This is the second of three excerpts from a discourse by Osho about right diet, right labor and right sleep:
Man is the only species whose diet is not predictable. The diet of all other animals is certain. Their basic physical needs and their nature decides what they should eat and what they should not; how much they should eat, how much they should not; when they should eat and when they should stop. But man is absolutely unpredictable, he is absolutely uncertain. Neither his nature tells him what he should eat, nor his awareness tells him how much he should eat, nor his understanding decides when he should stop eating. As none of these qualities of man are predictable, the life of man has gone in some very uncertain directions. But if there is even a little understanding – if man starts living with even a little intelligence, with even a little thoughtfulness, opening his eyes even a little, then it is not at all difficult to change to a right diet. It is very easy; there can be nothing more easy. To understand right diet we can divide it into two parts.
The first thing: what should a man eat and what should he not eat? Man’s body is made of chemical elements. The whole process of the body is very much chemical. If alcohol is put into a man, then his body will be affected by the chemical – it will become intoxicated, unconscious. Howsoever healthy, howsoever peaceful the man may be, the chemistry of the intoxication will affect his body. Howsoever saintly a man may be, if he is given poison then he will die.
Socrates died from poisoning and Gandhi died from a bullet. A bullet does not see whether the man is a saint or a sinner; neither does poison see whether a man is Socrates or some ordinary person. Neither the harmful intoxications and poisons nor the food sees who or what you are. Its functions are straightforward – it goes into the chemistry of the body and starts working. In this way any food which is intoxicating starts harming and creating disturbances in man’s consciousness. Any food which takes man into any kind of unconsciousness, any kind of excitement, any kind of extremity, any kind of disturbance, is harmful. And the deepest, ultimate harm is when these things start reaching the navel.
Perhaps you are not aware that in naturopathy all over the world, mud packs, vegetarian food, light food, water-soaked cloth strips and tub baths are used to heal the body. But no naturopath has yet understood the point that the effects of water-soaked cloth strips, mud packs, or tub baths on the body are not so much because of their special qualities but because of how they affect the navel center. And the navel center then affects the rest of the body. All these things – the mud, the water, the tub bath – affect the dormant energy in the navel center and when this energy arises, health starts arising in the person’s life.
But naturopathy is still not aware of this. Naturopathy thinks that perhaps these beneficial effects are coming from the mud packs or the tub baths or the wet strips on the stomach! They do have benefits, but the real benefits are coming from the awakening of energy in the dormant centers of the navel.
If the navel center is mistreated, if a wrong diet, wrong food is used, then slowly, slowly the navel center becomes dormant and its energy becomes weaker. Slowly, slowly that center starts falling asleep. Finally it almost goes to sleep. Then we don’t even notice it as any center.
Then we notice only two centers: one is the brain where thoughts are constantly moving, and the other is a little bit of the heart where emotions are moving. Deeper than this we have no contact with anything. So, the lighter the food is, the less it creates heaviness on the body, the more valuable and significant it will be for the beginning of your inner journey.
For a right diet the first thing to remember is that it should not create excitement, it should not be intoxicating, it should not be heavy. After eating rightly you should not feel heaviness and drowsiness. But perhaps all of us feel heaviness and drowsiness after our meals – then we should know that we are eating wrongly.
A very great doctor, Kenneth Walker, has said in his autobiography that according to his life-long experiences he can say that of whatever people eat, half of it fills their stomach and half of it fills the stomachs of the doctors. If they would eat only half of what they usually eat then they would not get sick at all, and there would be no need of doctors.
Some people get sick because they do not get enough food and some people get sick because they get too much food. Some people die of hunger and some people die of overeating. And the number of people dying of overeating has always been more than the people dying of hunger. Very few people die of hunger. Even if a man wants to remain hungry there is no possibility of him dying for at least three months. Any person can live without food for three months. But if a man overeats for three months then there is no possibility of his survival.
There have been people whose very ideas make us feel strange. There was a great emperor called Nero. He had two doctors whose job was just to make him vomit after his meals, so that he could enjoy eating at least fifteen to twenty times a day. So he would eat a meal, then he would take medicine to make him vomit so that he could enjoy food again. What we are doing is not very different.
Nero could have doctors at his palace because he was an emperor. We are not emperors but we have doctors in our neighborhood. Nero was making himself vomit every day, we make ourselves vomit every few months. We eat a wrong diet and accumulate all kinds of things and then the doctor gives us a cleansing. Then we start eating wrong food again. Nero was a wise man! He arranged for a cleansing everyday – we do it after every two or three months. If we were also emperors then we would do the same thing. But we are helpless, we do not have the facilities, so we cannot do it. We laugh at Nero but in a certain way we are not different to him.
Our wrong attitudes towards food are becoming dangerous for us. They are proving to be very costly. They have taken us to a point where we are somehow just alive. Our food does not seem to create health in us, it seems to create sickness. It is a surprising situation when food starts making us sick. It is as if the sun rising in the morning creates darkness. This would be an equally surprising and strange thing to happen. But all the physicians in the world are of the opinion that most of the diseases of man are because of his wrong diet.
So the first thing is that every person should be very aware and conscious about his eating. And I am saying this especially for the meditator. It is necessary for a meditator to remain aware what he eats, how much he eats, and what its effects are on his body. If a man experiments for a few months with awareness, he will certainly find out which is the right food for him, which food gives him tranquillity, peace and health. There are no real difficulties but because we do not pay any attention to food, we are never able to discover the right food.
The second thing about food is that the state of our mind when we eat is much more important than what we eat. Food will affect you differently if you eat joyously, happily, or if you eat when you are filled with sadness and worry. If you are eating in a worried state, then even the best food will have a poisonous effect. And if you are eating with joy then it is possible that sometimes even poison may not be able to have its total effect on you. It is very possible. So what state of mind you eat in is important.
In Russia there was a great psychologist called Pavlov. He did some experiments on animals and he reached an amazing conclusion. He experimented on some dogs and some cats. He gave food to a cat and he observed the cat through an X-ray machine to see what happened in her stomach after she ate her food. When the food went into the stomach the stomach immediately released digestive juices. At the same time a dog was brought to the window of the room the cat was in. When the dog barked, the cat became afraid and the X-ray machine showed that the secretion of digestive juices within her stopped. The stomach closed. It shrunk. Then the dog was taken away, but for six hours the stomach remained in the same condition. The digestive process of the food did not begin again and the food remained undigested in the stomach for six hours. After six hours, when the juices started flowing again, the food was not in a digestible state, it had become solid and had become difficult to digest. When the cat’s mind became worried about the presence of the dog the stomach stopped its work.
Then what about our situation? We live in worry for twenty-four hours a day. It is a miracle how the food we eat gets digested, how existence manages it in spite of us! We have no wish to digest it. It is absolutely a miracle how it gets digested. And how we remain alive! This is also a miracle! Our state of mind should be graceful and blissful.
But in our houses the dining table is in the most gloomy state. The wife waits the whole day for her husband to come home to eat and all the emotional sickness she has gathered in twenty-four hours comes out just when the husband is eating. She does not know that she is doing the work of an enemy. She does not know that she is serving poison on her husband’s plate.
The husband is also afraid and worried after the whole day’s work – he somehow dumps the food into his stomach and leaves. He has no idea that the act which he has finished so quickly and has run away from should have been a prayerful one. It was not an act which should have been done in a hurry. It should have been done in the same way as someone entering a temple, or as someone kneeling to pray, or as someone sitting to play his veena, or as somebody singing a song for the beloved. This act is even more important: he is giving food to his body. It should be done in a state of tremendous blissfulness. It should be a loving and prayerful act.
The more happily and joyously and the more relaxed and without worry a person can take his meal, the more his food starts becoming the right food.
A violent diet does not only mean that a man eats non-vegetarian food. It is also a violent diet when a man eats with anger. Both of these things are violent. While eating in anger, in suffering, in worry, man is also eating violently. He does not realize at all that just as he is violent when eating the flesh of something else, so when his own flesh burns up inside due to anger and worry, violence is present there too. Then the food which he is eating cannot be non-violent.
The other part of right food is that you should eat in a very peaceful, a very joyful state. If you are not in such a state, then it is better to wait until you are and not to eat for a while. When the mind is absolutely ready, only then should one take his meals. For how long will the mind not be ready? If you are aware enough to wait then at the most it can remain hungry for only one day – but we have never bothered to listen to it. We have made eating food a completely mechanical process. One has to put food into the body and then leave the dining table. It is no longer a psychological process – that is dangerous.
On the body level, the right food should be healthy, non-stimulating and non-violent; on the psychological level the mind should be in a blissful state, graceful and joyous; and on the level of the soul there should be a feeling of gratefulness, of thankfulness. These three things make food the right food.
We should have a feeling that “Because today food is available to me, I am grateful. I have been given one more day to live – I am tremendously grateful. This morning I have woken up alive again, today the sun has given its light to me again, today I will be able to see the moon again, I am alive again today! It was not necessary that I should have been alive today, today I could have been in a grave – but life has again been given to me. I have not earned it; it has been given to me free.” For this at least, a feeling of thankfulness, of gratitude, should be there in one’s heart. We are eating food, we are drinking water, we are breathing – we should have a sense of gratefulness about all this. Towards the whole life, towards the whole world, towards the whole universe, towards the whole nature, towards the divine, there should be a feeling of gratefulness – “I have received one more day to live. Once more I have received food to eat. For one more day I am seeing the sun, seeing the flowers blossoming. I am again alive today.”
Two days before death came to Rabindranath, he said, “Lord, how grateful I am! Oh God, how shall I express my gratitude? You gave this life to me when I was not in any way worthy of receiving it. You gave breathing to me when I had no right to breathe. You gave me experiences of beauty and bliss which I had not earned at all. I am grateful. I am overpowered by your grace. And if in this life given by you, I may have received any pain, any suffering, any worry, it must have been my fault; because this life of yours is very blissful. It must have been my fault. So I do not ask you to give me liberation from life. If you feel me worthy, then send me into this life again and again. This life of yours is very blissful and I am utterly grateful for it.”
This feeling, this feeling of gratitude, should be there in all aspects of life – and very particularly with diet. Only then can diet become the right diet.
Osho, The Inner Journey, Ch 3 (translated from Hindi)
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