Diet for a spiritual life
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2009-01-05
The yoga path manifests the sattvic nature of peace and serenity. Live and plan a balanced life each day by regulating physical, emotional and mental diets. Nature is a primordial force of life. Apply the power of discrimination. Become the master of our forces. Give the guiding power of our lives to actinic will. Apply the power of decision.
Good morning everyone. I pulled this talk together for Mauritius. It turns out that's also today, First Sunday there, and yesterday, Sunday there. So Mauritius they have a few more people than we do and at least two thousand come for their ceremony there. On the first Sunday of every month they have a homa for Ganesha. Probably even had three thousand cause it's the first one of the year and it's also their opposite season, it's the summer so it's dry. So, I'll just read it.
We are starting a new year in the western calendar, year 2009, and a popular custom is making new year's resolutions for improving our life such as exercising more regularly, eating less sweets, giving up certain negative habits, and being more regular in our religious practices such as home puja and meditation. Gurudeva has a concept that relates to these types of resolutions which he describes as striving to live a balanced life each day. He explains that a balanced life consists in regulating our physical, emotional and mental diets.
In thinking about diet, it is helpful to utilize the Hindu concept of the gunas. 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." 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.
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.
When we eat refined foods, such as fruit and vegetables that grow above the ground and absorb sunlight, this makes us aware in the refined areas of the nerve system. 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
The second part is to discipline our emotional diet. 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.
The third part is to discipline our mental diet. 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 process. 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.
In conclusion, 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.
OK, hope that was helpful. Wonderful week.
Aum Namah Sivaya
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