Life on earth, as we have it, has a tremendous bearing in building the body and the mind. We must, therefore, strive to simplify life and learn to live truly. It is true living on which everything else depends, even the search for the self and the Over-self. The importance of true living cannot be over-emphasized. It is rightly said:
Simple living and high thinking has ever been an ideal with the ancients and they always strove for it. We in the modem age, have seldom paid much thought to it though we profess it at times and pay lip-homage to it. Though it may appear hard to achieve the highest type of life, yet it is worth our while to see what it connotes, the ways and means that may be conducive to attaining it and to adopting it for ourselves. In whatever we do, we always place some objective before us, ascertain the principles involved therein, study the methods that may lead to the desired goal, and finally make a periodical survey, a thorough check-up, to find how much nearer we have come to the end in view. In this connection, one has, of course, to devote single-minded attention and make an honest endeavor from day to day before one can note an appreciable improvement in his life and conduct, both toward himself and toward others around him.
What constitutes the life of man? - one might naturally ask. The aged one with a lot of experience in life and fed up with what he has seen and experienced of the world, turns to self-analysis of life. Does life consist only in eating, drinking, sleeping, having children; fearing, fretting, and fighting; snatching, hoarding and hating; in imprisoning and subordinating those that are inferior to us in strength, physical or mental, and in killing others and grabbing other people's possessions? Must we pass our days in enjoying the ill-gotten earthly gains with no other achievement in the end but to die a miserable death, with sorrow to self and to those around us, the near and dear ones who helplessly stand by and mourn? Again, what about the worldly attractions - lands, buildings, money, pets and other countless possessions which, perforce are to be left behind much against our will? In the face of all these hard facts of experience, should the hoarding of worldly riches then be our sole aim - the be-all and end-all of our existence - or should we strive for something higher and nobler, permanent and lasting that may abide with us here and hereafter? The reply is simple: the one Almighty Power, the original source and fountain-head of all life, our home of happiness, peace eternal, and the means of our liberation from fearful bondage of births, deaths and Karmas should be the main objective and the only thing worth craving and achieving, for it is the summum bonum of life.
The highest goal, as enunciated above, cannot be had for the mere asking or just by wishful thinking. For attaining the highest goal, we must first search out and find someone who can help us practically to achieve it; one who has himself achieved and gained the Kingdom of God for himself and can help us to do likewise. As light comes from light, so does life from life. He will constantly remind us of our long forgotten home, the Garden of Eden, now the lost province to us, and then show us our short-comings in our every day life, and finally, help us to lead a super-active life of real purity instead of the superficial and purposeless existence which we have at present. This world is a house full of smoke and soot, where one cannot but get a smudge on his person here and there even if he keeps all his wits about him and despite all his endeavors to escape therefrom. Now these smudges and stains, deep, thick, and numberless as they are and permeating the very pattern of our life, cannot be washed off by our own unguided and unaided efforts. Each man is compelled by the propelling force of his nature to play his part on the stage of life, and to participate in vain acts which lead nowhere unless there is the guiding hand of some Master-soul, to steer our barks clear through sandbanks and sea-shoals. Such a divine helper is a holy Saint, one may call Him a Guru (or a torch-bearer), a teacher, a Satguru (a holy divine who is one with Truth), a Murshid-i-Kamil (a perfect Master), a Hadi (or guide), a brother, a friend, an elder or by any other appellation one may like.
Further analysis would show that the life of man depends mostly on two main things: Ahar (his diet) and Vihar (his dealings with his fellow beings and others). These cover the life-program of a person. In both these spheres, one acts either on tradition or by the limited information gathered from books or from hearsay. These form the base from which be gathers his design of culture and civilization, which gets ingrained in him and occupies his mind and intellect.
There hardly exists any common-sense course to guide a man systematically in his physical, mental or spiritual life. To escape from his chaotic state, one has to thrash out and analyse the subject to its barest component parts. A thorough analysis is needed for moulding life in its three-fold aspect: physical, mental and spiritual.
AHAR OR DIET
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 so 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) as live upon the life in nature 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 be 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 contradistinguished 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 that 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 which also grow under ground like radish, turnips, 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, nature-therapy, chromotherapy are producing wonderful results. The Satvic foods and simple living are conducive to the development of 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. The limited use of milk was also made by rishis in ancient times, who lived in comparative isolation, all by themselves, and devoted most of their time to meditation in seclusion and they left a lot of milk for the use and growth of the animal progeny.
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 udders to draw out the last drop of milk 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 of these days.
Tamsic or stupefying diet consists of meat and 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 higher reaction of civilization. This sort of living is strictly prohibited, by the Masters of the highest order, 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 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 on 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 on 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 be 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 reason 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 tatwas (or creative and component elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether) in full activity is valued the most. This is why be tops the list of beings in the creation and is considered next to God - his Creator. Man's killing of fellow-creatures is considered as the most heinous of crimes, which merits capital punishment or the death penalty. Next value is placed on quadrupeds and beasts having four tatwas 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, vegetarian and fruitarian diet, in fact, 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 so 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:
Jesus answered: "Be it so according to your faith," and he sat down among them, saying:
Man-making is another portfolio of a Saint. To make man fully entitled to the highest knowledge of soul and All-soul, is His first and foremost mission. From seekers after Truth, the Saint requires complete purification of the body, mind, and intellect since this makes a man complete and whole before undertaking the untying of the Gordian knot between body and spirit. A mutilated and a truncated man can neither know himself nor can he know God. What line of action then should the aspiring man follow? This is the most vital question and yet mostly ignored, and passed over, with not much thought. The scanty information that is available to the average man is derived either from society or from the stray hints dropped by the religiously minded, or from the study of the sacred books. No attempt is, however, made by man to take up any definite course or formula even on the intellectual level. In fact be never had time enough to pay heed to this problem. Perhaps religious bigotry or fear does not allow the clergy to draw the attention of the masses to this problem. They may find it a hopeless task to draw up a code of dietetics because of the energetic materialism prevalent everywhere. Still there are a few who have no biased views, and study the literature of the East with an open mind. But they have to face many difficulties because of the peculiar terminology foreign to them. The words are not explicit enough in themselves or hardly convey with exactness the intentions of the writers.
The wise ancients - the Rishis and the Munis of yore - have thoroughly thrashed out the problem of human life. They exhaustively analyzed its various aspects to arrive at a feasible culture-program for man in search of perfection. In this way an acceptable standard of universal civilization or reform was evolved, which comprehended knowledge of self or soul and the attainment of the highest ultimate Reality - the great Truth. They began by methodically investigating Gunas (qualities) - the spinal back-bone and the primal source of all the activities of Karma on the fulcrum of which the mind swings. Next they dissected Gunas and divided them into three distinct groups, each being quite unlike the other.
(2) Rajogun - It is interpreted as the middle course of acting in a business - like fashion of give and take.
(3) Tamogun - It is the most inferior way of acting and may be called living purely for one's selfish ends, with no thought whatsoever of others.
(ii) "Y" serves and helps and expects the same in return. This may be likened to an exchange in service as in commercial establishments on the principle of give and take or barter - do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.
(iii) "Z" neither serves nor helps others, but considers that he has a right to help and service from others for which he is not bound to give anything whatsoever in return.
(ii) "Y" gives and expects a return for the good service rendered in one form or another.
(iii) "Z" only takes help and service whenever in need but never gives any in return, even when another may be in dire distress under his very nose.
The Masters, therefore, advise men to adopt course No. 1 and in no case to go lower than No. 2, if at all there be any need. Similarly, any one can chalk out his or her own program of life and determine the course of action. So much then for the dealings of man in life as a member of the social order to which be belongs. This, however, is not an end in itself but only a means to the end - the end being to become Neh-karma, that is to say, doing Karma not only without any attachment or desire for the fruit thereof but as a swadharm (an action in inaction) and then heading on toward unfoldment of the self within and experiencing the source of all Love, Life and Light; in which we actually live and have our very being just like a fish in water that knows not what water is.
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