Peace, Happiness and the Perplexities of Life


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(This was originally written by me in 2001 for our email newsletter, Tattva Prakasha.)

The Absolute Necessity of a Spiritual Master

Many times people have written to me about their difficulties and despondency in life. Usually they ask how they can attain peace and happiness. Nowadays peace is a very rare commodity in the world. Everyone is looking for it, whether one is an individual, or a nation.

On the individual level we find many people are experiencing turmoil and confusion from within, which prevents them from experiencing any happiness and peace.

In the Bhagavad Gita we find that the great warrior Arjuna was also experiencing similar turmoil and despondency in life. Actually Arjuna was faced with a situation that non of us could bear or tolerate. He was the greatest warrior on the planet, yet he broke down in tears when he saw his relatives lined up for battle. Sanjaya describes the scene as follows:

tam tatha krpayavistam
asru-purnakuleksanam

“Arjuna was filled with compassion, and his mind was depressed. His eyes were full of tears.”

This was not an ordinary person. This was the greatest fighter of the world, crying on the battlefield. What inner turmoil would it have taken to bring Arjuna to such a position? Arjuna describes his feelings at that time to Lord Krishna:

dristvemam sva-janam krishna
yuyutsum samupasthitam
sidanti mama gatrani
mukham ca parisusyati

“My dear Krishna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.”

vepathus ca sarire me
roma-harsas ca jayate
gandivam sramsate hastat
tvak caiva paridahyate

“My whole body is trembling, my hair is standing on end, my bow Gandiva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning.”

na ca saknomy avasthatum
bhramativa ca me manah
nimittani ca pasyami
viparitani keshava

“I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Krishna, killer of the Keshi demon.”

na hi prapasyami mamapanudyad
yac chokam ucchosanam indriyanam
avapya bhumav asapatnam rddham
rajyam suranam api cadhipatyam

“I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to dispel it even if I win a prosperous, unrivaled kingdom on earth with sovereignty like the demigods in heaven.”

After speaking this, Arjuna threw aside his bow and decided, “I will not fight”.

evam uktvarjunah sankhye
rathopastha upavisat
visrjya sa-saram capam
soka-samvigna-manasah

“Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.”

This is actually what the battle of Kurukshetra is about. It is not the external war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas that is important. What is important is the inner battle that took place within the mind of Arjuna. None of us will ever be put in a situation like the battle of Kurukshetra, but each and everyone of us will be put through an inner struggle just as Arjuna was.

In the case of Arjuna, he was blessed by the direct guidance and association of Lord Krishna. By the divine instructions of the Lord, Arjuna was internally transformed into a new person.

After speaking Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, Lord Krishna asks him:

kaccid etac chrutam partha
tvayaikagrena cetasa
kaccid ajnana-sammohah
pranastas te dhananjaya

“O son of Pritha, O conqueror of wealth, have you heard this with an attentive mind? And are your ignorance and illusions now dispelled?”

Arjuna answers:

nashto mohah smritir labdha
tvat-prasadan mayacyuta
sthito ‘smi gata-sandehah
karishye vacanam tava

“My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.”

Just see the transformation that took place in Arjuna. What happened to the tears? What happened to the burning sensation in his skin? What happened to his mental bewilderement? What happened to his confusion?

At first Arjuna had told Krishna, na yotsya iti govindam. “Govinda, I will not fight.” But in the end he is saying, karishye vacanam tava. “I will act according to Your instructions.” What has caused such a change?

In the first chapter of Gita, Arjuna says, “Let them kill me, standing here unarmed. I have no desire to live. Let me go to the forest and live by begging.” This is quite different from his latter statement – “I will fight according to Your instructions!” Something has certainly transformed Arjuna, something has given him life.

That is the power of Bhagavad Gita. It can transform one internally into a new person. We are all experiencing small Kurukshetra battles within our mind, we have all thrown down our Gandiva bows, and we have all told to our conscience, “I will not fight.”

Now it is time to seriously take the instructions of Bhagavad gita, and transform our selves like Arjuna.

Awake, arise and realize. This is the message of Swami Shivananda of Rishikesh. Do not wait till tomorrow, transform yourself today. Just as Arjuna removed the covering of ignorance that was bewildering him, in the same way we can become free from the anxieties and miseries of conditioned existence.

But wait! It isn’t so simple. There was a very important step Arjuna took that qualified him to receive Bhagavad Gita. Why was Arjuna instructed Bhagavad Gita and not Duryodhana? Because Arjuna accepted Krishna as his guru and surrendered to Krishna as His disciple. This was the most important thing Arjuna ever did.

Arjuna said:

karpanya-doshopahata-svabhavah
pricchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah
yac chreyah syan nishcitam bruhi tan me
shishyas te ‘ham shadhi mam tvam prapannam

“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.”

This is where the Bhagavad Gita actually begins. Before this, it was a conversation between friends. Arjuna spoke many things, yet Lord Krishna did not reply. Arjuna had not accepted the position of disciple, therefore Lord Krishna did not take the position of guru. Finally, after having given a lecture to Lord Krishna about what is right and what is wrong, Arjuna admits, “I am confused and do not know what is the solution to my problem.”

This is the first step in spiritual life. We must admit that we do not have the solution ourselves. We have tried for many lives to solve the problems of material existence, but each time we have failed. Now let us admit we can not solve these problems on our own, for we are confused about what should be done, and what should not be done.

Arjuna was presenting many arguments, all based on scriptural codes and logic, yet ultimately it didn’t help him. Sometimes we may know many things, but that knowledge does not solve our practical difficulties.

The system of material existence is full of perplexity for everyone. Our academic knowledge, whether material or religious, does not in any way help solve the perplexities of life. Therefore one must approach a spiritual master who can give one spiritual guidance. This is not due to weakness, but due to knowledge. Arjuna says, pricchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah, “I am asking you what is dharma because my mind is completely bewildered.” When one comes to the point of admitting that our minds are bewildered by material existence, that is the first step of knowledge.

Then Arjuna says, yac chreyah syan nishcitam bruhi tan me, “Please tell me clearly what will be for my ultimate welfare.”

And finally Arjuna surrenders: shishyas te ‘ham shadhi mam tvam prapannam.

“I am your disciples. Please instruct me. I am surrendered to you.”

This is where Bhagavad Gita begins.

We must all approach a spiritual master to put an end to the perplexities of material existence. We are undergoing a Kurukshetra war within our minds, and we need a spiritual master to “clearly instruct us what is for our ultimate welfare.”

One who finds such a spiritual master is the most fortunate soul. For he will receive the divine guidance by which he can extinguish this forest fire of material existence.

You must find a spiritual master. Simply knowing the Bhagavad Gita will not bring the ultimate benefit that we all need. Arjuna knew the dharma-shastras. He was not a fool. Yet, his religious knowledge did not help him when he was on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Transformation requires something much deeper than just “knowing” principles. Knowledge without complete application is just a useless burden on one’s head. The spiritual master is the one who instructs us in the intricacies of applying spiritual knowledge to our daily lives.

Bhagavad Gita’s Key to Happiness

We are all looking for happiness, as that is the constitutional nature of the soul. Due to our false identification with the body, we are neglecting the inner happiness and looking externally to matter for satisfaction. This is the beginning of our mistake. And this mistake results in our endless suffering, confusion and bondage.

In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna makes the following statement:

ashantasya kutah sukham

“Without peace, where is the question of happiness?”

Meditate on this statement for some time. It is the first clue to solving our problem.

We want to be happy, but without peace, how can there be happiness?

This seems quite simple. If we can become peaceful, then we can experience happiness.

So try to make yourself peaceful.

It isn’t possible.

Why? Because there is still another piece to this puzzle.

na cabhavayatah shantir

“Without a steady mind there can be no peace.”

Our minds are uncontrolled and disturbed. We can see this for ourselves. Sit down in a room, close the door, and just let your mind flow on its own. Do not speak, do not move around. Try to do nothing. Just watch your own mind, as though you are a third person. See what thoughts come in to your mind. Then push the thought out, and again let another thought flow into your mind.

After sometime, try to keep all of these thoughts out of your mind. If this is too difficult, try to concentrate on a single picture in front of you without allowing other thoughts to enter.

It won’t be possible.

Our minds are completely uncontrolled, undisciplined, and as a result they are dictating to us. This is not how it should be, but it is our sorry state of existence.

So now we know that to experience happiness we need peace, and to develop peace we need a steady mind.

But how do we make our mind steady?

Lord Krishna gives us one more piece of the puzzle:

na cayuktasya bhavana

“Without spiritual intelligence one cannot have a steady mind.”

We must develop spiritual intelligence, by which to control the mind.

The Vedic scriptures give the following analogy:

The body is like a chariot. The senses are like five horses which pull the chariot. The reigns which control the horses are like the mind. The driver who holds the reigns is like the intelligence. And the passenger who instructs the driver is the spirit soul (the actual self). If the driver (the intelligence) holds the reigns (the mind) tightly and controls the five horses (the senses), then it is possible to attain one’s proper destination. But if the driver (the intelligence) lets go of the reigns (the mind) then each of the five horses (the senses) will run off in a different direction pulling the reigns (the mind) with them, causing the chariot to be broken into many pieces.

In the Gita we find the following statement:

vyavasayatmika buddhir
ekeha kuru-nandana
bahu-shaka hy anantash ca
buddhayo ‘vyavasayinam

“Those on the path of spiritual advancement are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. The intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.”

We must focus our intelligence on one aim, otherwise all of our endeavours will result in failure. One whose mind is branched in many directions fails to concentrate on anything and is simply left in confusion. The nature of the mind is to drift. We must learn to control the mind with our spiritual intelligence, otherwise the mind will be the cause of our own bondage. In the Gita Krishna describes that the mind can either be our best friend or our worst enemy:

bandhur atmatmanas tasya
yenatmaivatmana jitah
anatmanas tu satrutve
vartetatmaiva satru-vat

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.”

The mind is the repository of all sensual perception. Through our five knowledge acquiring senses we experience the world, and the resultant experience is transmitted to the mind, where it is classified as either enjoyment or distress. The uncontrolled mind begins to dwell on the desires and fears created by these experiences. The result is a whirlpool of thoughts making it unable for us to think, concentrate, and focus our selves.

To control the mind, we need to utilize spiritual intelligence. A controlled mind will keep the senses in check. When the senses are in check, the push of lust and desire stops and we become peaceful. When there is peace, the natural happiness of the soul becomes visible.

But how do we get spiritual intelligence?

Lord Krishna provides us with another piece to this puzzle:

nasti buddhir ayuktasya

“Without a connection to the Paramatma one cannot have spiritual intelligence.”

We need to link ourselves to the Paramatma in order to develop spiritual intelligence. With that spiritual intelligence we can control our mind. With a controlled mind, the senses can be kept in check. When the senses are kept in check, we will experience peace. When we are peaceful, the happiness of the soul will be seen.

The puzzle is almost solved. But there is one more question. How do will link to the Paramatma?

Krishna answers this as follows:

tesam satata-yuktanam
bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te

“To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the spiritual intelligence by which they can link with Me.”

If a person sincerely worships the Lord with love and devotion, then Krishna from within his heart gives him instructions so that he may ultimately come to Him without difficulty. This is spiritual intelligence. Material intelligence may depend on many external factors, but spiritual intelligence is inherent in the soul. It is simply covered like a mirror covered by dust. As we clean the mirror of the mind, the shining reflection gradually becomes visible to us.

To accomplish this linking with the Paramatma we must take up a serious sadhana, or daily spiritual practice. The scriptures recommend hari-nama japa as the most effective sadhana in the present age of Kali. As one chants the names of the Lord, there will be a transformation in one’s heart.

The first experience of one who is on this path of perfection is described as “ceto-darpana marjanam”, or cleansing the mirror of the mind. Due to our contact with the material energy from time immemorial our original pure consciousness has been covered by many layers of contamination. It is like a mirror that has been covered by dust. In such a mirror one cannot see his reflection. Only when the dust has been wiped away is it possible to see clearly in the mirror.

In the same manner our mind has been contaminated with so many thoughts, desires, and activites from countless lives. We are all very careful to filter the water we drink, but how many of us filter what we see, what we hear, and what we do? Day after day, life after life, this pollution enters into our heart through our senses and acts as a poison. As a result our mind becomes uncontrollable, dominated only by lust (kama), anger (krodha) and greed (lobha).

The first transformation that one will experience on the path of self-realization is purification of the mind. The influence of lust, anger and greed will be overcome and one will be able to control his mind with spiritual intelligence. As the dust covering the mirror of the mind is removed, the natural qualities of the self (atma) begin to shine forth. One gives up false identification with the body and its possessions and realizes the spiritual qualitative oneness of everything and everyone. The eternality of the self and the temporal nature of matter are established within oneself as irrevocable facts. All that is troublesome within the heart will be removed, and one will be situated above material desire. One’s external nature will change as one’s natural qualities begin to manifest:

Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification; absence of false ego; detachment; freedom from entanglement; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; and constant unalloyed devotion to God.

The second transformation that occurs is described as “bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam”, or extinguishing the great forest fire of birth and death.

Sometimes in the forest a fire will start when the wind causes two bamboo trees to rub against each other. Simply by the rubbing of two small bamboo trees hundreds of miles of forest are burnt to ash. In such a huge forest fire, it is impossible to trace out the original cause of the fire. It almost seems as though it has no cause. The origin of our conditioned existence is similar in that it is impossible to trace out what was the cause. And just as in the forest fire, we are constantly being burnt by the various sufferings inherent in matter. Birth, death, old age and disease are our constant enemies in life, and they are insurmountable. The scriptures describe this world as dukhalayam, or “the abode of suffering”. Why such a negative description? Because the soul is constitutionally eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. To have our natural spiritual qualities covered by illusion, and replaced with a temporal body full of ignorance and suffering is certainly a negative change.

As one purifies his consciousness, the false identification with the body is removed, and the true qualities of the soul become visible internally. The sufferings of the external body are caste aside as nothing more than the interaction of material elements, the nature. Due to false identification with the body we identify with the sufferings of the body. If we become free from bodily identification, the sufferings of that body are also left. Thus this great forest fire of birth, death, old age and disease – and all the sufferings inherent in a matterial body – are extinguished. The example is given that the spiritual master is like a cloud who receives water from the ocean of mercy and pours this mercy on the forest fire of samsara, the cycle of birth and death, to extinguish our sufferings.

The third transformation that takes place for one on the path of self-realization is described as “anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam”. There is an ocean, not of water but of bliss (ananda). The liberated soul is able to always experience this ocean of bliss, for it is inherent within the soul. And this ocean of bliss is not static, it is constantly increasing (vardhanam) at every moment (prati-padam). This unlimited bliss experienced by the liberated soul is the aim of all living entities. It is the driving force behind the entire manifestation. The conditioned souls are looking for this same unlimited happiness, but they look externally towards matter for it. They fail in their search because happiness is not something external to us, it is our very nature, which is now covered by illusion.

One who has attained to this state of purified consciousness has nothing else to attain, for he has everything. He is living on the spiritual realm of existence even while being situated within the external body. Such a saint is constantly seeing God face to face: premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hridayeshu vilokayanti.

This process does not depend on faith or belief. The results are directly experienced by the sadhaka. That is the driving force behind one’s determination. Krishna says:

pratyakshavagamam dharmyam
su-sukham kartum avyayam

“One who takes to this spiritual path will directly experience the results. While performing sadhana he will experience ever-lasting happiness.”

The word Lord Krishna uses is pratyaksha, or directly by the eye. The results are factually seen, establishing the presence of the Lord as an irrevocable and concrete fact.

Those who do not undertake sadhana cannot understand the reality of the Lord. For them God is just a mental concept, the Bhagavad Gita is just a historical poem, and the guru is just a common man. They like to claim that nothing can be proven regarding the existence of God. Their study of Bhagavad Gita brings no result. The scriptures describe it as being like an ant licking a bottle of honey from the outside. They have no experience of the spiritual reality.

In summary, we need to take up a spiritual sadhana of hari-nama japa very seriously. As we purify ourselves through sadhana, the Paramtma will guide us to our sat guru. By the mercy of the spiritual master, we will be liberated from the perplexities of material life. Finding a spiritual master is the ultimate necessity of us all. Do not delay in this endeavour.

Questions and Answers:

Question: I came across your article on the internet about Jesus and Krishna. I have to admit it was very interesting and it is something I would like to know more about. Will you please let me know where I could go to learn more about this topic. I have been a Catholic but the last couple of years it has been hard for me to call myself a Christian because I don’t believe everything the Bible says. I have tried to express my love for Jesus to others, but friends can’t understand my view of Jesus as a perfect Man and a Disciple of God. It is hard for me to believe everything in the Bible, but I have never doubted my faith in God. I just dont think that you will go to hell if you dont proclaim Jesus as your savior.

Thank you for writing. The ancient Vedic scriptures actually speak vividly about Jesus. There is a text by the name “Bhavishya Purana” which particularly describes the life of Jesus.

“Bhavishya” means future, and “Purana” means history, so literally the name translates as the “History of the Future”. This is because the text was written aproximately 5,000 years ago (according to the traditional date) and documents what will happen in the future. According to this text, Jesus actually travelled to India and studied with many spiritual masters before returning to the middle east to preach. He is named as Isha-putra, or literally “the son of God”.

According to the Vedic view we are all actually sons of God. In the Gita, Krishna says “aham bija pradah pitah” – “I am the seed giving father of all living entities”. It is not that God had sent his only son, for everyone is the son of God. But Jesus was a perfect son of God, therefore he was glorified as “the son of God.”

Practically if you see the time and place at which Jesus appeared, he was the only one who was actually giving pure love of God to the people. All other religions had become institutional, commericial or political, and the true essence had been lost. Thus it would not be wrong to say, for that time and place, that only through Jesus could people have found God. At that time no one was transparently delivering God to the people. But it does not mean in the future no other saint or good son of God will come along who can himself deliver love of God to the people. This is the Vedic understanding of “Guru”, or spiritual master.

It is the duty of the spiritual master (Guru) to act as a transparent via medium to deliver love of God to the people. His duty is to present the pure teachings of God to the public in an unadulterated manner. Practically he simply acts as a messenger on behalf of God. The saintly people can see God face to face, as I can see you if we are standing before each other. The Vedic texts state:

premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti

“The pure devotees constantly see the Lord in their heart with the eye of devotion and love.”

The Lord is situated within the heart of every living entity equally, but due to our own impurity and materialism, we are not able to perceive his divine presence. Only the saintly devotee – the true disciple of God – can perceive the Lord’s presence at all times. Thus he may act as a messenger on behalf of the Lord to deliver the pure teachings to common men. This is the meaning of a spiritual master or a “son of God”.

It is not that there has been only one such personality who has come to save the world. There are countless such selfless saints who have been deputed by the Lord to help us all. Krishna says in the Gita:

yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya
tadatmanam srijamy aham

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.”

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca dushkritam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya
sambhavami yuge yuge

“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I appear millenium after millenium.”

Thus whenever there is a decline in true religion the Lord either personally, or through His messenger, reestablishes the eternal religious principle of love. This is the Lords arrangement to preserve His message. The Lord belongs to no religion, nationality, race, or designation, and likewise His message is not confined to any man-made designation. If we are truly His disciples, we also will not belong to any such false bodily designation. These designations are created by man, and they only suceed in dividing the people.

All religions are based on an essential principle of love. Over time the essence is lost, and the externals are taken as all in all. At such a time the Lord will reestablish the eternal principle, either through Jesus, Buddha, or some other qualified disciple.

The Vedas state:

ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti.

“There is one God, but the learned describe Him in many ways.”

One person may address God as Allah, another as Jehova, another as Krishna, but actually these are all names of the same supreme personality. Krishna, for example, means “one who is all-atractive”. This is one of the qualities of God, He is supremely attractive. Each name is actually a description of His unlimited qualities. Thus God actually has unlimited names. This is His supremacy.

If you take any common man, he possesses various designations according to his relationships with others. The wife calls him as husband, the son calls him as father, and the employee calls him as boss. He is one man, but he has three distinct designations. According to each designation he will relate differently. He will not treat the employee the same as his son. But it would be foolish for the son and wife to fight with each other, so as to establish whether he is actually “the father” or “the husband”, for he is simultaneously both. He is one truth, described by the learned in various ways.

Today foolish people break mosques to build temples, and break churches to build mosques, not knowing Allah, Jehova, and Krishna are three names of the same supreme personality. Religion without the essential principle of love is nothing but blind fanaticism. Such a religion results in war and hate between various sects.

The truly learned man will see equally all living entities, knowing well that the Lord is present within all of their hearts, regardless of their external bodily coverings. This is the message of Jesus, this is the message of Krishna, this is the message of all true disciples of God.

The ancient text Bhagavad-gita begins with this understanding: that we are not our external bodily covering. We are the eternal spiritual soul within. We are not the body, we are the embodied. We are like a bird trapped in a cage. The perfection of human life is to understand this point and to free the bird from the bondage of suffering. On the absolute spiritual platform we are all equal. We are all part and parcel of God, just as a drop of ocean water is also part of the ocean. Only if we see with this vision, is there the possibility of peace and harmony in the world.

Question: I am interested in information on Indian religious practices as related to dietary preferences.

This subject is quite vaste, and the answers would depend on the time period we analyse. For example, the present culture and religious practices in India are quite different from the ancient practices followed. There is a general decline and degradation of culture in India over the last 100 years, mostly due to the influence of western culture.

As far as diet is concerned, the ancient scriptures of India prescribe what one should or shouldn’t eat. Up until 100 years ago these were followed quite strictly in India. At present very few people continue to follow these principles.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna gives a basic description of food and dietary preference by first classifying all food into three categories, namely goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas). It is the Vedic belief that everything (whether it be food, work, sacrifice, charity, or any activity) can be classified within these three categories of material existence. Goodness leads one to knowledge, passion to suffering, and ignorance to darkness.

ayuh-sattva-balarogya-
sukha-priti-vivardhanah
rasyah snigdhah sthira hrdya
aharah sattvika-priyah

“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.”

katv-amla-lavanaty-usna-
tiksna-ruksa-vidahinah
ahara rajasasyesta
duhkha-sokamaya-pradah

“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.”

yata-yamam gata-rasam
puti paryusitam ca yat
ucchistam api camedhyam
bhojanam tamasa-priyam

“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.”

It is advised that humans should eat only food that is within the mode of goodness, which generally refers to fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. Such foods will keep one healthy, increases one’s duration of life, and keep one’s mind pure to focus on higher goals in life.

Foods in the mode of passion are excessively spiced, too hot, bitter, etc. Such foods will lead to disease and sickness. Furthermore, these foods will agitate one’s mind and make it difficult for one to control his senses. These foods should be avoided by humans, especially those interestested in spiritual life.

Foods in the mode of ignorance are rotten, unclean, and untouchable. This includes meat, fish, and eggs, as well as old preparations and the remnants of eaten food. Such food is never to be taken by humans. Food in the mode of ignorance is full of bad karma, and it will cause disease, sickness and shorten one’s life duration.

These are the basic scriptural injunctions about food. Today very few people in India actually follow these principles very strictly. Perhaps 20% of the people avoid ignorant foods, while eating foods in the modes of goodness and passion, and a very small percentage of people eat only pure foods in the mode of goodness. Previously these percentages were reversed, with the majority of the population of India eating only pure foods in the mode of goodness.

The ancient custom was that what ever one ate would first be offered in worship to God. As such, one had to eat only pure things which were allowed to be offered in worship (as dictated in the scriptures). Today this practice is no longer followed, and as a result people are willing to eat anything that doesn’t jump off their plate.

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