Food and mind

Subrahmanian, Sundararaman V [IT] sundararaman.v.subrahmanian at CITIGROUP.COM
Thu May 16 14:59:56 CDT 2002

Dear Sri Somik Raha,

>rajasic or tamasic vegetarian. Why this is relevant today - outside India -
>is because we dont get sattvic vegetarian in restaurants. And we dont have
>time to cook. These are practical problems - and if the road to
>cannot accomodate these, then you will be indicating the road to be very
>narrow. That is contrary to my perception of Hinduism and spirituality.


I do not want to interrupt the line of the discussion that is taking place
in a parallel thread where people are discussing the issue of vegetarian
food with you.  I am presenting here some collected thoughts on the sources
of impurities that infect the food.  If we understand the causes, then we
will be automatically be able to make the right choices of food sources.
Also, if we understand the spirit of such recommendations, then our tendency
to make exceptions under "some" pretext will reduce.

Any food that we consume through the process of digestion is composed of two
elements:  the gross and the subtle.  The gross part nourishes the body
which is inert.  This part is like the filling gas in the car.  At this
level we have all details of medical science come into play - calories,
vitamins, fat, proteins, metabolic rate etc.  There is a second component to
food which is the subtle component.  This component nourishes the mind.
Just as the gross part of the food has a direct impact on the body, so also
the subtle aspect of the food has a direct impact on the mind.  Ofcourse a
person exposed to scientific methods might ask as to how one can identify
the subtle components of the food.  These components cannot be proved by
science based on perceptual evidence, just as one cannot "perceive" the mind
with the senses but only feel its activity/manifestation.

It is a belief system.  Let us assume that there is indeed a subtle
component.  One might ask as to how the subtle components get in to the
food.  There are four means:

1.  Embedded in the material content of the food
2.  Embedded in the appparatus used for cooking
3.  Embedded in the cook
4.  Embedded in eater, during the act of eating.

All the four should be pure for the overall subtle component of the food to
be pure.  A brief discussion of each of the impurity is as follows:

1.  Embedded in the material content of the food:
Animal foods carry with them latent tendencies of animals which causes
certain kinds of emtions which are natural to animals - passion, fear and
violence.  Plant foods do not have such contents in them.  I read your
arguments about veggie food being not satvic.  That is true.  Satva is a
quality that is not just merely lack of passion (rajas).  Satva indicates
balance.  That mandates that food that one eats be "balanced" - in taste,
quantity, timing and temperature.  All these also constitute satvic food.
But at the same time, non-veg food is not satvic by its very nature.

Another reason that our elders prefer vegetarian food is the ahimsa aspect
of it.  One can often find people quoting the seminal work of Bose in
proving that plants are also sensitive.  It is our elders view that the
sensitivity of plants to pain is much lesser than that of animals.  So the
argument is not one of "NOT causing harm", but causing the "LEAST harm".
The pain that the animals go through contributes to the subtle part of the

The following three are applicable irrespective of whether the food is veg.
or non-veg.

2.  Embedded in the apparatus of cooking:
This does not require too much of amplification as the logic is
straightforward.  Cleanliness is satvic.  Food that has been boiled in water
should not be stored overnight.  It acquires tamasic properties.  One should
cook veg. food in the same pot that was used for non-veg etc.

3.  Embedded in the cook:
It is the belief in our tradition that the thoughts of cook "infect" the
food.  Which is why spiritual aspirants are not advised to consume food
prepared by anybody and everybody.  If the cook was entertaining
lustful/hateful thoughts during the process of cooking, it also comes down
to the consumer of the food through the food cooked by the person.  Several
Indian habits like bathing and praying before lighting the stove for cooking
(atleast during festivals) have its origin in this.

Also, food consumed from a person with ill-gotten wealth is also not
considered good for very similar reasons.

4.  Embedded in the eater, while eating
The digestive fire in our beings is called "vaishvanara".  This is also a
form of agni.  Just as the mantras combined with the offerings are accepted
by agni and delivered to the appropriate devatA, so also the thoughts that
combine the processing of eating (which is like offering to agni) is
delivered to the mind again.  The point here is that even if it is a
temporary thought during eating, it is delivered back with such potency that
it can become a habit.  This the reason why it has been recommended not to
talk while eating, pray before eating etc.  (One should not watch TV while

Based on the discussion above, one can see why restaurant food is bad by
itself - veg. or non-veg.
Can one drink poison because one does not have time to gather food?


[1]  I ate restaurant food for a long time.  I have given it up for the past
6 months and I see a huge difference.

[2]  The above was told by my teacher, but only started following recently.

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