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Eating as an act of supplication

A purified mind is the portal through which positive and constructive thoughts are engendered, aiding in man’s emotional and spiritual development. 
Last Updated : 09 July 2023, 20:59 IST
Last Updated : 09 July 2023, 20:59 IST

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The Bhagavad Gita, in the Gnana Yoga Chapter, speaks about eating. While exploring the philosophical underpinnings of this seemingly mundane act, it would be pertinent to recall the known facts regarding food intake. As is well known, what we eat impacts both our physical and mental well- being. Eating, besides fulfilling the most basic of human needs, plays a crucial role in the intellectual aspect of man’s life. What and when one eats is closely linked to one’s nature, behaviour and cognitive functions.

Modern scientific studies have corroborated this truth. Attention to physical fitness and health is an important part of everyone’s daily schedule. The Bhagavad Gita provides a lucid philosophical explanation for according such importance to this common human act. Considering the body as the dwelling of the divine, the Brahman, as it is addressed, the one who eats as an inseparable part of this divine entity and hence Brahman himself and the food being eaten as a manifestation and gift from the divine and thus as a form of Brahman again, the act of eating thus becomes an act of Brahman being offered to Brahman by Brahman, a contiguous act of humility devoid of any sense of vanity or egotism. Viewed in this light, eating becomes an act of supplication, a ritual which purifies man’s mind by removing the encrustations of all extraneous vitiating factors. A purified mind is the portal through which positive and constructive thoughts are engendered, aiding in man’s emotional and spiritual development.

The Gita describes this manner of food intake as Ahara Yagna, Yagna being described as any act being done for the welfare of not only oneself, but for the good of all, in a spirit of humility, with no sense of ego and selfishness. Most significantly, the Gita says this Yagna can be practised by anyone, anytime, anywhere, as contrasted with the commonly understood meaning of the word ‘Yagna’ as a ritual with all the oblations and other paraphernalia, which need to be readied before commencement. The Gita speaks of twelve different Yagnas suitable for people of different predilections and material strata. The Gita says when food is viewed in this perspective, it is a tool for controlling the tongue which hankers after taste and sense gratification. This is the prasad from this Yagna for the disciplined, who desire to practice the art of right living, says the Gita.

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Published 09 July 2023, 17:03 IST

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