Food over Mind with An Ancient Experiment

The purity of mind is a must on the path of spirituality but it has equal importance in living a happy and peaceful life. Most of our suffering comes from the impurities within the mind. Our anger, jealousy, and fear are some of the emotions that we have to deal with almost every day.  We believe that external factors like other person’s behaviour and situation are responsible for feeling such negative emotions but that is not completely true. If that would have been the case, then everyone exposed to such external factors would feel the same emotions as us.

It is time that we turn inward to find the solution for our suffering. Our urges towards negative substances and emotions like envy, hatred, anger, fear, jealousy, lust, greed, and temptation do not allow us to live a peaceful life. These impurities create disturbances in the mind by creating attachment and aversion and make us slaves. It is difficult to break the vicious cycles of negative emotions but it is not impossible. 

One of the ways to purify the mind is by taking food which is nutritious and healthy and does not contain negative energy. The food we eat is transformed in three different ways: the grossest part of it becomes excrement, the middle part into flesh and the subtlest part goes to form the mind.  The mind is a subtle body part. What we intake as food affects our minds in a subtle form.

There is a story in the Upanishad (ancient Hindu scriptures) of Sage Uddalaka teaching his son Svetaketu on the experiment of how food is converted into the mind. Those who have doubts about this teaching can also perform the experiment by themselves.

Sage Uddalaka explained to his son that during churning the subtlest part of the curd rises and becomes butter. Similarly, that which is the subtlest part of the food that is eaten rises and becomes mind. He explains further, that the mind consists of food, prana consists of water and speech consists of fire. Svetaketu was a scholar in Vedas (ancient scriptures of Hinduism) and a true seeker of knowledge and requested his father to explain further.

His father asked him to perform an experiment. Sage Uddakala told Svetaketu to not eat any food for fifteen days. He can drink as much water as he likes. Since the prana consists of water, it will not be cut off if he drinks water. Svetaketu did not have any food for fifteen days and survived only on water.

After fifteen days, Svetaketu came to his father and asked what shall he do next. His father asked him to recite certain verses from the Vedas. Svetaketu told his father that he cannot remember them. His father explained that he could not remember because his body and mind didn’t get the food and they cannot perform efficiently only on water. Sage Uddalaka asked Svetaketu to go eat and come back again after a few days. Svetaketu approached again and was able to remember whatever his father asked him to recite.”

Food to eat – In Hinduism, we always been advised to eat Sattvic food. Sattvic foods include sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit, land and sea vegetables, pure fruit juices, nut and seed, milk and cheese, legumes, honey, herbal teas and Ghee. They are basically vegetarian, nutritious, fresh and light to digest. Adding seasonal vegetables and fruit also helps. We don’t have to follow every single day and it might not be practical in today’s life but we should stick to basic principles most of the time.

Food to avoid – Food that increases anger and restlessness are called rajasic foods. It includes sour and spicy food, pickles, tea, coffee, alcohol and vegetables like onion, garlic, etc. are said to be rajasic in nature. The mind-body harmony will be destroyed by rajasic foods and they make the mind restless and uncontrollable.

Foods that increases the gloominess and confusion are called tamasic foods. Tamasic foods include fried and frozen foods, fast foods, microwaved foods, processed foods, left overnight foods, meat, fish, eggs, onion, alcohol, etc. They create inertia and are the unhealthiest food of all. Again, we may not be able to avoid all but try as much as possible.

When chicken is aware that it is going to get killed by looking at what happened to chicken standing before, it gets the fear of death. This fear is then spread into entire body and it is the last and most intense emotion that chicken felt. Now when we eat it, the subtlest part of it which is full of fear goes to form our mind. Our mind is now have the nutrition of fear which affects our thinking. Many times we feel fear for the situation which is not real and we wonder from where these feelings are arising.

Liquor and drugs are taken with the mouth but we know what effect it has on our mind. We may feel some pleasure for shorter time but in longer run it destroys the mind. Many lives and families have been destroyed because these substances took over the control of mind and made people their slaves.

I don’t follow only sattvic food all the time. However, I don’t eat non-vegetarian and avoid tea and coffee most of the time. I also don’t drink alcohol. Most of these choices in the starting were based on my religion and upbringing but now I choose not to have them because I understand how they affect my mind. I never advocate to anyone to not have non-veg food or don’t drink alcohol. There are studies and arguments in favour of eating non-veg food and drinking alcohol in moderation. Everyone is free to have their own choices. I only propose that make your choices consciously. Do experiments and see the results by yourself.

If you are committed to remove emotional suffering, then impurities of mind can be gradually removed by providing the right kind of food and by bringing a change in the mind so that the tendency of purity and wisdom predominates over the other negative tendencies or qualities of the mind.