Why should one chant Lord’s Name with every morsel of food?


1. Diet and the mind

The Vedas are the very roots of Indian culture. According to the Vedas, the aim of any activity is to achieve the Final Liberation (Moksha) whereas materialistic gain is only secondary to it. According to the Chandogya Upanishad, ‘Pure diet leads to a pure mind’. Positive mental health is essential to get rid of ignorance and acquire a state of eternal and supreme Bliss, that is the Final Liberation.

आहारशुद्धौ सत्त्‍वशुद्धि: सत्त्‍वशुद्धौ ध्रुवा स्‍मृति: ।
लब्‍ध्‍वा सर्व ग्रंथीनां विप्रमोक्ष: । – छांदोग्‍य उपनिषद्‌ ७.२६.२

1.1 Diet of the sense organs, mind and intellect

According to the Vedas, the word ‘ahar (nourishment)’ is used in a very broad sense. Every sense organ of the body has its specific ahar. Seeing objects or vision is considered as ahar for the eyes, hearing for the ears, sensation of touch for the skin, smell for the nose and taste for the tongue.

The sight of the Guru or saints is sattvik (sattva predominant) ahar for the eyes. Listening to spiritual discourses (kirtans) or devotional songs (bhajans) is sattvik ahar for the ears. Touching the feet of the Guru or a saint is sattvik ahar for the skin. Smelling the fragrance of flowers offered unto God is sattvik ahar for the nose and eating The Lord’s holy sacrament (prasad) is sattvik ahar for the tongue.

Harbouring good thoughts, following the code of righteous conduct, the rules and regulations prescribed by the scriptures, remaining in the holy company of saints (satsang) and undertaking spiritual practice according to the Path of Action (Karmayoga), the Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga) and the Path of Knowledge (Dnyanyoga) act as food for the mind and intellect.

1.2 Factors affecting the purity of food

If the food is pure, our mind and body too become pure as they are derived from the food we consume – ‘आहारशुद्धौ सत्त्‍वशुद्धि:’.

For a pure diet, the following should be pure and pious:

  • A. Money: When unrighteous means such as theft, murder, bribery or cheating are used to earn one’s livelihood, the food procured with this money is not pure. According to Manusmruti, as compared to the above things it is very important that the money should be earned by righteous means.

    सर्वेषां एवं शौचानां अर्थशौचं परं स्‍मृतम्‌ । – मनुस्‍मृति ५.१०६

    Money obtained by righteous means also becomes pure after offering 10% of it unto God, i.e. for good deeds without expecting any returns. – Skanda Puran

    न्‍यायोपार्जित वित्तस्‍य दशमांशेन धीमत: ।
    कर्तव्‍यो विनियोगश्‍च ईश्‍वर प्रीत्‍यर्थमेव च ।। – स्‍कंदपुराण

  • B. Food items: Eating onions, garlic, eggs and meat.

    According to Ayurveda, onion, garlic, eggs and meat are necessary to maintain good health and so is a beneficial diet, as the main aim of Ayurveda is to maintain a healthy body. – Skanda Puran

    But according to Manusmruti, garlic and onion should be avoided by Brahmans (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors) and Vaishyas (businessmen) as the main aim of Righteousness is to gain a healthy mind, i.e. a sattvik (sattva predominant) mind. On eating meat and eggs, the raja component of the mind increases. When animals are slaughtered, they are frightened and angry. On eating the meat of these animals, the same emotions increase in man too. Onion, garlic, alcoholic drinks and opium increase the tama component and sexual urge. Hence these food items should be avoided.

    लशुनं गृंजनं चैव पलाण्‍डुं कवकानि च ।
    अभक्ष्‍याणि व्‍दिजातीनां अमेध्‍य प्रभवाणि च । – मनुस्‍मृति ५.५

  • C. The place where the food is grown: Food items grown in black soil are more delicious and impart strength. Food items grown in a cemetry and rocky areas should not be consumed. Medicines grown in the Himalayas and food items grown along the banks of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Godavari are sattvik (sattva predominant).
  • D. Kitchen: It should be clean, well lit and well ventilated
  • E. Dining room: It should be clean and decorated with fragrant flowers.
  • F: Time of meals: Do not eat food at sunset or sunrise or at noon or midnight. Do not eat food 12 hours prior to a solar eclipse, 9 hours prior to a lunar eclipse and 3 hours after a solar or a lunar eclipse. The sun helps in digestion while the moon helps in nourishment. As the effects of the stars and planets decrease during an eclipse, one should avoid eating food during that period.
  • G. Cook: The cook should be hygienic. He should wear clean clothes after having a bath. He should wash his hands after going to the toilet and before commencing cooking. He should have clean habits and should be healthy.

    When the food is cooked by the mother, wife or sister with love, it promotes the sattvik (sattva predominant) tendency of the mind.

  • H. Utensils used for cooking and serving: A banana leaf or a lotus leaf or leaves of the palash tree are used to serve food.
  • I. The state of mind: Nourishing food eaten with the objective of obtaining energy to indulge in sex or to harass others increases the raja and tama components of the mind. Nourishing food eaten with the objective of obtaining energy to help others and perform good deeds increases the sattva component of the mind.

1.3 Activation of the Sun channel (Surya nadi) after meals

After eating food, walk a 100 steps and then sleep on the left side for 24 minutes so that the Surya nadi gets activated such that one breathes predominantly through the right nostril. The activated Surya naÅi stimulates the secretion of digestive juices and thus facilitates the digestion of food.

1.4 Diet and the mind

अन्‍नं अशितं त्रेधा विभजते
तस्‍य य: स्‍थविरो धातु: तत्‌ पुरीषं भवति ।
यो मध्‍यम: तन्‌ मांसं भवति ।
यो:णिष्‍ठ: तन्‍मन: भवति । – छांदोग्‍य उपनिषद्‌ ६.५.१

The Chandogya Upanishad states that the food we eat gets divided into three parts. The undigested solids are converted into faeces. The food which is absorbed into blood after digestion is converted into muscles and various tissues. The subtle, that is very minute particles of food form the mind.

The subtle particles of food are the particles of sattva, raja and tama which are the components of our mind. Therefore our thoughts and behaviour change with our diet. A diet which increases the sattva component is called a sattvik diet while a diet which increases the raja and tama components of the mind is called a rajasik and tamasik diet respectively.

1.5 Classification of diet in relation with the mind

Lord Shrikrushna has described sattvik, rajasik and tamasik diets in chapter 17 of the Bhagvadgita.

A. Sattvik diet: It is juicy, oily, stable (sthir) and tasty and pleasurable (hrudya).

Juicy (rasya): Juicy fruits and liquids.

Lubricating and nourishing (snigdha): Milk, butter and ghee prepared from cow’s milk act as lubricating agents and nourish the tissues of the body.

Stable (sthir): Food items like dry fruits such as almonds, walnuts, pistas which can be stored and do not putrefy or ferment.

Tasty and pleasurable (hrudya). A sattvik diet promotes life, health, physical and mental strength, happiness and love.

आयु: सत्त्‍वबलारोग्‍यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धना: ।
रस्‍या: स्‍निग्‍धा: स्‍थिरा हृद्या आहारा: सात्त्‍विकप्रिया: ।। – गीता १७.८

Sattvik people prefer a sattvik diet which in turn promotes the sattva component of the mind.

B. Rajasik diet: Pungent, sour, salty, very hot, dry and fermented food items increase the raja component of the mind. Rajasik people prefer this type of food. It gives rise to sorrow, disease and unhappiness.

कट्‌वम्‍ललवणात्‍युष्‍णतीक्ष्‍णरूक्षविदाहिन: ।
आहारा राजसस्‍येष्‍टा दु:खशोकामयप्रदा: ।। – गीता १७.९

C. Tamasik diet: Stale, tasteless and putrefied diet which is eaten by others, leftover food and a diet which affects the mind such as alcohol increase the tama component of the mind. Tamasik people prefer such type of food. It subdues the strength of the brain, mind and intellect.

यातयामं गतरसं पूति पर्युषितं च यत्‌ ।
उच्‍छिष्‍टमपि चामेध्‍यं भोजनं तामसप्रियम्‌ ।। – गीता १७.१०

1.6 Examples of sattvik, rajasik and tamasik food items

  • Ripe fruits are sattvik. Pickles prepared from fruits are rajasik. Alcoholic beverages and wine prepared from fruits are tamasik.
  • Food offered by wicked people is tamasik, that offered by relatives and friends is rajasik while food offered by saints is sattvik.
  • Food eaten along with alcohol is tamasik. Food eaten while chatting with friends is rajasik and that eaten while repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name is sattvik.
  • Food given by an enemy, an unhappy person, wicked people or prostitutes or food eaten at their place is tamasik and promotes the tama component. Food served in hotels or at a marriage is rajasik while food served as a holy sacrament (prasad) of The Lord and that given by saints is sattvik.

1.7 Effect of the state of mind on digestion

Food is digested easily when one is in a happy state of mind. If an individual is full of tension, sorrow, fear or anger, the food is not digested easily. If an individual does not get adequate sleep then also the food is not digested.

मात्रया अपि अभ्‍यवहृतं पथ्‍यं चान्‍नं न जीर्यति ।
चिन्‍ता शोक भय क्रोध दु:ख शय्‍या प्रजागरै: ।। – चरक

Sattvik people take an appropriate and adequate diet. Rajasik people eat tasty dishes till their stomach is full. Tamasik people do not have control over their taste buds and hence they overeat.

1.8 Non-vegetarian diet

न मांसभक्षणे दोषो न मद्ये न च मैथुने ।
प्रवृत्तिरेषा भूतानां निवृत्तिस्‍तु महाफला । – मनुस्‍मृति

In the Manusmruti, Manu states that eating meat, drinking wine or indulging in sex is not sinful as these are the natural tendencies of human beings. But those who refrain from indulging in these get good returns.

Ayurveda does not disapprove of eating a non-vegetarian diet. In fact in diseases wherein there is weakness, wasting of muscles and loss of weight, Ayurveda advises one to eat meat. In tuberculosis, one should eat meat of many animals because the main aim of Ayurveda is to have a healthy and strong body. Only if one is physically strong can one follow the rules laid down by religion and undertake spiritual practice. The poet Kalidas says, ‘शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्‌ ।।’.

1.9 Respect for food

Our body and the food we eat are formed from the the five great cosmic elements (panchamahabhutas). Today’s food is tomorrow’s body. One should never criticise food as then one does not get the expected beneficial results. One should always respect food because the same food when eaten with respect is beneficial to the body as well as the mind – अन्‍नं न निन्‍द्यात्‌ तत्‌ व्रतम्‌ ।

1.10 Diet with sanskars

A sanskar literally means a good action. Every activity of man including that of eating food should be beneficial for uplifting the level of the mind, i.e. to increase the sattva component of the mind. The host should see that all the children, the elderly and the ladies have eaten food and that all the servants and animals are fed before having food himself. Before eating he should offer the food to the five vital energies (prans) and the Brahman (priest) and repeat (chant) the following prayer:

वदनी कवळ घेता नाम घ्‍या श्रीहरीचे ।
सहज हवन होते नाम घेता फुकाचे ।
जीवन करी जीवित्‍वा अन्‍न हे पूर्णब्रह्म ।
उदरभरण नोहे जाणिजे यज्ञकर्म ।।

A person does not live to eat, but eats to live. So eating food does not merely mean filling one’s stomach. Eating food is a sacrificial fire (agnihotra yadnya). This means that the energy one gets from the food will be used for the welfare of the people.

One should repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name with every morsel of food, so that the food is digested easily and the energy from the food is used for The Lord’s mission, that is for good deeds and to help others. Saint Tukaram says, ‘काही नित्‍य नेमावीण । अन्‍न खाये तोचि श्‍वान ।।’ meaning, the one who eats food without making a resolve to utilise the energy derived from food for a good purpose, lives the life of a dog.

1.11 Effect of an evil eye being cast by animals and people on the food served as a meal

हीन दीन क्षुधार्तानां पाप पाखंड रोगिणाम्‌ ।
कुक्‍कुटादि शुनां दृष्‍टि: भोजने नैव शोभना ।। – निघंटुरत्‍नाकर, दिनचर्या

If hungry people, beggars, diseased persons, persons with a bad character, deceitful persons, atheists, sinners or animals like a dog, serpent or cock cast an evil look on food which is served as a meal, it can cause subtle changes in the food which can give rise to psychological and physical symptoms. On seeing delicious food, they may feel envious of the people who will eat it. If one prays before eating, the ill-effects due to casting of an evil eye are nullified.

पितृमातृ सुहृत्‌ वैद्य पाककृत हंस बर्हिणाम्‌ ।
सारसस्‍य चकोरस्‍य भोजने दृष्‍टिरुत्तमा ।। – निघंटुरत्‍नाकर, दिनचर्या

If our parents, relatives or the physicians watch us while eating, it is a good omen as these people feel happy on seeing us eat good food. If a swan, peacock, saras or chakora bird looks at the food, it is a good omen. Seeing a king, a priest, the sun, the sacred fire, gold, ghee or water at the time of meal is a good omen.

The following mantra nullifies the effect due to casting of an evil eye –

अन्‍नं ब्रह्म रसो विष्‍णु: भोक्‍ता देवो महेश्‍वर: ।
इति संचित्‍य भुंजानं दृष्‍टिदोषो न विद्यते ।।

One who eats food with the firm belief that food (anna) is Lord Brahma, the taste of food is Lord Vishnu and the one who consumes it is Lord Shiva is not affected by the ill-effects due to casting of an evil eye.

To nullify the ill-effects, one should offer the following prayer unto Lord Hanuman –

अंजनीगर्भसंभूतं कुमारं ब्रह्मचारिणं ।
दृष्‍टिदोषो विनाशाय हनुमंतं स्‍मराम्‍यहं ।।

One should remember Brahmachari Hanuman, the son of Anjani to nullify the ill-effects due to casting of an evil eye.