Irregular habits quicken old age and death
Regularity of lifestyle is perhaps the most important factor in a healthy, happy and long life. Such a lifestyle requires self-discipline. It confers mental peace and determination to maintain an ordered life of regular habits. If the daily routine is also based on the desire to cultivate spiritual practices for the elevation of spiritual consciousness, then one definitely feel a sense of fulfillment, peace and happiness.
The duration of life is shortened by irregular habits. By maintaining a routine of a schedule of regular habits and eating simple food, one can maintain health. Overeating, over-sense gratification, over-dependence on another person’s mercy, and artificial standards of living, stress and anxiety sap the vitality of human energy. Thus, the duration of life is shortened
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says, “He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working and recreation can mitigate pains by practicing the yoga system.” (Bg 6.17)
Overindulgence of bodily needs such as eating, sleeping, mating and defending can hinder one’s progress on the path of spiritual enlightenment and shorten life expectancy. One can control eating by accepting only sanctified food offered first to God as a love offering. In the early Christian church from the crucifixion of Jesus to about 100 AD, the Christians celebrated a love feast (agape). There was the Eucharist or the ritual breaking of the bread and wine which transformed from ordinary substance into the flesh and blood of Jesus.
This ceremony was either at the beginning or end or part of the communal meal of the early Christian community. Later, the Eucharist was separated from the communal meal of fellowship (agape).
The agape was a feast of sanctified food that bound the community into a union with Christ and one another. The same principle is practiced in the Vedic offering of food to the Deity of Krishna whereby it is sanctified by acceptance of the Lord and then given back to the congregation as the mercy of the Lord. By partaking of this mercy referred to as prasadam in Sanskrit, the devotee is purified of sinful tendencies and engages in the egalitarian love feast in union with God and his fellow congregants.
The spirit of the prasadam love feast is to serve God the food He desires. The offering is made with the understanding that Krishna is the owner and first enjoyer of everything including food. The food is prepared with love and devotion. The Lord is pleased with the offering which He eats by hearing the words of love of His servant. He offers it back as a sign of His love. The devotee accepts the food in communion with God and his fellow congregants. All persons are welcome to partake of the holy prasadam without regard to race, social position, gender, etc.
Lord Krishna reveals His choice of foods in the Bhagavad-gita: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Bg 9.26) The Lord accepts vegetables, flowers, fruits, grains, milk, etc. If these simple and wholesome foods satisfy the Lord, they will certainly satisfy us. A sincere seeker of God will offer only those things that God prefers. Krishna has not asked for meat, fish, eggs, liquor, garlic, onions preservatives, etc. Only foods that are considered in the mode of goodness and offered with love and devotion are accepted.
Lord Krishna explains what foods in the mode of goodness, passion and ignorance are. These three qualities of nature condition living entities in particular ways that either bound them negatively or serve to free them gradually from material conditioning.
“Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart.
Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.
Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness.” (Bg 17. 8-9-10)
The purpose of food in the mode of goodness is to maintain the body in a healthy state for the natural duration of life, purify the mind and give strength and stamina, thus leading to happiness and satisfaction. Any reasonable person will agree with such wonderful advice because self-preservation is the first law of nature.
Juicy, fatty, wholesome foods that are pleasing to the heart does not refer to foods containing animal fat from the slaughterhouse. Animal fat is amply supplied by whole milk which is glorified in the Vedas as the most perfect of all foods. From pure milk one can obtain butter, cheese, yogurt and many other derivatives that supply all vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids without the horror of brutally killing animals. It is interesting to note that fat from meat is bad for the heart, but fat from milk sustains and prolongs one’s life.
Mother’s milk and cow’s milk are pure substances that are made from blood. Instead of killing to obtain the nutritious blood, Krishna has made the arrangement that we can obtain the same powerful and tasty nutrition through milk without any violence. Such arrangements should be recognized as God’s mercy so that we can avoid the horror of brutally killing a living entity for our own sustenance.
When one changes his diet to foods in the mode of goodness, his life and world view changes. By following the mode of goodness diet, one lives in harmony with the laws of nature and avoids incurring volumes of karmic reactions. Remaining ignorant of the the conditioning effect of the lower modes of nature, namely, passion and ignorance, one becomes progressively entangled in karmic reactions. Such a life of passion and ignorance results in great suffering and despair because one cannot understand why they are experiencing so much suffering.
Following the dietary rules of the mode of goodness puts one in a position to favorably receive higher order spiritual instructions. The Christian ritual of the Eucharist and the Vedic ceremony of offering food to Lord Krishna are both higher order spiritual experiences. The ordinary food such as the foods in the mode of goodness are transformed by the ceremony into spiritual substance. Such prasadam when ingested with faith transforms the body and mind of the devotee. This transformation results in the ability to perceive the all- pervading, personal presence of God in every moment of life. This awareness of spiritual consciousness (God, Christ or Krishna consciousness) liberates one from the oppression of lust, anger, greed, envy, illusion and madness. One comes to the spiritual platform of pure love of God. One dedicates himself to sharing such love with all others regardless of race or religion. Pure love of God is the essence of all religions.
The material mode of goodness can be transformed to the transcendental mode of goodness. In the transcendental mode of goodness, one is liberated eternally from the cycle of birth and death. Transcendental goodness differs from mundane goodness. In mundane goodness one is conditioned to remain happy in the material world. Such happiness is illusory as long as one remains in a mortal body which is used for sense gratification. In transcendental goodness, one uses the mortal body to please the senses of God’s transcendental Body by continuing to make love offerings to the Lord with words, mind, food, service, etc. One transfers their attention from preoccupation with pleasing one’s own mortal body to dedicated service to God’s personal service. Devotional acts meant to please the body and senses of God, purifies the degrading attitudes of lust, anger and greed in the mind and body of the devotee. God offers back the love offering as His mercy (prasadam) and thus the senses and mind of the devotee is completely satisfied also.
Some people worry that without eating meat, they will not be able to obtain sufficient protein and certain vitamins such as B12 which are touted as prevalent only in meat. Whole milk from cows cared for affectionately and permitted to graze in fields of natural grasses contains all the necessary vitamins, proteins and other vital nutrients.
Protein is also available in lentils, beans and whole grains.
Where does the cow obtain such nutrients? She eats grasses and grains, both nourished by the sunshine and wet soil. She derives all the vital nutrition that is concentrated in her milk through her complex digestive system that transforms the grasses into nutrients. The cow is an herbivore, not a carnivore. The original source of protein is from grains that are food for the herbivore animals that in turn are food for the carnivore predators. Meat from animals is not meant for human consumption because Lord Krishna does not accept it as an offering of love.
Krishna makes this point in the Bhagavad-gita: “The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Bg 3.13)
A person who aspires to have a personal experience of God’s presence will learn to offer every act of his life as a sacrificial offering to God. Recognizing God as the owner, controller and first enjoyer, the sincere aspirant will not accept anything without first offering it to the Supreme Lord. By such sincere offerings to God, one remains aloof from the contamination of sinful acts and sinful people who refuse to believe or participate in such practices of faith.
Sinful persons perform acts for personal sense gratification ignoring the proprietorship and existence of God who is the creator and owner of everything. Disregarding the ownership of God is the root of sinful actions. A thief who disregards the ownership of another individual and steals their property commits a crime and is punishable. Anyone who takes things offered by nature without thanking God by offering the same in sacrifice becomes a thief and commits a punishable sin.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes, “But preparing nice, simple vegetable dishes, offering them before the picture or Deity of Lord Krishna and bowing down and praying for Him to accept such a humble offering enables one to advance steadily in life, to purify the body, and to create fine brain tissues which will lead to clear thinking. Above all, the offering should be made with an attitude of love. Krishna has no need of food, since He already possesses everything that be, yet He will accept the offering of one who desires to please Him in that way. The important element, in preparation, in serving and in offering, is to act with love for Krishna.” (Bg 9.26 purport)
One may ask, “How does Krishna accept or eat the food? We don’t see the food disappear after the offering!” Lord Krishna has senses, but His senses are interchangeable. One sense can perform the work of any other sense because God is absolute and perfect in every way and possesses inconceivable powers. Therefore, simply by hearing the words of love in offering foodstuffs by the devotee, Krishna tastes and eats the offering. While Krishna eats, the devotee chants the Mahamantra Hare Krishna which is considered the recommended successful means of sacrifice in the present age. “My dear king, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: simply by chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.”(Srimad Bhagavatam 12.3.51)
Those who prefer not to chant the Hare Krishna Mantra can chant or glorify reverentially any name of God in recognition that God is the Supreme provider of all sustenance for mankind. The prayers of thanksgiving to God exist in all the religious traditions of the world.
In the Armenian Christian tradition the following prayers are said before and after a meal.
Armenian Church Prayer Before Meals
The head of the table says:
O Christ our God, bless this food and this drink of your servants with a spiritual blessing, and make us healthy in soul and body; so that as we enjoy the food our bodies require in the modesty appropriate to our religious calling, we may share in your infinite blessings, and in the kingdom of heaven, together with your saints. So that in thanksgiving, we may glorify you, with the Father and with the all-holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Let us eat this meal in peace, which the Lord has given us as a gift. Blessed is the Lord for all his gifts. Amen.
Prayer After Meals
The head of the table says:
Glory to you, Lord. Glory to you, King of glory, for you have given us the food of joy and have filled our hearts out of the fullness of your all-satisfying mercy. Fill us now with your Holy Spirit, so that we may please you and not be ashamed. For you will come and reward us each according to our deeds. And you are worthy of glory, dominion and honor, now and always and unto ages of ages. Amen.
May Christ our God, who has fed us and filled us, make the fullness of this table constant and abundant. Glory to him forever. Amen.
(Daily prayers from the Armenian Church, found at their website, http://www.armenianchurch.net/prayer/daily.html)
The recognition of God and thanking Him for His kindness as the ultimate provider of spiritual and material sustenance is necessary to remain situated as a humble servant. We gradually understand that our life and welfare depends on the goodwill of God. An enlightened person realizes that in every stage of life we are dependent upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is God the Father (Krishna, God, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit (The Father’s expansion technically called the Paramatma (in Sanskrit) or Supersoul present in the heart of every living entity as the witness and in every atom of the universe as the ultimate controller). One cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead without being aware of His different expansions. In Christianity, there is a basic understanding of God’s expansions known as the Trinity. A much more complete elaboration of this subject is given in the original Vedic scriptures like the Srimad Bhagavatam.
The ultimate instruction of all authentic spiritual traditions is summarized in the following quotes.
The first by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita where He states His ultimate instruction to Arjuna:
“BG 18.64: Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you My supreme instruction, the most confidential knowledge of all. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit.
BG 18.65: Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
BG 18.66: Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
Lord Krishna further states:
BG 12.13-14: “One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me — such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.”
Three thousand years after Lord Krishna spoke to Arjuna, Jesus Christ
reiterates the same instruction when He was asked what is the great commandment in the law of God the Father:
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is LIKE UNTO IT, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL the LAW and the prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).
One should learn from the words of God how to act properly to please Him by favorable devotional service in all aspects of life’s activities. We should perform our prescribes duties, but for the results fully depend upon God. Everything we do in life depends upon God including our digestion.
According to Ayurveda, there is fire in the stomach in the form of hydrochloric acid and other acids. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna states: “I am the fire of digestion in the bodies of all living entities, and I join with the air of life, outgoing and incoming, to digest the four kinds of foodstuff.” The most vital function for maintaining our life is digestion of food. It depends on Krishna. The living entity is not independent. Without the help of the Lord he cannot sustain his life.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes: “The power of assimilation which is the prerogative of the stomach only is an emblem of divine energy. The divine energy in the stomach has been designated as ‘Vaiswanara’ or an energy of intense heat representing the inconceivable power of Godhead. Incubation of heat generated in the stomach cannot be produced artificially in the physical laboratory of the material scientist. This ‘Vaiswanara’ is the vital power in the body. The vitamin therapy of foodstuff is dependent on the ‘Vaiswanara’ heat. The vitamins are produced by the heat and it is not that there is vitamin in the foodstuff offered to the stomach. This Vaiswanara heat produces different qualities of vitamin at different places. The Vaiswanara heat in the stomach of a cow produces different vitamin-rich energy and the same occurs in the stomach of a human being. For example, fragments of straw itself has no vitamin value by chemical analysis but when it is put into the stomach of a cow, straw produces enormous volumes of vitamin ‘D’ and ‘A’ while the same straw put into the stomach of a human being will cause starvation to death. That is the inconceivable power of the Supreme Lord.”
“Foolish people think vitamin value of foodstuff in their own way and push into the stomach all sorts of rubbish thing(s) thinking that ‘Vaiswanara’ heat, representative of the Supreme Lord, will accept any such rubbish thing for assimilation. The case is different. The ‘Vaiswanara’ representative power of Godhead in the stomach of the human being can accept only leaves, flower, fruits of the vegetable group and pure water and milk for vitaminising the human energy. The mouth being the entrance door to the region of the stomach, it must guard the tongue of every human being to acquire the quality of a Brahmana, who can accept only foodstuff of ‘Sattvic’ quality(quality of goodness).” (Back To Godhead, Volume 3, Part , “Yajna, or sacrifice for the supreme”, May 20,1956)
Many vitamins are produced by the human body when it functions in a healthy state. The consumption of concentrated vitamins that are sold over-the-counter are mostly excreted by the body. It is better to maintain the digestive system in a healthy state and eat simple, wholesome foods as Krishna describes to maintain health. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes: “Now, there are so many scientists. They are discovering vitamin value from foodstuff. Now, what is the vitamin value in the dry grass? Can any scientist say that this is the vitamin value in dry grass? If there is no vitamin value in dry grass, how the cow is producing so much milk, which is full of vitamins A and D? How, from dry grass, vitamins coming out? Nowadays the physician prescribes some artificial vitamins for maintaining your body. Now, what is the vitamin there in the dry grass so that the cow is eating dry grass and giving you nice milk full of vitamins A and D, essential for your life? So these are all wrong theories, that ‘This contains this vitamin. This contains this.’ Let them go on. But natural foodstuff which is meant for human being, they are full of vitamins already there by nature’s law, by God’s wish.” [Lecture, Bg. 3.14]
There is a saying, “If you work like a horse, you can eat like a horse. But, if you eat like a horse and work like a yogi then you will get sick.”
Moderate eating is very helpful in the matter of sense control. Without sense control there is no possibility of freeing oneself of material entanglement.
Overeating causes problems such as acidity. While not eating at all might cause ulcers. Eating light and right is what we can define as a frugal diet. By overeating, one may develop indigestion characterized by acidity of the stomach.
The body has different pH. For example, the blood is slightly alkaline (7.4 pH), the skin and scalp is slightly acid which is referred to as the acid mantle. The pH of the skin is between 4.5 to 6.2. The skin’s moderate acidity helps to neutralize the chemical effects of alkaline chemicals and contaminates. Similarly, the pH of the blood protects one from sickness. However, by ingesting acid forming foods such as fried foods, white flour products, coffee, tea, sodas, all junk foods and especially meat and white sugar, etc., the blood of a person becomes slightly acidic. This condition is referred to as acidosis and its major effect is depression of the central nervous system which results in decreased rate of breathing and decreased heart rate. If this condition continues, serious complications arise from the decreased amount of oxygen circulating in the body. Oxygen is the most important health promoting need of the body and when it is decreased serious illnesses result over time. One who has an acidic blood condition cannot think well or act quickly, clearly, or decisively.
Therefore, it is important to follow the simple rules of diet given by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita, maintain strict regularity of eating, avoid junk foods and eat only whole grain and natural fresh foods. Above all, one should offer the food first to God or Lord Krishna and pray that He accepts the offering so that He returns sanctified prasadam for our consumption. Then one is purified physically, mentally and in every way possible from the contamination of material lust, anger and greed.
He who beats on a wooden door will also beat a metal one
daghdahkeh tourruh dzehdzoghuh yehrgahtee touhruh ahl guh dzehdzeh