Food, the heart and the mind
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said : - “It is essential to observe the principle of moderation in food habits, work and sleep. The Buddha, preached the same principle of moderation to his disciples. "Be always moderate, never indulge in excess," proclaimed the Buddha. In fact, moderation is the royal road to happiness.
The modern man, who flouts the principle of moderation in every aspect of life, endangers his health and well-being. The food consumed by man should be proper, pure and wholesome. But nowadays people eat whatever they get and wherever they get it, and thereby spoil their health. Food plays a major role in the preservation of health. Care should be taken to see that the food consumed does not have much fat content, for the fats consumed in large quantity are detrimental not only to one's physical health but also to one's mental health. Meat and alcoholic drinks take a heavy toll on man's health, causing many a disease in him.
Who is a true vegeterian?
The true vegetarian, according to Rev. Dada J P Vaswani is one who is is filled through and through with reverence for life. He reveres life as a Gift of God which no man can bestow and, therefore, may no destroy. Such a person has the following marks:
His heart is a flowing river of compassion and love. The basis of true compassion is a feeling of unity, of oneness with all creatures that have the breath of life.
The true vegetarian is a man of self-discipline. So many there be who do not eat flesh but, alas! they easily succumb to the flesh. They cannot resist the temptations of the flesh. They are soft: they have not put out the fire of passion. The true vegetarian is unswayed by passion, unruffled by anger, unmoved by greed of gold.
The true vegetarian is a man of humility. Deep in his heart he knows that he is not free from the sin of killing. For to breathe is to kill the germs that are in the air around us. To talk is to kill: to walk is to kill. Indeed, to live is to kill.
Living in such a world, the true vegetarian becomes a worshipper, a man of prayer. He sees cruelty all around him. How many hearts can he touch? How many lives can he save? And so he turns to Him who is the One Saviour of all. The true vegetarian prays alike for the killer and the killed: and he prays that he may become an instrument of God's love in this world of agony and pain.
The true vegetarian is a man of indomitable faith. He believes profoundly that life is entirely a gift of God. in periods of crisis, in times of famine and flood, his mind wavers not! He prefers starvation to eating fish or flesh. On his sick-bed he is not lured into eating impure food. To the Sufi dervish, Abu Ala Maeera, his physician said: "O man of God! why will you not live longer and bless this earth? Eat this chicken soup I have brought for you and see how quickly health and strength return to your feeble body." The dervish laughed a hearty laugh and said: "Must you offer me the soup of a weak, defenceless creature who cannot strike in return? It is not worthy of you! Bring me the soup of a lion's cub!”
Purity of the mind : Role of the senses
Mental purity is related to purity of food
Man commits many offences, knowingly or unknowingly, not only in this life, but also in previous lives. The imprint of these actions is carried by the Chitta (the associative memory) over many lives. When the mirror of the mind is soiled by these relics, the mind cannot perceive anything in its true state. This is the reason why man is unable to recognise his own true nature. Hence, it is necessary to cleanse the mirror of impurities on it. How is this to be done? By regulating one's food and recreational habits. It is important to ensure that the food that is eaten is obtained by righteous means. Many of the ills which men suffer today are due to the fact that the things they consume have been got by unrighteous means.
Hence, to purify the mind the first prerequisite is pure food. But it is not always possible to ensure such purity in every respect at all times. To get over this difficulty, the way out is to make an offering of the food to the Divine and regard it as a gift from God. To the question, "Who is God?" the answer is given in the Gita sloka which declares that the Lord dwells in everyone as Vaisvanara and digests the food that is consumed. When before eating, the food is offered to God, it becomes Prasada (a gift from God). All the impurities in the food are thereby removed. This helps the process of cleansing the mind. This practice has to be kept up continuously. Vikshepa is a defect in the mind caused by wavering and lack of steadiness. Arjuna confesses that he is unable to control the mind, which is restless and ever-changing like the wind. Various practices like meditation, concentration and prayer have been recommended for steadying the mind. Students are not trying to cleanse their minds by the proper methods. Instead they are polluting their minds in all possible ways. It is only when you have the body, the senses and the mind under your control, that you will be master of yourself.
Forms of food
THE mind of man is not an organ that can be identified physiologically; it cannot be touched or operated on by doctors or surgeons. It is an intangible bundle of resolutions and hesitations; of wishes and wants; to pros and cons. It has as warp and woof of the wishes that man entertains with reference to outward objects and sensations. It easily rushes out after external pleasures and assumes the shapes of the things it seeks. It can also be turned back into searching for inner contentment and inner joy. That is why the mind is said to be the instrument for both bondage and liberation. Allow the senses to lead it outward; it binds. Allow the intelligence to prevail upon it to look inward for bliss; it liberates. The mind is the puppet of the food that is consumed by man. It is prompted one way or the other by the subtle pull of the food it is fed on. The quality of the food determines the direction of the desire that diverts the mental flow. That is why in the Geetha as well as in all scriptural texts, saathwik (pure) food is recommended for the upward seeking individual. Mind means desire, sankalpa (resolve), something sought for. When the Formless desired Form, the Universe arose; so, mind is the creative principle, the maaya (illusion), that desired the very first desire, to be many. When it is now fed on rajas---passion and emotion, activity and adventure---it gallops into the world with the plunge of desire! It brings man deeper into the morass. When it is fed on thaamasik (impure) food, which dulls, inebriates, blunts reason, and induces sloth, the mind is callous, inert and useless for uplifting man.
The three types of 'food' eaten by man
Saathwik food, according to some, consists in milk and fruits. But, it is much more; it; may not even be these. For, the calories that one takes in through the mouth are but a small part of the intake of man. The intake by the senses are part of the food that builds the individual. The sounds heard, the sights seen, the tactile impressions sought or suffered, the air breathed, the environment that presses for attention, appreciation and adoption---all these are 'food.' They have considerable impact on the character and career of the individual. The quality of the food is determined by the vibrations that it is charged with, through the thought processes of the persons who handle it, prepare it and serve it. The 17th chapter of the Geetha clearly defines the nature and tastes of the three types of 'food' eaten by man: the food that promotes love, virtue, strength, happiness, and cordiality is Saathwik; that which inflames, arouses, intoxicates and heightens hunger and thirst is Raajasik; the food that depresses, disrupts, and causes disease is Thamaasik The company in which food is consumed, the place, the vessels in which it is cooked, the emotions that agitate the mind of the person who cooks it and serves it---all these have subtle influences on the nature and emotions of the persons who takes the final product in! It is because the sages of India realised this that they laid down many do's and don'ts for the process of eating, as-for the different stages of spiritual progress.
Our thoughts trail off in directions determined by the sounds that fall upon the ear. When the sounds convey rebuke or praise, flattery or challenge, the thoughts too react correspondingly. When the sounds instil ideas of truth, beauty or goodness, the mind too seeks the silence of truth, the sweetness of beauty and harmony, the strength of goodness.
Good health and goodness
Health is the essential pre-requisite for success in all aspects of life, for realising the four ideals that should guide humans--namely, moral living, prosperity, fulfilling beneficial desires and liberation from grief. Everywhere man seeks to live happily and peacefully but happiness and peace are not won from worldly activities. The body that yearns to be happy and secure, is subject to disease, decay and death. The Dweller, the self, within the body, is however not born, nor does it die. It is the Aathma, God. The body is the temple of God. Hence it is the duty of man to keep the temple in good condition. Health is necessary for gaining this world and the next, for earning worldly and other worldly progress, to realise the very purpose for which the Self has embodied itself in this human form, namely, to become aware of its source, the Paramaathma. In order to attain this goal, the ideals of righteousness, prosperity, moral desire and release from grief have to be practised with the help of a sound mind in a sound body.
What are the main causes of ill-health? Millions of living beings grouped as species dwell on the earth; they sustain themselves by means of food secured from Nature, as provided by Nature. It is only man that is an exception. In order to cater to his palate and other senses, he changes the composition and characteristics of the things provided by nature and prepares, through the process of boiling, frying and mixing, concoctions which have no vitality in them. Birds and beasts do not adopt such destructive methods. They eat things raw and consume the strength giving vital essence. So, they do not fall victim to the many ills that man brings on himself.
Be vigilant about food habits
Anger is another enemy of health. It injects poison into the blood stream and brings about profound transformation which damages it. Two women, who were neighbours turned into bitter enemies on account of a dispute over a very trivial incident. The cow belonging to one woman while going on the road dropped its dung in front of the other woman's house. The owner of the cow ran to collect the du ng, while the other woman claimed that it belonged to her since it lay on her doorstep. From words they very nearly came to blows. Just then the other woman's little baby wailed from the cradle.
She rushed in to feed the baby and while the child was drawing in its food, she shouted most ferociously at her neighbour. Her anger poisoned her blood so much that the child died while drinking her milk! Another cause of ill-health is vice and vile conduct. People believe that a wicked person need not be a diseased person but most diseases are mental illness, fundamentally. Doctors, too, have to deal with patients sweetly and softly and consider their profession as one calling for dedication to their fellowmen. It is best to preserve one's health by good thoughts and good deeds. It is best to be vigilant about food habits. Coconut kernel, coconut water, sprouting pulses, uncooked or half cooked vegetables, and greens are good for health. Try earnestly to live long, without falling into the hands of medical practitioners. When they give you one injection, they keep another ready to counteract its reactions! While trying to cure one disease, they cause a dozen more. Moreover, the drugs they recommend are mostly spurious, since manufacturers want to amass a fortune by hook or by crook. Most illnesses can be cured by simple living, simple exercises and by intelligent control of the tongue.
Health, diet and Divinity
For the achievement of the four Purushaarthas (main goals of life)--Dharma, Artha, Kaama, and Moksha (Righteousness, wealth, desire and Liberation), health is essential. Without good health a man cannot accomplish even the most trivial thing. Hence, health is wealth. However, because of the influence of the present Kali (evil). Age, man is a prey to all kinds of ailments and has no peace of mind despite the possession of every conceivable kind of wealth and comforts. There is no dearth of doctors. In spite of the availability of so many amenities, why is man afflicted with disease? Indeed, more than physical ailments, mental diseases are growing limitlessly. Mental sickness caused by tension and worry gives us so many bodily ailments.
Man today is afflicted with discontent. As one set of desires are satisfied, other desires go on cropping up. If desires are reduced, contentment will grow. Moreover, because of the perversions of the Kali Age, the five basic elements--ether, air, fire, water and earth--are polluted. The water we drink is impure. The air we breathe is polluted. The food we consume is polluted. As a consequence the mind gets polluted.
Understand the relationship between matter and mind
Today man has to understand the true relationship between matter and mind. When one is asked about the mind, he says, "Don't mind." When he is asked about matter, he answers' "It doesn't matter." By this sort of casualness, man is failing to understand mind and matter.
Only when man understands the nature of the mind can he recognise the true nature of humanness. What is the mind? It is not something negative. It is positive. It represents the power of the Aathma, the power of Sankalpa (Will). It can travel any amount of distance in space. It is capable of exploring the powers of the atom. The mind is capable of recognizing the truth that is valid for the three categories of Time--the past, the present and the future. The mind is therefore very essential in man's daily life. It is the source of all strength. Man today is indifferent to the importance and the powers of the mind.
Realise the human values first
Because of man's excessive desires, he is prone to diseases of every kind. The most common source of illness among people day is tension. What is the cause of tension? It is indulgence in excesses of various kinds. Men must learn to moderate the hectic pace of living. Hurry causes worry and worry causes disease. "Hurry, worry and curry (fatty food)" are the causes of heart diseases. Therefore the first requirement is control of food and head (the mind). When you control these two, there will be no room for illness.
Importance of the eye
Here is an illustration. Once there was a king, who developed an acute stomach trouble. All the medicines administered by doctors were of no avail. He then approached a great yogi, who told him that for his stomach ailment he had to treat the sight. He should see nothing but green everywhere. The yogi left and the king ordered that all places in his kingdom should be painted green. Sometime later, the yogi returned and found that people were engaged in splashing green paint everywhere. When asked for the reason, they told him that they were carrying out the King's orders. The yogi went to the king and told him that to see everything green, all that was needed for him was to wear green glasses. It was absurd to attempt to paint everything green. Similarly if we change our vision, we will experience peace. When people view the world with the vision of love, they will have peace. All diseases will be cured. Most diseases have their origin in the mind. Everything has a psychological basis. When a person feels that something is wrong with him, he develops an illness. A healthy mind is needed for a healthy body. But it is not enough to be physically healthy. Man needs Dhaiva-anugraham (God's grace) also. To acquire God's grace you have to cultivate the love of God. Love has become today a kind of show. Genuine love should emanate from the heart. Start the day with love, spend the day with love, end the day with love, that is the way to God. If you develop love, disease will not come near you.
Realise the value of health
Self-restraint is essential to maintain health. Regulate your habits and develop good manners, which are the mark of a true man. Similarly the good devotee is one who does his duty. Duty is God. Everyone has to develop the manners required in daily life. The manners should be such that they confer self satisfaction. You should conduct yourself properly not for the sake of others but for your own sake. When there is self-satisfaction there will be self-realisation. For all these you must have selfconfidence. Most people today have no confidence in themselves and are perpetually racked by doubts. In Jesus's time there was one 'Doubting Thomas.' But today all are 'Doubting Thomases.' Everyone is doubting every other. For every man two things are essential: Arogya (good health) and Aanandha (Happiness). Health for the body and bliss for the spirit. With these two wings you can soar to any height. You need both the things, for which you must secure God's grace. To get God's grace, you have to engage yourself in sacred action. Bear in mind the three P's--Purity, Patience and Perseverance. With these three you are bound to acquire good health and bliss.
The efficacy of cardiac surgery
This international symposium has for its theme "The Heart and its Ailments." Also on the agenda are discussion about the preventive aspects of diseases as well as the treatment and cure of heart diseases. Questions are raised about the efficacy of Cardiac Surgery and its related effects. The heart is a special organ in the human system. It is pulsating ceaselessly unlike the other organs. Heart surgery is a highly complex operation, as the surgery has to be performed without arresting the heartbeat. At the same rime the functioning of the lungs has also to be kept up. Medical men of genius invented the heart-lung machine in 1956 to carry on the activities of the heart as well as the lung during cardiac operations. The machine rakes upon itself the function of the heart and the lung ensuring purification of the blood and keeping up circulation of the blood. The derails of the functioning of this heart-lung machine are well known to the doctors. The tube which is fitted connecting the heart and the machine should be airtight and should be fixed with great care, for any lapse in the fitting of the tube may cause air bubbles which will endanger the patient's life. Unfailing power supply is most crucial for the success of the operation as any interruption in power supply will stall the operation. Therefore we have to depend on generators for ensuring uninterrupted power supply during the course of the operation.
Prevention is better than cure
Questions are posed whether heart surgery ensures a permanent cure. Cardiac surgery is helpful in so far as it enables the patient to carry on his daily activities and lead a normal life. But, it is wrong to conclude that surgery is the only way of curing heart diseases. Some of the diseases can be cured even by medicine. In my opinion, it is the primary responsibility of every individual to prevent becoming a victim of heart disease by regulating his food and other habits. Prevention is better than cure. There will be little room for cardiac ailments if one's food habits are properly controlled and regulated. Research has revealed that non-vegetarian and alcoholic addicts are more prone to heart ailments than vegetarians. If the vegetarian food that is consumed should be a balanced and wholesome, it should contain liberal doses of vitamin C and vitamin E, which are available in vegetables like carrots. The presence of these vitamins prevents heart ailments in a large measure.
Every effort should be made to keep the human body healthy. Health is wealth. Wealth cannot be enjoyed by a person with poor health. Health is more important because it gives physical and mental strength to a person. Birds and beasts do not suffer from cardiac and digestive ailments to which man is prone. The cause can be traced to the natural food which the animals consume, unlike human beings who consume all sorts of fried and cooked items of food being slaves to the palate. Modern man consumes many artificial foodstuffs and a variety of alcoholic drinks, which are injurious to health. Birds and beasts lead natural lives, while the artificial life styles of man today takes a heavy toll of his health. When man observes moderation in diet he can be saved from most diseases. In the entire range of God's creation man alone is endowed with the faculty of discrimination. It is this faculty which sets him apart from animals. Man should exercise his discretion and discrimination in regard to food habits.
How to bring about mental transformation?
The progress of the universe is bound up with the progress of man. Any amount of development in the areas of scientific, economic and social spheres will not be of much use without mental transformation. How can we bring about this transformation? It is by restraining passions and emotions. Since mental tension is most detrimental to man's health, man should learn the art of controlling his passions and emotions, which cause stresses and strains. It is also essential to keep our mind serene and peaceful while eating food. We should not indulge in discussion of topics which will cause agitation and excitement and disturb our mental peace while we are taking food.
Mental tension is responsible for ill health. We should also avoid viewing TV, video, etc., while eating food, as they may cause mental disturbances. Today there is pollution in everything such as the air we breathe, the water we drink, the sounds that are jarring to the cars and the food we consume. Because of this all round pollution, man's health is affected. Apart from this, man's mind is also polluted making him susceptible to diseases. Man should make an earnest endeavour to lead a serene and pure life. He should realize the truth that troubles and turmoils are temporary, like passing clouds. There is no scope for agitations to arise if one realises this truth. One who realises this truth will not allow his mind to be swayed by the passions of anger, cruelty, etc. Passions yield only temporary satisfaction, but cause serious emotional disturbances. Hence, it is imperative on the part of man not to yield to any unbecoming passions while taking food. The observance of the three P's, namely, purity, patience, and perseverance, vouchsafes permanent happiness and good health free from diseases.
The three root causes of cardiac ailments
It is not only unbridled passion which damages the health of man. Living on ill-gotten money also causes ill-health to some extent. Living on earnings got by unjust means causes many unknown diseases to take root in us. It is said;
As is the food, so is the mind;
As is the mind, so are the thoughts;
As are the thoughts, so is the conduct;
As is the conduct, so is the health.
Man today is a victim of worry. What is the cause of this worry? Lack of contentment is the cause. The rich man is not contented is spire of the accumulation of wealth. Worry causes hurry and both together bring about ill-health. So, Worry, Hurry and Curry fatty foods) are the root causes of cardiac ailments. The consumption of large quantities of fat is the cause of cardiovascular diseases. Doctors advise against the consumption of fatty food stuffs which cause increase in weight resulting in susceptibility to cardiac diseases The presence of toxins also inflicts equal damage. So one should eat in moderate quantity the right type of food and avoid intoxicating drinks to safeguard his health.
The intake of food should be gradually reduced after crossing 50 years. Some people consume food indiscriminately unmindful of the caloric content of the food taken. For example, people eat pappads (thin circular flour preparations) fried in oil which have high calorie content. People also consume ghee which is also a high calorie food. A single pappad has 100-150 calories of energy. A single spoon of ghee has 100 calories of energy. Even when the quantity of food intake is reduced, reductions in the calorie content is not ensured. There are some doctors who advise their patients against smoking and addiction to alcohol, but they themselves smoke and drink! This gap between precept and practice raises doubts in the minds of patients about the value of the medical advice given by them. Such doctors, who do not observe harmony in speech and practice, mislead the patients.
Eschew meat, liquor and smoking
Today, let it be anyone, whether one deems himself a devotee or not, he should give up meatcaring. Why? Meat eating promotes only animal qualities. It has been well said that the food one consumes determines one's thoughts. By caring the flesh of various animals, the qualities of these animals are imbibed. How sinful is it to feed on animals, which are sustained by the same five elements as human beings! This leads to demonic tendencies, besides committing the sin of inflicting cruelty on animals. Hence, those who genuinely seek to become devotees of God have to give up non-vegetarian food. Calling themselves Sai devotees or devotees of Raama and Krishna, they fatten on chicken. How can they be deemed Sai devotees? How can God accept such a person as a devotee? Therefore, whether they are devotees in India or outside, they should give up from this instant meat eating.
Next, there is the question of drink. The water that one drinks is life-giving. It issues from the head of Shiva. It is sacred. Instead of such wholesome drink, it is wrong to drink intoxicants. It makes a man forget his true nature. Alcoholic drink is utterly obnoxious. It degrades the addict. It makes him forget God. The drink addict is not conscious of what he says or does. The very sight of such a person is revolting. The drink evil has ruined innumerable families. Alcoholics have caused misery to their wives and children by wasting all their money on liquor. Of what use to the world are such derelicts?
In addition to liquor, many are addicted to smoking tobacco. Today cigarette smoking is the cause of many diseases like asthma, lung cancer, cosonaphilia and heart ailments. The evil effects of smoking can be easily demonstrated. If a whiff of cigarette smoke is blown at a handkerchief, the cloth turns red at the spot. If smoke can cause such damage to a piece of cloth, how much damage will it not do when it gets into the blood stream? It ruins one's health and shortens one's life-span. Therefore, those who aspire to become true devotees of God have to give up meat, liquor and smoking.
Each one has to reform himself
Drink addiction is the cause of many evils. But no Government can stop this. The change must rake place at the individual level. This can take place only through a mental transformation and not as a result of preaching by others. Each one has to recognise the truth and reform himself.
Embodiments of Love! You are deeming this day as the sixty ninth birthday of Swami. I have no desire to celebrate such birthdays. As I was coming I was greeted by many wishing Me "Happy Birthday" I am always happy Why should anyone wish "Happy Birthday" for Me? Be happy yourselves. Your happiness is My happiness.
Today, as an offering to Swami, give up meat eating, consuming liquor and smoking. By renouncing these three, you will benefit yourselves as well as society and the nation. Swami's sole aim is to promote the welfare of the family, the society and the nation. If you wish to carry out Swami's aim, renounce from this moment itself these three bad practices. Do not put if off to tomorrow. Take the resolve from this moment. Expecting that you will carry out Swami's wish and thereby promote the well being of your family and the nation, I bless all of you.
(Discourse in the Poornachandhra Auditorium on 23-11-1994, Bhagavaan's Birthday.)
Swami's example to lead a healthy life
How to lead a healthy life? Let Me tell you about My own health. My weight since my 14th year of age has been constant at 108 pounds only. It never went up to 109 pounds not came down to 107. You can lead a healthy life once you achieve this kind of balance and moderation. I never eat even a little bit excess. I observe the principle of moderation whether I am invited for food by a millionaire or a pauper. My body is in perfect trim! I do not suffer from aches and My heart is as sound as a rock. There is none who can work like Me and exert himself as much as I do! The secret of My sound health is My regulated food habits. This is how one has to achieve the unity and harmony of food, head and God.
Compilations collected from: Mira – Vol 60, Nov 2001
(Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 05-Chapter 39) (Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 11-Chapter 08)
(Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 15-Chapter 21) (Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 23-Chapter 15)
(Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 27-Chapter 03) (Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 27-Chapter 31)
(Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 28-Chapter 16)