Editor’s note: This insightful article by M.P. Pandit is taken from his book ‘Commentaries on the Mother’s Ministry, Vol. 3′ (1985/2016). The author explains why in our scriptures (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad) it is said that eater eating is eaten or hunger is verily death. We close this article with an insightful comment from Sri Aurobindo taken from his writings on translating the Upanishads.
We all take food and feel nourished by it. Food is treated as a necessity and it occupies considerable chunks of our time in daily life. With some it grows into an obsession and it becomes the centre of their life. All told food has been treated as synonymous with life; without food life languishes, at any rate bodily life.
The body, it is taken for granted — cannot live without food. A material body needs material food. This has become so much an ingrained habit that we never think of the other side of the coin. We are intrigued when the Scripture says that the eater eating is eaten.
Annam, food, eats the eater.
Purely from the physical angle, it is indeed so. Even while it supplies the needed energies needed for the maintenence of the body and activisation of the life-energies and mind-energies, in the very process of getting converted into a nourishing energy, food uses up certain tissues and organs of the body.
During the act of assimilation, digestion, conversion into blood and so on, there is a continuous wear and tear. The body loses something of itself in the process of acquiring fresh nourishment. Things go smoothly as long as the balance between the two operations is on the positive side or at least equal.
But the moment more is spent by the body than gained, the process of disintegration becomes perceptible. In fact this decay is implicit in the expenditure of the physical energy in the act of eating, all along. It becomes palpable when the minus factor overtakes the plus.
It is in this sense that it is said every morsel taken in is a step towards death.
Moreover material food, constituted as it is of physical matter mainly, carries with it some of the essential characteristics of Matter viz. inertia, inconscience, insentience.
Don’t miss another quick read in the issue:
The What and Why of Sattwic Food
These elements exert a constant pull downwards towards dissolution of the life element that is active in the body. They get mixed up with the energism of the life-force and dilute its action. They weaken the power of life to the extent they are present in the food intake.
This physical factor is not the only one that vitiates the situation.
There are psychological factors that add to the effectivity of food positively or negatively. The state of consciousness in which the food is prepared, the condition of the being when the food is being eaten, play a substantial part in the matter.
If, for instance, the person who cooks the food is in a bad mood or movement like that of anger, frustration, that quality seeps into the food that is prepared by him. Even if these unhappy elements are present in the general atmosphere where the food is cooked it has a corresponding effect. Similarly if the person who eats the food is in a bad state of mind, upset for whatever reason, depressed, the food turns into a kind of poison.
Thus food is a carrier of the agents of death.
The more it is eaten, the more we expose ourselves to these dangers. That is why it is enjoined upon the seeker to first offer the food to the Divine so that the negative elements in it are automatically offset and the nourishing elements work to sustain and build the body into a strong dwelling for the divine Inhabitant.
Incidentally we may remark that raw food, directly supplied by Nature, is freer from the non-physical vitiation; even the purely material elements that drag down are largely counterbalanced by the innate vital force in Nature. Whether, in the present organisation of forces in our Creation, this natural food can be adequate, to what extent it can replace processed food, is a question that each one has to ask himself and find out by experiment.
But this much is evidently true: natural food is less a carrier of seeds of death than die cooked one.
~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 18, p. 166
If God is everywhere, He must be in the food we eat. Not only is God the eaten, but He is the eater and eventually, says the Vedanta, when you come to the bottom fact of existence there is neither eaten or eater, but all is God. These are hard sayings for the rationalist who insists on limiting knowledge within the circle of the five senses.
~ Design: Beloo Mehra