If one wants to understand and master the highest spiritual truths, one must have certain qualifications. I mean your average Joe six pack isn’t too likely to start chanting Om and levitating off the couch as he is drinking beer and munching on a bag of greasy potato chips. In other words in order to become a great yogi one must first have a pure body and mind as a foundation for spiritual development.
Among other things, diet plays an important role in one’s ability to understand higher spiritual truths. In eastern spiritual traditions yogis and monks revered certain herbs and fruits for their abilities to rejuvenate the body and mind. The ancient Vedic texts of India in particular go into minute detail about how to eat for optimal health, which can aid one in spiritual realization. For instance certain foods cloud one’s consciousness, while other foods clarify the mind and intelligence.
According to the Vedic texts complete vegetarianism is essential for becoming sensitive to more subtle realms of existence. Eating meat (including fish and eggs) dulls one’s consciousness, and because this “food” is a product of violence, one who eats it also takes on a certain amount of violent mentality. It’s hard to learn to love every living being while living off animal slaughter. And of course there is the simple fact that meat is completely unnecessary in our diet. According to the official “State of the Nation survey” conducted in India in 2006, 31% of population (that’s roughly 400 million people) are vegetarians, and because of their Hindu faith most of these people, like their parents and grandparents before them, have never eaten meat. Even with a third of the population being vegetarian, India seems to produce a whole lot of engineers and computer programmers, and smart people in general (in other words that hamburger isn’t going to help little Timmy to become the next Einstein when he grows up). Finally, what about the horrible living conditions, the terror, and the pain these poor animals go through just to satisfy our taste buds?
Foods that are aged, such as vinegar, depress the consciousness. This is also true for foods that were prepared days ago and have been sitting in the refrigerator, or foods that are starting to go bad. Mushrooms are also in this category. All of these foods create lethargy, ignorance, and depression. It’s very hard for one to have the mental clarity and motivation to strive for self realization on this type of diet.
A diet that is too spicy or salty will tend to impassion the mind. A person who eats like this will often have a lot of energy for performing many tasks, but will not be as likely to stop and think about what they are doing. Garlic and onions are also in this passionate category, although they have been said to have some healing properties. If one eats like this, the mind will be too agitated for calm collected reflection and meditation.
The ideal diet for spiritual living is fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, milk, yogurt, and sugar. All foods should be eaten fresh. Manmade chemicals or foods that have been genetically modified should be avoided. This diet will create peace and clarity in the mind and is an ideal platform for spiritual practice.
If we want to find inner fulfillment then we have to start thinking about what all the meat, fast foods, potato chips, TV dinners, and artificial chemicals are doing to our consciousness. A natural, simple diet (and lifestyle) is what is recommended in the Vedas, specifically the Ayurvedic texts, which go into detail about how diet affects different people according to different body types. The Vedic information on diet is highly scientific and unlike modern medical and nutritional science, the Vedas acknowledge subtle energies and their effects on the body. This diet has proved beneficial for me and I definitely recommend it for anyone on a spiritual path.
(sattva = goodness in Sanskrit)
Learn more about the sattva, the mode of goodness, as well as about the other two modes, the rajas, or passion, and tamas, or ignorance. Go to page 18 and look for the article titled “The Three Modes Of Nature – Goodness, Passion, and Ignorance.”