WHAT IS AHARA?
Ahara is one of the important pillars of Ayurveda. It means that it is one of the basic principles upon which health, happiness and harmony rests. It is concerned with diet and lifestyle and is essentially preventive in nature. It is not only the food that we consume, but also what each of the 5 senses (eyes-sight, nose-smell, ears-hearing, tongue-taste, skin-touch) absorb from all that they come into contact with.
Our life revolves around food.
We begin each day and end each day with some intake of food! Some of us live to eat and yet some eat to live! The first cry of a newborn is for nourishment from his/her mothers milk and touch. From the first moment of our lives, food is one of the most important ingredient for a healthy body and mind. In todays time, restaurants are totally packed. Take out food centers are overflowing with orders. Grocery stores have long lines. When we see a beggar on the streets, he is begging for money so as to feed himself & his family. Food is his primary thought.
In our fast paced life today, fast foods are on the rise. We eat quickly, foods that are prepared with shortcuts and we find relief in filling the stomach and senses rather than nourishing and energizing the body. Protein shakes are taken as ‘fillers’ and nutrition. There is a complete lack of attention to the process of eating. There are several gadgets in the kitchen today for cooking aid but eating out or taking food out is the latest fad of this century. New and old diseases are rapidly on the rise and some are uncontrollable or incurable.
Finding Our Balance:
Ayurveda teaches us how to go back to nature and find our balance. Each individual has a unique blueprint. Each human being knowing their unique design can prevent imbalances and diseases in their body and mind. Slowing down is the first step in life.
Food has a relationship with the three doshas:
- VATA (air and ether)
- PITTA (fire and water)
- KAPHA (earth and water)
… and the three gunas:
- Sattwa (Harmony)
- Rajas (Overactive)
- Tamas (Underactive)
For a lot of people, time is of essence, in todays hurried pace and even if there exists a deeper knowledge of the Science of Ayurveda in them, they are still not able to follow the simple rules of nature. It is a constant struggle in the body and mind. But we, as human beings are responsible for everything that happens to us. Self study is the first step to making changes and bringing balance.
As a child growing up in India, I was taught to offer the food to the Higher Spirit (God) before eating the first morsel, so that it was purified, blessed and removed from toxins. The offering was always done silently even if the meal was consumed outside of home, at a restaurant etc. With the passage of time, I was taught the 24th verse from the 4th chapter of the Bhagawad Gita, which is as following:
Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
Brahma Karma Samaadhinaha
Translation: [This is 24th verse from the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Geeta]
The act of offering is Brahman (Supreme God). The offering itself is Brahman.
The offering is done by Brahman in the sacred fire which is Brahman.
He alone attains Brahman who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman.
(As we chant this prayer we are offering the different types of food to Brahman).
Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva
Praanaapaana Samaa Yuktaha
Pachaamyannam Chatur Vidam
Translation: [This is 14th verse from the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Geeta]
This sloka is an acknowledgement and assurance to us from Brahman (Supreme God):
“I am Vaishnavara, existing as fire God in the bodies of living beings. Being associated with ingoing (prana) and outgoing (apana) life breaths, I will digest all the four different types of food (that which we bite and chew; that which we masticate with the tongue; those which we gulp; that which we swallow) and purify them.”
Harir Daatha Harir Bhoktha
Harir Annam Prajaapatih
Harir Vipra Shareerastu
Bhoonkte Bhojayathe Harih.
Oh Lord Hari, You are the food
You are the enjoyer of the food
You are the giver of food
Therefore, I offer all that I consume at Thy Lotus Feet
We should partake food with a Sathwic mind. Our ancestors recommended the offering of food to God before partaking. Food so partaken becomes “Prasad” (consecrated offering).
Prayer cleanses the food of the three impurities;
1. Absence of cleanliness of the vessel
2. Absence of cleanliness of the food ingredients
3. Absence of cleanliness in the process of cooking.
It is necessary to get rid of these three impurities to purify the food, for pure food goes into the making of a pure mind. It is not possible to ensure the purity of the cooking process, since we do not know what thoughts rage in the mind of the person who prepares the food. We unknowingly may absorb the ‘rage’ of the cheff preparing the food. Also, when we consume meat of any kind, we are not aware of the emotion going through the animal before its slaughter, and we may absorb it. Similarly, we cannot ensure the cleanliness of the food ingredients as we have no knowledge if they were acquired in a righteous way by the seller. It is essential on our part to offer food to God in the form of prayer, so that these three impurities do not afflict our mind.
Simple Rules To Follow:
– at least one meal a day, sit quietly
– observe the food on the plate
– say a prayer consciously and
– eat with full attention to the process.
Mantras are very powerful to cleanse the vibrations and purify the Food we take in daily. Even if we are not able to eat a Sattwic meal, due to the present time pressures of the day, to chant the food prayer mantra or to say a prayer of offering the food to the Supreme God will certainly change the vibrations of it. Good health will prevail in the body and mind and the SPIRIT will soar!