Written by Sant Kirpal Singh
Diet naturally plays a major role in the problem of life. We need food for the upkeep of our physical being. We are compelled by nature to exist in this world as long as our allotted span of life is determined by destiny, or karmas do not run out. For our very existence we have to subsist on one thing or another. Man is quite helpless in this respect. The law of karma is nature's unseen method of keeping the world in its iron grip, so as to keep it peopled and going. It, therefore, becomes all the more necessary that man should guard against contracting eating habits thoughtlessly, heedlessly, and indiscriminately. As we cannot do without food, we must select at least such articles of diet as may prove the least harmful in our spiritual pursuit. Our diet should not contract for us unnecessary karmic debts which it may be possible to avoid by a little care. With this end in view, let us study nature.
Man's diet comes mainly from earth; i.e. land, air, and water. We also see that life exists in all that is moving and static. The moving creatures live upon each other, as well as on static creation – to wit, vegetables, plants, shrubs, herbs, trees, and the like. Man, however, makes friends with and loves creatures (birds and animals), who live upon other life – and makes them his pets. The ancients knew well that man, bird, and animal were all bound up with the same karmic bond. Man with the thought of common brotherhood worked hard both for himself and for his pets. He tilled the land, grew fruits, and produced food both for himself, his bird friends, and his kine and oxen. But in course of time, he grew ease-loving, with the result that he first preyed upon the animals' milk and then upon their flesh as well.
According to the moral, social, and spiritual codes of conduct, one must not interfere with the lives of any animal in God's creation. In India, this standard of living is enunciated as Ahimsa or non-injury to all living creatures. This led to the vegetarian diet as contra distinguished from the non-vegetarian diet. As we think deeply over the natural and unnatural phases of diet, we come to a better understanding of the problem of Gunas or the innate propensities, natural inclinations, and latent tendencies that are inborn in all sentient beings.
Diet must be classified into grains, cereals, vegetables, and fruits which are classed as Satvic or Satoguni diet. This diet is pure and produces serenity and equipoise, befitting sages and seers. The saints and hermits who retired to secluded caves and huts for meditation, always preferred kand (potatoes), sweet potatoes, zamikund or artichoke, etc., which grow and develop under the ground. They also took mool and phal (the edible roots of mool also grow underground like radish, turnip, and beet root). The phal (fruits) provided them with sufficient vitamins and organic salts in their original form to keep them fit for a life of concentration and meditation. Some of the foods naturally grow in abundance while others are produced with some effort. The grains and cereals were meant for the general public.
Satvic, or pure diet of mool, kand, phal, and cow's milk, etc., prolongs life and cures a number of diseases and ailments. Its utility has come to be realized even by the medical science. Now-a-days, many medicines are prepared from herbs, fruits, and grains, and these have been found to be very efficacious. Again, all natural curative methods of sun-bathing, sea-bathing, mud-bathing, water-bathing, massage, physiotherapy, naturetherapy, and chromotherapy are producing wonderful results. The Satvic foods and simple living are conducive to the development of the highest culture or civilization. We must remember that food is made for man and not man for food. Eat to live and not live to eat, should be our maxim in life. By following this course, we create receptivity for higher things in life, ethical and spiritual, leading gradually to self-knowledge and God-knowledge.
Rajsic or energy producing diet includes besides vegetarian foods, products like milk, cream, butter and ghee, etc., from animals other than cows, if taken in moderation. In ancient India, the use of milk was restricted mainly to the princely order, as the princes needed extra energy for keeping under their control rough, turbulent and barbarous people not living up to any set principles of life. The milking of dairy cattle was permissible only after the cows were bred and treated with extra care, and sufficient milk was left in their udders for feeding their own off-spring, the calf. The residue of milk was allowed to man under special circumstances. This special rule was intended to prevent degeneration of the early civilization. Rishis, in ancient times, also made a limited use of milk, leaving a sufficient amount for the use and growth of the animal progeny. The Rishis lived alone in comparative isolation, devoting most of their time to meditation.
The traditional custom of using only the residue of milk is still prevalent in some of the villages in India. But today, man in his lust for unbridled power, is violating all the laws of nature under the pretext of the so-called freedom that he claims for himself. Man has unfortunately come to believe in the principle of the "survival of the fittest" and has, therefore, to pay dearly for his unwise choice in the matter.
The only consideration of man today is to obtain as much milk as possible, even at the cost of the calves themselves. In some places, he throws them in boiling water immediately after they are born, and applies milking machines to the cow's udders to draw out the last drop of milk in order to keep pace with trade competition and profit-making. This is what some proudly call high technical skill and civilization. Our budding reformers of today thrust such trades and practices on man instead of improving agriculture and rearing and developing livestock, both of which are harmless pursuits, and could relieve the pressure of want so much talked about these days.
Tamsic, or stupefying diet, consists of meat, liquors, garlic, etc.; or, in fact, any other diet, natural or unnatural, stale or fresh. Those who resort to free and uncontrolled eating, live to eat and not eat to live. Their aim in life is hedonistic and their slogan is "eat, drink, and be merry". They indulge headlong in what they call the sweet pleasures of life. When blessed with small powers of concentration, they direct all their energies (mental and physical) towards glory of the little self in them, the egoistic mind. Man is pleased to term this course of action as the higher reaction of civilization. The Masters of the highest order strictly prohibit this sort of living to those seeking the knowledge of the spirit in man and the final liberation of the soul from the shackles of mind and matter.
Will thinking persons just stop a while to cogitate on and realize the true position of man? Why is he so proud to call himself, or to be called, the noblest of creatures, the roof and crown of the creation? Whither is man moving headlong? Is he not standing on the brink of a terrific precipice, with an extremely sharp declivity, ready to topple down at any moment? He has, by his conduct, exposed himself recklessly to chance winds of Nature's vengeance. Hourly he stands in danger of being swept to the deepest depths of physical and moral annihilation.
Man has taken his lessons in diet from the beasts of the jungle and acts like a wild creature. He delights in taking the flesh not only of the harmless creatures like kine and goats, deer and sheep, the innocent fowls of the air and fish of the water; but actually partakes of the human flesh and the human blood to satisfy his insatiate hunger for gold and riches. He has not yet finished his course of self aggrandizement which he proudly calls progress. He might well ponder over the basic principles on which the Masters advise and prescribe vegetable diet. Vegetables, too, contain life in a latent form, as has now been proved by scientists all the world over. Still, as we have to play our part in this panorama of life on the stage of the world and have therefore to maintain ourselves to keep body and soul together, we have to depend upon the produce of the soil.
Yes, of course, there is life in vegetables, fruits, and grains. The essential element of life is growth and decay. The truth of this can be traced from the earliest times. It is not a new verdict, though some of the scientific minds have rediscovered this truth and lay claim to it as their own.
Now let us come to the point. In the entire creation, the law of nature holds that life depends upon life. Like creatures in other grades of creation, man also maintains himself by eating something containing life. Outwardly it appears that with regard to contracting karmas, man is in the same boat with other creatures in the lower strata of life – animals, reptiles, and the like.
Nature has one other propelling wheel working in this material world; the law of evolution. It provides that all living beings pass from one position to another. As they travel from one order of creation to the next higher, each being has a separate value from the lower one. The basis of determining the face value, as well as the intrinsic value, is matter and intellect. The more valuable the constituents of matter present in a being in prominent form, the more the intellect and more the value of the being. Saints apply this law in the solution of the problem of diet for man. Whether he heeds it or not, Saints place this law before man, so that he may reform his diet, and avoid, as much as possible, a heavy load of karmic chains in which he is inextricably held fast.
Each kind of diet has its own inherent effect on man, detrimental to the acquisition of the highest aim: self-knowledge and God-knowledge. This law coincides with what man generally accepts, although he is unaware of the reasons for his actions. Comparing the following data in everyday life will confirm, to man's surprise, that what he takes as acceptable in social living remains in total agreement with the law of nature here explained.
The man's body, with all the five Tattwas (or creative and component elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether) in full activity, is valued the most. This is why he tops the list of beings in the creation and is considered next to God – his Creator.
Man's killing of fellow-creatures is considered to be the most heinous of crimes, which merits capital punishment or the death penalty. Next value is placed on quadrupeds and beasts having four Tattwas in active operation in them, the fifth, ether, being almost absent or forming a negligible portion. The wanton killing of another's animal, therefore, entails a penalty equivalent to the price of the animal in question. Then comes the place of birds, with three active elements in them – viz. water, fire, and air, and hence are considered of a nominal value. Lesser still is the value placed on creatures who have two elements active – viz. earth and fire – and the other three existing in a dormant or latent form, as in reptiles, worms, and insects, which are killed and trampled without the least compunction as no penalty attaches in their case. Least value is placed on roots, vegetables, and fruits in which the element of water alone is active and predominates, while the remaining four elements are altogether in a dormant state. Thus, karmically considered, the vegetarian and fruitarian diet, constitutes the least pain-producing diet, and man by partaking of these, contracts the least karmic debt. He is, therefore, to be content with this type of food, as long as he cannot dispense with it and take to something which may involve no consequence at all.
Now let us see what the Essene Gospel of St. John says in this context:
But they (the disciples) answered him: "Whither should we go, Master, for with you are the words of eternal life? Tell us, what are the sins we must shun, that we may never more see disease?" Jesus answered: "Be it so according to your faith," and he sat down among them, saying: XXI
"It was said to them of old time, ‘Honour thy Heavenly Father and thy earthly mother, and do their commandments, that thy days may be long upon the earth.' And next afterwards was given this commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill,' for life is given to all by God, and that which God has given, let not man take away. For I tell you truly, from one mother proceeds all that lives upon the earth. Therefore, he who kills, kills his brother. And from him will the earthly mother turn away, and will pluck from him her quickening breasts. And he will be shunned by her angels, and Satan will have his dwelling in his body. And the flesh of slain beasts in his body will become his own tomb. For I tell you truly, he who kills, kills himself, and who so eats the flesh of slain beasts, eats of the body of death… And their death will become his death … For the wages of sin is death. Kill not, neither eat the flesh of your innocent prey, lest you become the slaves of Satan. For that is the path of suffering, and it leads unto death. But do the Will of God that His angels may serve you on the way of life. Obey, therefore, the words of God: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat; and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is breath of life, I give every green herb for meat.' Also the milk of everything that moveth and that liveth upon each shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given unto them, so I give their milk unto you. But flesh, and the blood which quickens it, shall ye not eat...." XXII
Then another (disciple) said, "Moses, the greatest in Israel, suffered our forefathers to eat the flesh of clean beasts, and forbade the flesh of unclean beasts. Why, therefore, do you forbid us the flesh of all beasts? Which law comes from God? That of Moses or your law?" XXIII
.....And Jesus continued, "God commanded your forefathers: ‘Thou shalt not kill.' But their heart was hardened and they killed. Then Moses desired that at least they should not kill men, and he suffered them to kill beasts. And then the heart of your forefathers was hardened yet more, and they killed men and beasts likewise. But I say to you: Kill neither men, nor beasts, nor yet the food which goes into your mouth. For if you eat living food, the same will quicken you, but if you kill your food, the dead food will kill you also. For life comes only from life, and death comes always from death. For everything which kills your food, kills your bodies also. And everything which kills your bodies kills your souls also. And your bodies become what your foods are, even as your spirits, likewise, become what your thoughts are...." XXIV
"So eat always from the table of God: the fruits of the trees, the grain and grasses of the field, the milk of beasts, and the honey of bees. For everything beyond these is Satan, and leads by the way of sins and of diseases unto death. But the foods which you eat from the abundant table of God give strength and youth to your body, and you will never see disease...." XXV