Jainism: Food Habits and Diet
Do you want to be healthy?
Do you want a strong and clear mind?
Do you want positive emotions?
Do you want a fast progress on the path of enlightenment?
- I know everybody wants it. I have not met anyone who does not want it.
Do you want Joy, happiness, festivity, celebration, bliss, peace of mind and tranquility?
- I know everybody wants it. I have not met anyone who does not want it.
- If you also want all these in your life, then read the entire article.
- I am going to explain you that part of the age-old wisdom and which is proven by modern science today.
- So, read the entire article to understand how the food we eat is connected with all these and what food one should eat, when to eat it, how to eat and how much to eat it.
- And you may say, I am eating since child hood and many times a day. So, what’s new about it? And what is there to learn?
- Let us quickly take a plunge to get a deeper understanding.
What we eat is what we are, so if we exert in the right direction and change our food habits, we can achieve all of the above goals.
- Within 7 years all our trillions of tissues are regenerated, few thousand tissues every day. In other words, if we take the right food at the right time, in a right way and in the right quantity, we can be much healthier than what we are today.
- All regeneration of body cells is done using the food digested in our body. There is no other way. It simply means our body is really refined form of the food we eat.
- So, food is the most important aspect of our life and it is very important to pay a close attention to our food habits.
- We will take a top-down approach. And let us start with the spiritual aspects first so that it will be much easier to understand all the other aspects.
- Meditation is a must to move to higher level of consciousness. If you meditate long enough, deep enough, it is impossible for you to hurt anybody for food. It is not a question of argument, it is not a question of scriptures, it is not who says what and what is written where, it is automatic.
- The whole thing seems so absurd. Just for food, killing animals, birds, seems so absurd, in the deep meditation it automatically drops down.
- Try vegetarianism and you will be surprised: meditation becomes far easier. Love becomes more deep, more subtle, more intense, more sensitive more prayerful.
- Your body also starts taking on a different vibe. You become more graceful, softer, less aggressive, more receptive. Vegetarianism brings an alchemical change in you; your inner can blossom and you can evolve to much higher level.
- Jains are required to be strict Vegetarians. This is not because of some dogma or someone wrote in a scripture but out of a deeper understanding of “Reverence for All Life”.
- —Life in its infinite forms exists as one organic unity. We are part of it: the part should feel reverence for the whole. That is the idea of vegetarianism. It simply means: don’t destroy life. We have an individual identity but at cosmic level we are part of the whole, one organic unity. Jainism says “pars parpa graho jivanam”. We are all inter-connected. It simply means: life is God — avoid destroying it, otherwise you will be destroying some part of you.
- It is of profound depth for man to learn how-to live-in friendship with nature, in friendship with creatures, in friendship with the whole cosmos. That becomes the foundation of your prayer, your meditativeness.
- You can watch it in yourself: when you eat meat, meditation will be more and more difficult.
- Vegetarianism is of immense help. It changes your chemistry. When you eat and live on animals…. The first thing: whenever an animal is killed the animal is angry, afraid — naturally all kinds of poisons will be released in the body. And man goes on living on that poisoned meat which is a dead body of an animal laced with all types of poisons, deadly bacteria, growth hormones and you are eating with that blood on your hands…blood of innocent, animals who are helpless and voiceless, without recourse to courts of law when the throats of creatures are cut for our food. Your hands have that blood on your hands no matter who killed these animals and where.
- If it keeps you angry, violent, aggressive, it is not strange; it is natural. Whenever you live on killing, you don’t have any respect for life; you are inimical to life and so you cannot move into prayer — because prayer means reverence for life.”
WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY AND PRACTICE OF REVERENCE FOR ALL LIFE?
- More than twenty-five hundred years ago, Mahavira (the last of 24 Prophets in Jainism) made a simple yet profound statement, based on the absorption of Non-violence into the fabric of his consciousness. He realized, “All of life is just like me. I want to live. So do all souls, all living beings. The instinct of self-preservation is universal. Every animate being clings to life and fears death. Each of us wants to be free from pain. So let me carry out all of my activities with great care not to be harmful to any living being.”
- The Jain community is strictly vegetarian-food-based community. Doctrines of Ahimsa is the fundamental principle of Jainism. So, Jains do not kill or cause to kill any animal or a living being that moves. So, they are staunch vegetarians.
- Jainism has very clear understanding of these aspect and evolved the “Art and science of eating” at all the four levels i.e. Body level, Mind level, Emotional level and spirituality or Enlightenment level.
- Jain food habits helps one to move much faster on this path than in any other way.
- We live in a universe of continuous giving. Everywhere the sun is radiating its warmth and light. The very breath of life is carried to us upon the air and wind. Clouds and oceans follow the same law to shower upon us their precious waters. Earth cultivates all manner of vegetation from which grain and fruit sprout forth. Our bodies are molded of all these gifts.
- We become accomplices in the large-scale destruction of billions of lives who, like us, are equally eager to grow, fulfill their needs, and bring their lives to fruition.
- What we need is a new dimension of thinking, a new directive for living. We need to perceive all planetary life as one interdependent family from which no living being is excluded. We need to experience the plight and pain of all living beings as if it were our own.
What to eat?
- Mindful Eating Is a State of Awareness, so, every person should be very aware and conscious about his eating.
- It is necessary to remain aware of what he eats, how much he eats and what its effects are on his body.
- If you experiment for a few months with awareness, you will certainly find out which is the right food for you, which food gives you tranquility, peace and health. There are no real difficulties, but because you do not pay any attention to your food you are never able to discover the right food.
- Jainism advises to avoid heavy food, food which will instigate passions. Right-food should be healthy, non-stimulating.
How to eat??
- The next thing about food is that the state of your mind when you eat is much more important than what you eat.
- Modern science also has proven that “Food will affect you differently if you eat joyously, happily, or if you eat when you are filled with sadness, anger, frustration and worry.
- “If you are eating in a worried state, then even the best food will have a poisonous effect. And if you are eating with joy, then it is possible that sometimes even poison may not be able to have its total effect on you – it is very possible. So the state of mind you are in when you eat is important….
- The other part of right-food is that you should eat in a very peaceful, a very joyful state. If you are not in such a state, then it is better to wait until you are and not to eat for a while. When the mind is absolutely ready, only then should you eat your meals.
- But you have never bothered to listen to it; you have made eating food a completely mechanical process.
- Mindful Eating
- “On the body level, right-food should be healthy, non-stimulating and non-violent; on the psychological level the mind should be in a blissful state, graceful and joyous; and on the level of the emotions and soul, there should be a feeling of gratefulness, of thankfulness. These things make food the right-food….
- A Sense of Gratefulness
- “You are eating food, you are drinking water, you are breathing — you should have a sense of gratefulness for all this. Toward all of life, toward the whole world, toward the whole universe, toward all of nature, toward the divine, there should be a feeling of gratefulness.
- “This feeling, this feeling of gratitude should be present in all aspects of our life — and very particularly concerning your diet. Only then can your diet become the right-diet.”
- The great rush:
- Eating food was not an act which should have been done in a hurry.
- It should have been done in the same way as someone entering a temple, or as someone kneeling to pray, or as someone sitting to play his guitar, or as someone singing a song, or someone doing a dance.
- This act is even more important: he is giving food to his body. It should be done in a state of tremendous blissfulness; it should be a loving and prayerful act.
- The more happily and joyously and the more relaxed and without worry a person can be when eating, the more his food will start becoming the right food, the divine food.
- But eating well is an art as much as it is a science. It is not just stuffing. It is great art: to taste the food, to smell the food, to touch the food, to chew the food, to digest the food, and to digest it as divine. It is divine; it is a gift from the divine.
- We say, Annam Para-Brahma – food is divine. So, with deep respect you eat, and while eating you forget everything, because it is a prayer. It is an existential prayer. You are eating the divine and the divine is going to give you nourishment. It is a gift to be accepted with deep love and gratitude.
- It is an art to understand the language of the body, to understand the language of your stomach, to understand what is needed, to give only that which is needed, and to give that in an artistic way, in an aesthetic way.
- The inward signs are to understand the language of your body, to listen to it, to be sensitive to its needs.
- Food cannot make you spiritual, but if you are spiritual your food habits will change.
- It happened to Mahavira. Mahavira came from a warrior family, Violence must have been easy for him, and then a deep meditative effort, a twelve-year-long silence changed his inner essence. When the essence changed the expression changed; when the innermost being changed, his character changed. But that character change was not basic, it was a consequence. So I say to you, if you become more meditative you will become more and more vegetarian automatically.
- And only if this happens, that through meditation vegetarian food comes into you not through mind manipulation, it is good. But manipulating by the mind, argument, reasoning that vegetarian food is good, that it will help you to gain spirituality, is not going to help anything. Your clothes, your food, your habits of life, your style, everything will change; but this change is not basic. The basic change is going to be in you and then everything else follows.
- But the inner change is the first thing and everything else is just a consequence. If you reverse the order you will miss, then you will become a food addict.
- Some more aspects of Jain food.
- JAINS AVOID FOOD PRODUCTS WHICH INVOLVE INJURY TO ANY LIFE.
- Root Vegetables Should be Avoided
- JAINS TRY TO MINIMIZE VIOLENCE EVEN TO PLANTS;
- THEREFORE, JAINS AVOID EATING ROOT VEGETABLES
- Consumption of most root vegetables involves uprooting & killing the entire plant. Also they contain a lot of bacteria one can see with microscope and find the living insects of them. That is why consumption of root vegetable is strictly forbidden. ROOT VEGETABLES have Negative energy as it grows in darkness and without fresh air and sky.
- The basic foundation of Jain food is non-violence. First of all, we should only take such food, which involves least possible injury. The question of killing five-sensed beings doesn’t arise at all; we should avoid injury to mobile beings also. It is necessary to avoid destruction of even one sensed being as far as possible. Jain-food-conduct has been determined keeping all these things in view
- So the bottom line is the food should not include anything that cause any sort of Injury to any living being
- JAINS ALSO SHOULD NOT DRINK BEER, WINE, LIQUOR, WHISKEY, OR ANY KIND OF ALCOHOL.
- JAINS RESPECT EVERY LIFE.
- JAINS SHOULD NOT WASTE ANY FOOD.
- JAINS FAST ON CERTAIN RELIGIOUS DAYS.
- JAINS PREFER TO DRINK BOILED WATER.
- JAINS DON’T TO EAT AFTER SUNSET AND BEFORE SUNRISE.
- Jains follow most hygienic way to cook the food.
- This practice is often taken to extremes. Many traditional Jains abstain from nighttime eating because light attracts insects. Many refuse to eat foods that have been left out at night because doing so would kill more microorganisms that have multiplied on food surfaces.
- Before tap water became available, Jains filtered their water. Some still do the same thing today as a matter of tradition.
- That the universe is not for man alone. It is a field of evolution for all of life’s forms. Consciousness exists in everything which grows, regardless of the size of its form. Though different forms are not the same in mental capacity and sensory apparatus, the life force is equally worthy in all.”
- we tune ourselves to Reverence for All Life. By doing everything we can to minimize violence and pain to life, we enjoy living with a cleansed consciousness and a light heart.
HOW CAN WE LIVE IN THIS WORLD WITH OUT TAKING LIFE AND CAUSING VIOLENCE?
- Most vegetables are harvested at the end of their natural life cycle. Many of them, such as berries, melons, beans, peas, squash, okra, pumpkins, nuts, and fruit from trees can be picked without uprooting the whole plant. Nevertheless, we realize with humility that every fruit, leaf, grain that we end on our plate had to lose its life in order to give us life. Without the plants to whom we are helplessly bound, we would not be able to survive, and therefore, to evolve. That is why Jain Monks recite this blessing before the daily meals:
- Aho Jinehim asavvajja vittisahuna desiya
- Mukkha Sahara heoosa sahu dehassa dharana.
- O Jinas! What a wonderful teaching you have given us! You have taught us to take only that food which is innocent, benign, and healthy, because it has not been procured through causing bloodshed.
- You have taught us to know why we eat, to sustain the body, end to do so for one main reason, to unfold our life and reach ultimate liberation.
- With this sense of appreciation, we eat with respect and restraint, without taking more than we need. And we say, as the native Americans did, “Dear plants, some day our bodies will return to you, to become food for the nourishment of your roots.”
- When plants are the direct source of nourishment, they provide the most efficient fuel for maintaining the body in a state of well-being. Witness the elephant, bull, gorilla, and horse, along with many other of the strongest animals; all are vegetarians, gaining their nutrients from plants; we can also. Plants receive energy directly from the sun, air, water, and soil, which gives them the capacity to transmit vitality and energy to us. By the time plants have been digested by animals, their original energy has already been used up by the animal. Humans who ingest flesh foods are therefore taking in a second-hand, devitalized form.
- In nations where cows, buffalos, and goats are not separated from offspring and where milking is done humanely, milk products are accepted by many vegetarians willingly.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF A VEGETARIAN DIET?
- More and more doctors throughout the world are saying that those who eat a high fiber, plant-based diet are automatically eating less cholesterol and fat, and are less likely to become victims of heart attack, cancer, high blood pressure, hypertension, and other diseases. Studies reveal that the lower one eats on the food chain, the less pesticides and chemicals one ingests and retains. Highly toxic concentrations of sodium nitrites, arsenic, antibiotics, and growth stimulants which are added to feed grains are retained in the flesh of cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and others. New breeds of antibiotics resistant bacteria which are created present another human health hazard. Synthetic chemicals, mercury, and toxic wastes from industrially polluted waters are found to be highly concentrated in fish and shellfish.
- Even in one’s senior years, health and clarity of mind can be enjoyed when the body is nourished with pure and bloodless food. These results are the rule, not the exception. An old age lived in sickness, senility, and boredom is not inevitable in human life. If we live properly, respecting the body’s need for enough water, rest, fresh air, and exercise, and if we tune in to which foods are best assimilated and most nutritious for us, we can remain healthy and energetic till our last days. When we live in vitality and reverence, our body becomes our temple, radiating well-being and harmony.
HOW DOES THE VEGETARIAN WAY BENEFIT THE MIND AND EMOTION?
- The right nutrition nourishes not only physical health, but mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well.
- The growing of plants produces more food per person on less land.
- Even the amount of water needed to produce one pound of meat is at least twenty times and sometimes one hundred times as much as is needed to produce one pound of wheat or rice. Slaughtering animals requires hundreds of millions of gallons of water every day. The wastes in these places, estimated at about two billion tons a year, mostly end up in waterways, polluting and killing thousands of fish, and creating a human health problem.*
- Short though it is, our time on this planet can be valuable and meaningful, if we choose to discover and live by the universal laws of the Nature.
- Rather than waiting for others to change, we start with ourselves. When we diminish the violent vibrations accumulated in body and mind, we start releasing our own healthy and positive energy. This creates a magnetic field around us which attracts vibrations of health, peace, loving kindness, and balance to us.
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