Feb 27, 2015

Mahatma Gandhi’s View of Food

Eating With Discernment Helps Inner Purification

B. P.  Wadia

Pythagorean tradition says: “... Learn to conquer
these; thy belly first, then sloth, luxury and rage.”

Bodily health is valued highly by all. That “Health is Wealth” is true in more than one sense. Great efforts are made by governmental and social organizations to educate the people as to how not only to prevent disease but also to build up health.

As in other spheres, modern knowledge here started off with some false premises. The ancients and their modern heirs like Paracelsus, Mesmer, Du Potet and others were long suspected and scorned. Thanks, however, to the discovery that people who worry seem especially prone to such an ailment as ulcer of the stomach, psycho-somatic medicine has recently gained ground. The Body-Mind interrelation is now universally recognized, and psychiatry has become an acknowledge branch of medicine.

Ancient Sages emphasized the connection between body, psyche and human spirit. The indissoluble links between Man, the Microcosm, and the Supreme the Macrocosm, were thoroughly understood. Health and Holiness, which come from the same root, meaning “whole”, were deemed necessary for the progress of man, the mortal, towards the Integrated Immortal, the Master of His Own Being and so the Master of the Living Universe.

Manu and other lawgivers have laid down rules of health for the attainment of this progress: health of the corpus, and of feelings, of thoughts, of will; and of the links which bind these together to create Man, the unit.

One important factor in this programme is what, how and when to eat. In our own times Gandhiji experimented with various edibles, considering dietetics to be a vital art. But he took the same view than the old Sages did - the body being the temple of the Most High not only what goes into the mouth as food but also what comes out of it as words and tones has to be considered, the latter being more important than the former.

Man must not be looked upon as a body, or a mind, or a soul, but as unit in which many forces are at work; forces in Nature which, with due co-operation, keep all forms of life in good health.

Pythagoras is reported by Iamblichus and others as taking the same view. His pupils in the Sodality of Krotona were not only instructed in mathematics and music but also in dietetics - what might be eaten and what should not be touched.

Thus, in his Golden Verses:

“Eat not the food proscribed,
But use discretion
In lustral rites,
And freeing of thy soul.”

Foods should be taken with such discernment that the inner psychological purification is not hindered or halted. For the freeing of the Soul from the bondage of the senses, purificatory rites were undertaken, but their efficacy was lowered by indulgence in proscribed foods.

Pythagoras, however, did not advocate the extreme asceticism of body-torture:

“Nor should’st thou thy body’s health neglect,
But give it food and drink and exercise
In measure; cause it no distress.”

One cause of ill health, disturbing to the concord between brain and mind, is an unbalanced diet, one which does not maintain the balance between the body and the dweller in the body. Measured exercise aids both assimilation and elimination, thus restoring the equilibrium. There exists a parallelogram of forces of the body, speech, emotions and ideas, and food is a factor of its equilibration. Bodily distress is Nature’s signal of the imbalance of forces which have therefore become discordant.

And then there is this verse:

“Know this for truth,
And learn to conquer these:
Thy belly first;
Then sloth, luxury and rage.”

Proscribed food, taught the Greek Sage, caused inertia. Gluttony is not only overeating but also consuming the wrong quality of food. Sloth results; indifference to life sets in;  then luxuries are sought while real needs are neglected. Comfort, ease, luxury and more luxury are followed by frustration, and thus anger, wrath and rage are born.

All diseases emanate from the Great Disease - discord and disturbance between Man and the forces of Nature. Earth, water, fire, air and light are in him as they are in the Macrocosm. His Powers, of Will, of Thought, of Speech and all others are derived from Nature, Mother of all Powers. Man’s prerogative is to help Nature by recognizing that his own creative spirit and the Great Spirit are in constant unison, and living accordingly. This is Holiness; this is Health. Turning away from them, man enters the universe of Great Disease.


The above article is reproduced from the June 2013 edition of “The  Aquarian Theosophist”.  It was previously published in the book The Gandhian Way”, by B. P. Wadia, Asian Book Trust In Association With Theosophy Company (India), Mumbai, 2000, pp. 103-105. Original Tittle: “Gandhiji’s View of Food”. 


On the duty and mission of the esoteric movement in the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline. 

Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.