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
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
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