Non-Violence and Food

Non-violence and Its Many Facets

Jain Philosophy
by Acharya Mahapragya

Non-violence and Food

Two basic components of life are air and food. It is not only human beings but also plants that cannot survive without air and food. Here we will talk about the latter. Much discussion has taken place on the subject from the points of view of health and various periods of the year, especially the seasons. Some people have gone further and discussed the kinds of food suitable at different times of the day–morning, mid day and evening. Then there has been an attempt to specify foods conducive to a state of austerity and celibacy. Many dos and don’ts have been prescribed. Here, however, we are considering food in the context of non-violence. Is there any relation between food and violence and between food and non-violence ? The question is very important and an intensive Investigation is necessary to find an answer.

The food that man eats produces innumerable chemicals in his body. It helps form a number of neuro-transmitters in the brain which act as communicators. Through them the brain runs the body. Scientists have so far succeeded in identifying nearly forty types of neuro-transmitters. All of them are formed by the food one eats. Besides, food is also responsible for the manufacture of many amino acids in the body. Even uric acid, a poison, is produced by food. The same is true of many other toxic elements. Therefore it is necessary to know which type of food produces what. The type that produces poison is also the one that creates mental and emotional problems and that encourages violent tendencies. In ancient times a lot of attention was paid to the effects of various types of foods. Modern dieticians, besides doing the same also study the effects of not eating different kinds of foods. These are two aspects of the same problem.

Here is a simple case. We come across a highly irritable man and want to find out why he is so. Investigations reveal vitamin A deficiency. Again, there has to be 90 to 110 mg of sugar for every 100 cubic centimeters of body volume. Slight deficiency causes emotional disorders. The man becomes ill-tempered and in extreme cases can even become a murderer. Modem science has proved that ill-temper and the murderous tendency are caused by a deficiency of sugar, niacin and certain vitamins. Chemical deficiency can cause depression. Similarly, one of the causes of fear is vitamin B deficiency. A lot of research is being carried on these days on the properties of a chemical called tryptaphane which produces serotonin. It has been found that an adequate quantity of serotonin in the blood prevents moodiness and fear and increases tolerance to pain.

Advocates of non-vegetarianism often advance richness in protein as the chief argument in favour of meat and eggs. But now it is realized that excessive protein causes all kinds of physical and mental disorders. The daily requirement of protein for an average man is not more than 10 to 15 grams.

Non-vegetarians suffer from an excessive intake of protein. Moreover, it too is an established fact that animal protein is not as useful as vegetable protein. For example, millet protein is good for health while meat protein causes disease. Not only this, a non-vegetarian has to use alcohol and/or excessive salt to digest meat, which cause diseases of the kidneys, liver and heart. To quite some extent food is responsible for some of the major killer diseases like hypertension, cardiac troubles, ulcers, cancer and kidney failure. What the body needs is a balanced diet in which not only proteins but other elements like fats, carbohydrates etc. must also be present. Today only one element protein- is being overemphasized and the craze for protein-rich food has driven people to non-vegetarianism, so much so that at an early stage school children are asked to eat eggs since they are said to be a good source of protein. But, as has been pointed out earlier, an excessive intake of proteins, particularly animal proteins, is an open invitation to illness. Most emotional disturbances in modern society can be blamed on the use of intoxicants and non-vegetarian food, and these disturbances can cause unsuspected damage. For example, emotional imbalance and overwork are two important causes of marrow degeneration. Lechery and excessive anger also cause it. And it has already been noted that food is one of the factors responsible for emotional imbalances.

Three types of food have been recognized: sattvik (endowed with the quality of highest purity), rajasik (endowed with the quality of passion) and tamasik (endowed with the quality of darkness-the lowest kind.) That is why there is a close relation between food and the mind. For the above reason certain foods are prohibited, while others are recommended. A scientific discussion on non-violence cannot therefore ignore food. Proper food and non-violence both help prevent the accumulation of poisons in the blood stream. Food being a necessity of life cannot be given up, but those foods that poison the body must be avoided. Here it is in order to mention that both acidic and alkaline elements are present in food. Modern food has more of the former than the latter and it is the acidic elements which lead to greater accumulation of poisons in the system. To curb violence it is essential to prevent their accumulation.

Two things are required to be done – preventing the formation of poisons and eliminating or expelling those already formed. How to do it ? Here we must consider another aspect of food, viz. not eating or fasting. Eating and not eating are closely related as the best way of expelling poisons is fasting. Its importance is as much therapeutic as religious; particularly, it is crucial for emotional health. Lord Mahavir asked people to take milk, yoghurt, butter, sugar etc. in moderation since they act as stimulants and arouse passions. On this basis eating meat is automatically ruled out. It should be remembered that food should be taken for fostering physical, mental and emotional health. If food is eaten merely for the sake of physical health, things are bound to go wrong. Once we consider the aspect of emotional health, we automatically ensure non-violence. It is only emotionally healthy people who practise non-violence. One who is emotionally diseased is bound to indulge in crimes and violence. It is highly regrettable that modern man thinks first of only physical health and then of mental health, if at all. Emotional health is altogether ignored. We should reverse the order and care first of all for emotional health, then for mental health and lastly for physical health. This is not unnatural, for it is emotions which influence life most. Like emotions, like the mind and the body.

There are three words: adhi, vyadhi and upadhi. The first is mental disease, the second is physical disease and the third is emotional disease. Which should be eliminated first ? Quite mistakenly we try to treat the physical disease first. In reality we should begin with the emotional ailment, which consists of lust, anger, egoism, jealousy, delusion, greed and such other faults. Since emotions are vitally linked with food, we must exercise utmost discrimination in eating. The present criteria of food are satisfaction of the palate and of the aesthetic sense. Nothing beyond this. But one who practices meditation must give utmost attention to the selection of proper food–sattvik food. For changing one’s life style one has to change the style of eating. The food eaten should be such as will ensure emotional health because the latter is a vital prerequisite of non-violence. It is necessary to study the relation between food and violence and between food and non-violence much more seriously.