Diet Choices in the Yogic System
Why live, plant-based food is the ultimate fuel for the body.
What kind of food you eat should depend not on what you think about it, or on your values and ethics; but on what the body wants. Food is about the body. Ask the body: what kind of food is it really happy with. Try different foods and see how your body feels after eating it. If your body feels very agile and energetic, that means the body is happy. If the body feels lethargic and needs to be pumped up with caffeine to stay awake, the body is not happy.
If you listen to your body, it will clearly tell you what kind of food it is happy with. But right now, you are listening to your mind. Your mind keeps lying to you all the time. It takes a certain amount of attention to learn to listen to your body. Once you have that, you will know what to eat and what not to eat. Every creature knows. The human species is supposed to be the most intelligent on the planet, but we do not even know what to eat.
You should eat the kind of food which your body is most at ease with, where it does not have to struggle to get nourishment. Whether you want to do your business properly or study properly or do any activity properly, it is extremely important that your body is at ease. We are not looking at it from a moral standpoint. We are just looking at what is suitable for the system—we try to eat foods which would make us comfortable in the body.
Live, vegetarian food for vibrant health
Definitely vegetarian food is far better for the system than non-vegetarian food. Just experiment and see: when you eat vegetarian food in its live form, what a difference it will make. The idea is to eat as much live food as possible—whatever can be consumed in its raw, uncooked form. A live cell has everything to sustain life. If you consume a live cell, you will see that the sense of health in your system will be very different from anything that you have known. When we cook food, we destroy the life in it, and it does not give the same amount of life energy to the system. But when you eat live food, it brings a different level of aliveness in you. If one brings in at least thirty to forty percent live food into their diet—sprouts, fruit, and whatever vegetables that can be consumed in a live condition—you will see that it will sustain the life within you very well.
Above all, the food that you eat is life. Other forms of life are giving up their life to sustain ours. If we can eat with enormous gratitude for all of them, then food will behave in a very different way within us.
Plant-based diet vs. meat
Questioner: Sadhguru, I am a foodie. Is it okay to eat non-vegetarian food if it feels right for me?
Sadhguru: Whether you eat a plant or an animal, it is still violence. Whether you pluck a fruit or a vegetable, or cut an animal and eat it, everything is cruel. It is just that we must do it with some sensitivity, and eat only to the extent that is necessary. You should drop this idea of being a foodie.
We all must eat food, but becoming identified with food is not right because that means we will indulge, not just nourish, ourselves. As a life we have a right to nourish ourselves, but we have no right to take another life wantonly, just for pleasure. Do not call yourself a foodie because food should never become the identity.
Diet and mental health
Questioner: Is there a connection between our mind, mood, emotional state, mental health, and the food that we eat? What is the connection between our body and our mind?
Sadhguru: The Yogic system does not identify the body and mind as two different entities. It is just that what we generally refer to as mind is a certain amount of memory and intelligence. Your brains are part of your body. People generally think the brain is everything just because it handles the thought process. But between the brain and the rest of the body, which has more memory and intelligence? If you look at it carefully, your body’s memory goes back millions of years. It clearly remembers how your forefathers were. The mind cannot claim that kind of memory. When it comes to intelligence, what is happening in a single molecule of DNA is so complex that your whole brain cannot figure it out. In the Yogic system, there is a physical body and there is a mental body—an intelligence and memory running right across the body.
The type of food we eat has a huge impact on the mind. A large number of people in the West take antidepressants at some point their lives. An average American is said to consume 200 pounds of meat per year. If you bring it down to 50 pounds, I will say 75 percent of the people will not need antidepressants anymore. Meat is a good food to survive if you are out in the desert or the jungle. If you are lost somewhere, a piece of meat will keep you going because it provides concentrated nourishment. But it should not be a daily food that you eat when there are other choices.
There are many ways to look at this. One aspect is that animals have the intelligence to know in the last few moments that they are going to get killed, no matter how cunningly or how scientifically you do it. Suppose you come to know, right now, that at the end of this day, you are going to get slaughtered. Imagine the struggle that you would go through, the burst of chemical reactions within you. An animal goes through at least some fraction of that. This means when you kill an animal, the negative acids and other chemicals are in the meat. When you consume the meat, it creates unnecessary levels of mental fluctuations in you.
For most of those who have become mentally ill, the illness is not pathological but has been cultivated. Such a large percentage of people cannot be mentally sick unless we are somehow culturing it within our social fabric. If you put people who are on antidepressants on a conscious vegetarian diet, in about three months’ time, many of them will not need their medication anymore. We have seen this with many people who have come to the Isha Yoga Center.
|Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, and visionary, and a prominent spiritual leader. An author, poet, and internationally renowned speaker, Sadhguru is the founder of Isha Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to human wellbeing. (www.isha.sadhguru.org)
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