certain extent i do agree on this

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