Diet has an intimate connection with the mind, which is formed of the subtlest portion of food. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Sage Uddalaka instructed his son Shvetketu, “Food when consumed becomes threefold: the gross particles become excrement, the middle ones flesh and the fine ones the mind. “ When curd is churned, its fine particles, rising upwards, form butter. Therefore, when food is consumed, the fine particles rise upwards to form the mind.
It is said in the Chhandogya Upanishad, “By the purity of food one becomes purified in one’s inner nature. By the purification of the inner nature one attains memory of the Self. By the attainment of this memory, all ties and attachments are severed.”
Diet is of three kinds: sattwic, rajasic and tamasic. Cow’s milk, curd, ghee, barley, wheat, cereals, vegetables, butter, cheese, tomatoes, honey, dates, fruits, almonds and sugar-candy are sattwic food. They make the mind pure and calm. Fish, eggs, meat, salt, chilies, asafetida, pickles, tamarind, mustard, white sugar, carrots, tea, cocoa, coffee, spices, sour and hot dishes are rajasic food. They excite passion. Beef, wine, garlic, onions, tobacco, all liquors and drugs, and twice-cooked food are tamasic. They fill the mind with anger, negativity and inertia.
Food plays an important part in meditation. Different foods produce different effects on different compartments of the brain. For purposes of meditation, food should be light, nutritious and sattwic. Milk, fruits, almonds, butter, sugar-candy and bread are all very helpful in meditation.
Food is only a mass of energy, yet water and air also supply energy to the body. One can live without food for several days, but one cannot live without air even for a few minutes. Oxygen is even more important; therefore, it is necessary to feed the body with energy.
If one can supply this energy by any other means, one can entirely dispense with food. Yogis can live without food by drinking nectar which flows through a hole in the palate. It dribbles down and nourishes the body without any food. If one knows the process of drawing energy from the cosmic energy, then one can maintain the body for any length of time and dispense with food completely.
Food is of four kinds: liquids which are drunk, solids which are pulverized by the teeth and eaten, semi-solids which are taken in by licking and soft articles that are swallowed without mastication. Food should be thoroughly masticated in the mouth until it is reduced to quite a liquid state before being swallowed. Only then can it be digested, absorbed and assimilated in the system.
The diet should be such as can maintain physical efficiency and good health. The well being of an individual depends more on perfect nutrition than on anything else. Various intestinal diseases, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, lack of vitality and power of resistance, anaemia and many other sicknesses are due to faulty nutrition. It is not so much the climate as the food which plays the vital role in producing a strong and healthy body or a weak body suffering from diseases. An appreciable knowledge of the science of dietetics is essential for everybody, but especially for spiritual aspirants, in order to keep up physical efficiency and good health.
Vegetarian diet has been acclaimed to be the most conducive to spiritual and psychic advancement. It has been found that meat augments animal passion and decreases intellectual capacity.
Above all do not make a fuss about your diet. Take simple food that is agreeable to your system, but you should not have a craving for any particular diet. You should not become a slave to this food or that food. Simple, natural, non-stimulating, tissue-building, energy-producing, non-alcoholic food and drink will keep the mind calm and pure and will sustain and help the aspirant in his practices.