Food And Self-Realization

April 13, 2015

Every week, we feature excerpts by Gandhi that lend insight into his values and personal practices.

During his incarceration in 1930 in the Yeravda Central Prison, Gandhi wrote weekly letters to the Satyagraha Ashram, containing an examination of their 11 observances. One of them is the Control of the Palate:

May 05, 1930

"Control of the palate is very closely connected with the observance of brahmacharya. I have found from experience that the observance of celibacy becomes comparatively easy, if one acquires mastery over the palate. This does not figure among the observances of time-honoured recognition. Could it be because even great sages found it difficult to achieve? In the Satyagraha Ashram we have elevated it to the rank of an independent observance, and must therefore consider it by itself. [...]

We must not be thinking of food all the twenty-four hours of the day. The only thing needful is perpetual vigilance, which will help us to find out very soon when we eat for self-indulgence, and when in order only to sustain the body. This being discovered, we must resolutely set our faces against mere indulgence. A common kitchen where this principle is observed is very helpful, as it relieves us from the necessity of thinking out the menu for each day, and provides us with acceptable food of which we may take only a limited quantity with contented and thankful mind. The authorities of a common kitchen lighten our burden and serve as watchdogs of our observance. They will not pamper us, they will cook only such food as helps us to keep the body a fit instrument for service. In an ideal state the sun should be our only cook. But I know that we are far, far away from that happy state." (1)

In other occasion, Gandhi shared his discoveries around food:
"Unless we are satisfied with foods that are necessary for the proper maintenance of our physical health, and unless we are prepare to rid ourselves of stimulating heating and exciting condiments that we mixed with food. We will certainly not be able to control the over-abundant, unnecessary, and exciting stimulation that we may have." (2)  

"The diet should be healthy and well-balanced. The body was never meant to be treated as a refuse-bin. Food is meant to sustain the body."  (3)

 (1) From Yeravda Mandir (Ashram Observances) by M. K. Gandhi 6th March, 1932

(2) and (3) from the Mani Bhavan library.

Be The Change

This week pay attention to the food that your body needs and try to find the subtle ways in which healthy local and organic food nourishes you.