Control Your Diet To Control Your Mind

Pravesh K. Singh( ) 

Mind plays a crucial role in all matters − exoteric as well as esoteric. Consummation of our this−worldly as well as the other−worldly lives depends, to a great extent, on the state of our mind – oriented suitably or otherwise. A focussed mind is a pre-requisite for success in all the spheres – temporal as well as spiritual. Mind is responsible for most of the noble, benevolent feats. Mind is culpable for most of the ignoble and heinous acts as well. All our organs – functional and sensory – follow the commands of the mind, as the Scriptures proclaim, “Indriyanaam Mano Naatho” (Mind is the master of all the organs). It is the mind which puts the soul in fetters (of painful cycles of birth & death). It is the mind again which helps the soul soar high in the inner sky facilitating the latter’s ascension to its purest, sublime state. “Maneva manushyaanaam kaaranam bandh mokshayo” (Mind alone is the cause for the bondage as well as the emancipation of human beings).  Therefore, the one seeking an all round progress must take the utmost care of one’s mind. The orientation, the leanings and the health of mind, however, hinges, pretty heavily, among other things, on the bodily health. As the old adage goes, “A sound mind Resides in a sound body” or, in Hindi, “Swasth kaaya me swasth man ka vaas hotaa hai”. Sants the world over have been teaching, since times immemorial, the golden principle of taking meticulous care of our diet to keep our mind on the right track. Sayings underlining the significance of our food habits can be found aplenty such as, “Jaisaa khaaye anna, waisaa hoye mana.”(As the food, so the mind), “Yathaa aahaar tathaa vichaar” (As the diet, so the thoughts) etc. etc. The food we take in has a profound influence on the composure of our mind, our thought processes. That is why, sages have been exhorting us to take “saatvik” vegetarian food so as to ensure spiritual, or even worldly progress. This fact is now even corroborated by science: spicy, non vegetarian food, junk food and stale food have been demonstrated to give rise to or aggravate several somatic as well as psycho-somatic diseases. The West is also said to be slowly accepting and adopting vegetarian diet realising its efficacy.Scriptures describe ‘man’ [mind] to be ‘annamaya’ [formed of food]. It is our common experience that our mind and its capacity to think get affected as we fall sick. Also, we must have observed that almost everyday when we take normal, regular food, we can easily proceed on our job, or carry out our normal routine activities. But, occasionally, when we go to some special luncheons or dinner parties and have rich diet there, rejoicing the delicious dishes to our heart’s content there – sometimes even eating much beyond our normal limits – we don’t feel like working, feel lazy, lethargic & sleepy, having a natural tendency to recline and rest for a long time, the hangover extending, sometimes, to even the next day. Why so even though we have our meals at our homes too, and in parties too? However, in the latter case, Maharshi Santsewi ji would explain, the balance in the diet is gone.  In fact, the mind and the body are very intimately interconnected with each other. That is why, the ailments of body often result in a depressed state of mind and mental distress, stress and sickness, on the other hand, cause impairment of physical health. Body and mind both are “jad” or gross (devoid of consciousness), the former being the grossest and the least vibrant (the main difference between the two may be thought to be in terms of vibration levels of the two, the mind vibrating at a greater frequency than that of the body, lending credence thus to the possibility of one getting converted into the other). According to the Hindu philosophy, grosser portion of the digested food taken by us goes on to form the body and its various parts, while the subtler or finer portion of the food assimilated by us gets converted in or contributes towards orientation and activism of the mind. We find an interesting episode in Chhaandogya Upanishad to explain how the mind and its activity and dynamism depends, to a great extent, on the food we intake. Shvetaketu makes a curious enquiry to his father Uddyaalak on how what we eat gets converted into mind. Uddyaalak thinks of a clever stratagem, a practical way to teach his son. He asks Shvetaketu not to eat anything and to sustain himself merely on water intake for the next fifteen days. Shvetaketu literally obeys his instructions. After fifteen days pass by, Uddyaalak asks him to recite hymns from the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda. Shvetaketu’s memory fails to serve him right and he expresses his inability to recall the hymns. Uddyaalak now instructs him to have food first and come back again. Shvetaketu follows his orders. Having had his food, he finds he has regained the ability to recall all the hymns. Thus he comes to realise that his mind had really got weakened and was unable to function properly for lack of food and that his ability to think got rejuvenated once the body received the food back.Thus, it becomes easy to appreciate the traditional wisdom of laying so much of emphasis on the quality and quantity of food that we take in everyday. Excessive eating is as undesirable as is starving out oneself or eating too less. Thinking that avoiding food as much as possible would be of help in exercising control over, or reining in, the naughty mind, Lord Buddha, in his intense quest for the Eternal Truth, shunned food for quite a long duration. He, however, subsequently realised his folly and accepted offerings from a devout lady. Maharshi Mehi Paramhans, also, dying to realise the Ultimate Truth as soon as possible, tried a similar adventure and went on meditating in a pit dug (near the present Kuppa Ghat Ashram at Bhagalpur, Bihar, India) for the purpose, relinquishing food altogether for several months; he, too, came to realise the mistake of the proposition. Baba Gorakhnath ji, the most revered name in the Gorakhpanthi Sect of sadhus, has rightly remarked,"Dhaaye na khaaiba, bhookhe na maribaa.
 Ahi nishi lebaa, Brahma agini kaa bhevam."

[Do not hanker madly after eating, nor fast yourself unto death. Day and night, all the time keep on gazing at the Divine Light.]

Lord Shree Krishna has said in the sixth chapter of Bhagvad Gita that he, who eats too much, will not succeed in yoga, nor will he who remains absolutely hungry. "Yuktaahaar vihaarasya" (that is, a balance or exercising moderation in eating and living) should be made into the key mantra of our lives. As a matter of fact, all the preaching and teachings of sants are rooted in their firsthand experience. And, all the sants have, unequivocally, exhorted us to avoid extremities in our food habits (overeating or under eating), to be very particular & careful about the nature of food, the quantity of food, the way and by whom it is procured, cooked & served. In one instance Guru Nanak Dev had refused to accept food offered to him by a rich man whom he knew to be dishonest & cruel, while he gleefully accepted food served by a very poor but honest & devout person. Lord Krishna had also refused to have food offered by Duryodhan, while he voluntarily asked for it, and happily ate whatever little she could offer, from the poor but pious wife of Vidur ji. A spiritual seeker must, therefore, abstain from overeating, under eating, eating non vegetarian food (as it is not suited to or fit for humans), eating too spicy or salty food, eating food procured, cooked & served using resources earned unethically or through corrupt means. Sant Kabir Sahab’s views in this regard are worth noting:

"Jaisaa anna-jal khaaiye, vaisaa hee man hoye,
Jaisaa paani peejiye, vaisee vaanee hoye,
Man bhaavai so khaawataa, indreei kere swaad,
Naak talak pooran kare, kaun kahe parsaad,
Khush-khaanaa hai kheechadee, maahi padaa tuk lon,
Maans paraayaa khaaike, galaa kataave kaun."
[As the food you take, so becomes your mind. As the water you drink, so becomes your tongue or speech. For the pleasure (taste)or gratification of your (taste) organs, you go on eating whatever your mind tells you to. You eat, eat and over eat and call it Prasaad (offering)? In fact, the best diet is eating kheechadee (rice and pulse simply boiled together along with water) to which a little salt is added. Who would like to get his/her throat slit in lieu of eating other creatures’ meat?]Maharshi Santsewiji Paramhans used to very frequently stress in his discourses & private conversations that firmness of diet is also essential for firmness of ‘aasan’ or sitting in a correct posture. Therefore, he would sternly admonish not to take food consisting of meat, wine etc. which, he said, enhances ‘tamoguna‘ (ignorance and negative tendencies) in you. Diet should be controlled and ‘saatwik’ (which induces noble and spiritual bent of mind) to accomplish perfection of ‘aasan’ (proper sitting posture for meditation).The moral of the story, finally, is that we must scrupulously guard and regulate our food to regulate our mind and ensure our all round health, happiness & success! JAI GURU!