The Gita on the food we eat
By Sudarshan Kumar Kapur
The Bhagavad Gita, which, literally means the ?Song Divine?, is the holy scripture of the Hindus and is one of the most authoritative sources on Hindu doctrines and ethics. This sacred book is lauded as it is considered the essence of the Vedas and Upanishads and reflects a great synthesis of Aryan wisdom, knowledge and spiritual culture. Aldous Huxley has said about the Gita, ?It is one of the cleanest and most comprehensive summaries and systematic spiritual statements of the perennial philosophy ever to have been done.?
Though the Bhagavad Gita is recognised as one of the finest philosophical and spiritual treatises of all times, yet it addresses the problem of the most mundane world and helps in tackling everyday common concerns of life. What is a significant feature of the Gita is that it has universal application and provides meaningful and effective solutions to all, irrespective of caste, age, sex, race, religion, class or stage of life, and tells how to lead an honest, austere and useful life in this world to attain supreme bliss. The message of the Gita is thus a living message essential for the welfare of the humanity at large.
The Gita deals with the question of human welfare in a very simple way and advocates the need for spiritual upliftment and self-discipline to attain the aim of one'slife. The Gita tells that everything in this world, namely physical things, material objects, human nature or disposition, partakes of triple or triple qualities. A person'saction or faith is fashioned according to his essential innate nature or disposition. Human nature is of three types and is dominated by three qualities, namely satoguna (quality representing purity and goodness), rajoguna (quality representing passion and extravagance) and tamoguna (quality representing darkness and ignorance) respectively. Persons possessing these attributes or innate disposition relating to these qualities are categorised as sattavika, rajasika and tamasika respectively. To quote from the Gita: Aharastvapi sarvasya trividho bahavati priyah, Yajnaastapa-stitha daanam teshaam bhedamiman shtinu. II (7/17)
The Gita tells us that it is either saatvik, rajasik or tamasik according to its innate quality and effect on the body. Again persons of saatvik temperament would prefer saatvik food whereas those with rajasik disposition turn to food which is of rajasik kind.
The food which people like according to their innate disposition is also of three types. Likewise sacrifice, i.e. the offerings for oblations (yajna), austerity and charity are also of three kinds, namely saatvika, rajasik and tamasik. Take for example, the food we eat. The Gita tells us that it is either saatvik, rajasik or tamasik according to its innate quality and effect on the body. Again persons of saatvik temperament would prefer saatvik food whereas those with rajasik disposition turn to food which is of rajasik kind. Persons with tamasik temperament would naturally derive a perverse pleasure in food of tamasik type.
A check list
The following three shlokas (verses) from the Gita provide us a checklist on assessing the quality of food and the quality of one'sinnate nature or character.
Rasyah snigdhah sthirah hridya aharah sattvika priyah II
Eatables which promote longevity, intellect, vitality, vigour, health, happiness, joy and cheerfulness, and products which are juicy, bland, substantial, soft and pleasant to taste, satisfying and naturally agreeable are liked by sattavik persons, i.e. persons of good and pious disposition.
Katvamlalavanatyushnatikhs hnarukhshavidahinah aahaaraa rajasasyyeshta duhkhasho-kaamayapradah-II (9/17)
Bitter, sour (acidic), salty excessively hot, pungent, dry, caustic, and spicy food products which cause suffering, worry, grief and sickness find favour with persons of rajasik nature.
Yatayamam gatarasam pooti paryushitam cha yat Uchchhishtamapi chaamadhyam bhojanam tamasapriyam-II (10-17) Food which is half-cooked or half-ripe, stale, or not freshely made, food that has lost its flavour, is insipid, putrid, polluted or contaminated and impure is appreciated by persons with tamasik disposition.
The reader can make a self-appraisal of his or her own disposition in the light of the above study. The Gita shows the way on how to improve the quality of life and become a saatvik.
(The writer can be contacted at 660/10, Krishna Colony, Gurgaon-122 001.)