India is the home of not only vegetarian cooking, but also the science of healthful living. The section of the Vedas known as the Ayurveda is the oldest known work on biology, hygiene, medicine, and nutrition. Sri Bhagavan Danvantari, an Avatar of Vishnu, revealed this branch of the Vedas thousands of years ago. “Old,” is not the same as “primitive,” however, and some of the instructions of the Ayurveda will may remind you of modern nutritional teachings or will just seem plain common sense. Other instructions may seem less familiar, but if given the chance they will prove their worth.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see bodily health discussed in spiritual writings. After all, the human body is a divine gift—a unique opportunity for the imprisoned soul to escape from the cycle of reincarnation—and therefore it must be respected. The importance of healthful living in spiritual life is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gita (6.16-17)
There is no possibility of becoming a yogi, O Arjuna,
if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.
One who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working, and recreation
can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.
Balanced and healthful eating has dual importance. Not only does it play an essential role in maintaining bodily health, but its opposite—overeating, eating in a disturbed or anxious state of mind, or eating unclean foods—is the main cause of Ama (undigested food), considered “the parent of all diseases,” according to the Ayurveda.
Proper eating can also help the aspiring transcendentalist attain mastery over his senses. “Of all the senses, the tongue is the most difficult to control,” says the Prasada-Sevaya, a song composed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura1, a prolific author on Vaisnava teachings, “but Krishna has kindly given us this nice prasada to help us control the tongue,” he declares. Thakura thus reveals a mystical quality of food when it is prepared and consumed in a state of devotion.
1. Bhaktivinoda (1838 – 1914) was among the first Vaishnava scholars to present the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the principles of Gaudiya Vaishnava Theology to the English speaking world.
SOURCE: FOOD YOGA – Nourishing the Soul, by Priya Vrata
For more information on the Ayurveda