Read Summary of Food
- 1 What are the Effects of Food?
- 2 Why is Food Important?
- 3 How to Eat Consciously?
- 3.1 How to Eat the Right Quantity of Food?
- 3.2 Right Attitude to Take Food
- 3.3 How to Stop Thinking About Food?
- 4 Helpful Practices
- 5 More on Food
What are the Effects of Food?
This is to tell you that perhaps now it is time to change one’s food and go over to something a little less bestial! It depends absolutely on each one’s state of consciousness. For an ordinary man, living an ordinary life, having ordinary activities, not thinking at all of anything else except earning his living, of keeping himself fit and perhaps taking care of his family, it is good to eat meat, it is all right for him to eat anything at all, whatever agrees with him, whatever does him good. But if one wishes to pass from this ordinary life to a higher one, the problem begins to become interesting; and if, after having come to a higher life, one tries to prepare oneself for the transformations, then it becomes very important. For there certainly are foods which help the body to become subtle and others which keep it in a state of animality. But it is only at that particular time that this becomes very important, not before; and before reaching that moment, there are many other things to do. Certainly it is better to purify one’s mind and purify one’s vital before thinking of purifying one’s body. For even if you take all possible precautions and live physically taking care not to absorb anything except what will help to subtilise your body, if your mind and vital remain in a state of desire, Inconscience, darkness, passion and all the rest, that won’t be of any use at all. Only, your body will become weak, dislocated from the inner life and one fine day it will fall ill. 
I think the importance of sattwic food from the spiritual point of view has been exaggerated. Food is rather a question of hygiene and many of the sanctions and prohibitions laid down in ancient religions had more a hygienic than a spiritual motive. The Gita's definitions seem to point in the same direction—tamasic food, it seems to say, is what is stale or rotten with the virtue gone out of it, rajasic food is that which is too acrid, pungent etc., heats the blood and spoils the health, sattwic food is what is pleasing, healthy etc. It may well be that different kinds of food nourish the action of the different gunas and so indirectly are helpful or harmful apart from their physical action. But that is as far as we can confidently go. What particular eatables are or are not sattwic is another question and more difficult to determine. Spiritually, I should say that the effect of food depends more on the occult atmosphere and influences that come with it than on anything in the food itself. Vegetarianism is another question altogether; it stands, as you say, on a will not to do harm to the more conscious forms of life for the satisfaction of the belly. As to the question of practising to take all kinds of food with equal rasa, it is not necessary to practise nor does it really come by practice. One has to acquire equality within in the consciousness and as this equality grows one can extend it or apply it to the various fields of the activity of the consciousness. 
Those who are ready to give up animal food, should certainly do so. The others can do it when they are ready. 
Q. If one takes only vegetarian food, does it help in controlling the senses?’’
It avoids some of the difficulties which the meat-eaters have, but it is not sufficient by itself. 
It is rather certain kinds of food that are supposed to increase it [sexual desire]—e.g. meat, onions, chillis etc. 
There is no sin at all in eating these things [onions, potatoes, etc.]. The only objection to eating much onions is that it is supposed to stimulate not tamoguna but rajas, but there are other foods not forbidden that do that. 
I think onions can be described as rajaso-tamasic in their character. They are heavy and material and at the same time excitant of certain strong material-vital forces. It is obvious that if one wants to conquer the physical passions and is still very much subject to the body nature and the things that affect it, free indulgence in onions is not advisable. It is only for those who have risen above the body consciousness and mastered it and are not affected by these things that it does not at all matter; for them the use of this or that food or its disuse makes no difference. At the same time I must say that the abstinence from rajasic or tamasic foods does not of itself assure freedom from the things they help to stimulate. Vegetarians, for instance, can be as sensual and excitable as meat-eaters; a man may abstain from onions and yet be in these respects no better than before. It is a change of consciousness that is effective and this kind of abstention helps that only in so far as it tends to create a less heavy and more refined and plastic physical consciousness for the higher will to act upon. That is something, but it is not all; the change of consciousness can come even in spite of non-abstinence. 
Onions are allowed here because the palate of the sadhaks demands something to give a taste to the food. We do not insist on these details, or make an absolutely strict rule, as the stress here is more on the inward change, the outward coming as its result. Only so much is insisted on as is essential for organisation and inner and outer discipline and to point the way to an indispensable self-control. It is pressed on all that the greed of the palate has to be conquered, but it has to be done in the last resort from within, as also the other passions and desires of the lower nature. 
‘’Q. Mother, A personal question. You have now allowed the use of tamarind. But some 20 years back you gave me a very good scolding because I prepared a tamarind drink for someone. You told me that it was bad for health and it was one of the things responsible for the lethargy of Indians. It was almost the same thing that our ancient sages have said. Now I want to know whether the values have changed or whether you are giving a concession to human desires.’’
A.: I have heard so many contradictory reports on the effects of food, spices, etc., that logically I have come to the conclusion that it must be—like all the rest—a personal affair and consequently no general rule can be made and, still less, enforced. 
When the physical consciousness has been sensitivised, too rich or heavy food becomes offensive to it. 
When the physical is tamasic, unless one eats spices and highly flavoured food, one does not feel nourished. And yet these are poisons. They act exactly like poison on the nerves. They do not nourish. But it is because people are tamasic, because they do not have sufficient consciousness in their body. Well, mentally it is the same thing, vitally the same thing. If they are tamasic, they always need new excitements, dramas, murders, suicides, etc. to feel anything at all, otherwise.... And there is nothing, nothing that makes one more wicked and cruel than tamas. For it is this need of excitement which shakes you up a little, makes you come out of yourself. And one must also learn, there, to distinguish between those who are exclusively tamasic and those who are mixed, and those who are struggling within themselves with their different parts. One can, one must know in what proportion their nature is constituted, so as to be able to insist at need on one thing or another. 
Now, as you know, from the physical point of view human beings live in frightful ignorance. They cannot even say exactly... For instance, would you be able to tell exactly, at every meal, the amount of food and the kind of food your body needs?—simply that, nothing more than that: how much should be taken and when it should be taken.... You know nothing about it, there's just a vague idea of it, a sort of imagination or guesswork or deduction or... all sorts of things which have nothing to do with knowledge. But that exact knowledge: "This is what I must eat, I must eat this much"—and then it is finished. "This is what my body needs." Well, that can be done. There's a time when one knows it very well. But it asks for years of labour, and above all years of work almost without any mental control, just with a consciousness that's subtle enough to establish a connection with the elements of transformation and progress. And to know also how to determine for one's body, exactly, the amount of physical effort, of material activity, of expenditure and recuperation of energy, the proportion between what is received and what is given, the utilisation of energies to re-establish a state of equilibrium which has been broken, to make the cells which are lagging behind progress, to build conditions for the possibility of higher progress, etc... it is a formidable task. And yet, it is that which must be done if one hopes to transform one's body. First it must be put completely in harmony with the inner consciousness. And to do that, it is a work in each cell, so to say, in each little activity, in every movement of the organs. With this alone one could be busy day and night without having to do anything else.... One does not keep up the effort and, above all, the concentration, nor the inner vision. (The Mother, 24 February 1954) 
Why the Physical Being prefers to have Certain Food?
And then, finally, habits!... There is a charming phrase here—I appreciated it fully—in which Sri Aurobindo is asked, "What is meant by the physical adhering to its own habits'?" What are the habits which the physical must throw off? It is this terrible, frightful preference for the food you were used to when you were very young, the food you ate in the country where you were born and about which you feel when you no longer get it that you have not anything at all to eat, that you are miserable. 
Why is Food Important?
For a Balanced Body
What is necessary is to take enough food and think no more about it, taking it as a means for the maintenance of the physical instrument only. But just as one should not overeat, so one should not diminish unduly—it produces a reaction which defeats the object—for the object is not to allow either the greed for food or the heavy tamas of the physical which is the result of excessive eating to interfere with the concentration on the spiritual experience and progress. If the body is left insufficiently nourished, it will think of food more than otherwise. 
For those whose consciousness is centred in the body, who live for the body, its desires and satisfactions, those for whom the truth begins and ends with the body, it is evident that food is of capital importance since they live to eat. If one wants to see the truth of the problem, it is this: only an enlightened body, balanced and free from all vital desire and mental preconception, is capable of knowing what it needs in regard to quantity and kind of food—and it is so exceptional to find such a body that we need not speak of it. 
For Development of Senses
‘’Q. Sweet Mother, from the beginning man ate because he needed food in order to live. Then why did taste for food develop? One eats what one likes to, and doesn't eat what one doesn't like!’’
A: I think primitive man was very close to the animal and lived more by instinct than by intelligence, you see. He ate when he was hungry, without any rule of any kind. Perhaps he had his tastes and preferences too, we know nothing much about it, but he lived much more materially, much less mentally and vitally than now. Surely primitive man was very material, very near the animal. And as the centuries pass, man becomes more mental and more vital; and as he becomes more vital and mental, naturally refinement is possible, intelligence grows, but also the possibility of perversion and distortion. You see, there is a difference between educating one’s senses to the point of being able to bring in all kinds of refinements, developments, knowledge, all the possibilities of appreciation, taste, and all that—there is a difference between this, which is truly a development and progress of consciousness, and attachment or greediness. 
One can, for example, very well make a very deep study of taste and have a very detailed knowledge of the different tastes of things, of the association between ideas and taste, in order to acquire a full development—not positively vital, but a development of the senses. There is a great difference between this and those who eat through greediness, who think all the time about food. You see, for them eating is the most important thing; all their thoughts are concentrated on it, and they eat not because they need to eat but through desire and greed and gluttony. In fact people who work in order to develop their taste, to refine it, are rarely very much attached to food. It is not through attachment to food that they do it. It is for the cultivation of their senses, which is a very different thing. It is like the artist, you know, who trains his eyes to appreciate forms and colours, lines, the composition of things, the harmony found in physical nature; it is not at all through desire that he does this, it is through taste, culture, the development of the sense of sight and the appreciation of beauty. And usually artists who are real artists and love their art and live in the sense of beauty, seeking beauty, are people who don't have many desires. They live in the sense of a growth not only visual, but of the appreciation of beauty. There is a great difference between this and people who live by their impulses and desires. That's altogether something else… To eat through greediness and a passion for food is something completely different from studying the different tastes and knowing how to compare them, combine them and appreciate them. 
How to Eat Consciously?
Physically, we depend upon food to live—unfortunately. For with food, we daily and constantly take in a formidable amount of inconscience, of tamas, heaviness, stupidity. One can't do otherwise—unless constantly, without a break, we remain completely aware and, as soon as an element is introduced into our body, we immediately work upon it to extract from it only the light and reject all that may darken our consciousness. This is the origin and rational explanation of the religious practice of consecrating one's food to God before taking it. When eating one aspires that this food may not be taken for the little human ego but as an offering to the divine consciousness within oneself. In all yogas, all religions, this is encouraged. This is the origin of that practice, of contacting the consciousness behind, precisely to diminish as much as possible the absorption of an inconscience which increases daily, constantly, without one's being aware of it. 
Do not trouble your mind about food. Take it in the right quantity (neither too much nor too little), without greed or repulsion, as the means given you by the Mother for the maintenance of the body, in the right spirit, offering it to the Divine in you; then it need not create tamas. 
One must begin from inside, I have already told you this once. One must begin from above, first purify the higher and then purify the lower. I am not saying that one must indulge in all sorts of degrading things in the body. That’s not what I am telling you. Don’t take it as an advice not to exercise control over your desires! It isn’t that at all. But what I mean is, do not try to be an angel in the body if you are not already just a little of an angel in your mind and vital; for that would dislocate you in a different way from the usual one, but not one that is better. We said the other day that what is most important is to keep the equilibrium. Well, to keep the equilibrium everything must progress at the same time. You must not leave one part of your being in darkness and try to bring the other into light. You must take great care not to leave any corner dark. 
How to Eat the Right Quantity of Food?
The first thing to be attained about eating, is to get rid of the greed of food, the attachment and desire,—to take it only as a need of the body, to think little of it and not to allow it to occupy a big place in the life; also to be satisfied with what you get, not to hanker. At the same time sufficient food should be taken, avoiding either deficiency or excess; an excessive coercion or nigraha in this respect (as opposed to reasonable control) often brings a reaction. One should go steadily, but not try to get too much done at once. 
Q. Is taking very little food helpful in controlling the senses?
A.: No, it simply exasperates them—to take a moderate amount is best. People who fast easily get exalted and may lose their balance. 
Not to eat as the method of getting rid of the greed of food is the ascetic way. Ours is equanimity and non-attachment. 
To suppress hunger like that is not good, it very often creates disorders. I doubt whether fatness or thinness of a healthy kind depends on the amount of food taken—there are people who eat well and remain thin and others who take only one meal a day and remain fat. By underfeeding (taking less than the body really needs) one may get emaciated, but that is not a healthy state. The doctors say it depends mostly on the working of certain glands. Anyhow the important thing is now to get the nervous strength back. 
This feeling of not being able to eat and of eating being unnecessary is a sort of suggestion that is coming to several people. It should be rejected and cleared out of the system as it may lead to weakening of the body by taking insufficient food. Often one does not feel weak at first, a vital energy comes which supports the body, but later on the body weakens. This feeling may sometimes come when one is going much inside and there is no insistence on the bodily needs; but it should not be accepted. If it is rejected, it is likely to disappear.
As for the liver also eating little does not help, very often it makes the liver sluggish so that it works less well. What is recommended for liver trouble is to avoid greasy food and much eating of sweets and that is also one way of avoiding fat. But to eat too little is not good—it may be necessary in some stomach or intestinal illness, but not for the ordinary liver trouble. 
Too much eating makes the body material and heavy, eating too little makes it weak and nervous—one has to find the true harmony and balance between the body's need and the food taken. 
There are stories told of people living without sleep or food—living without sleep has happened, but it came by an abnormal condition in the person which cannot be brought at will. There is no instance of anyone living without food,—none that is to say which is beyond doubt—but that also may be possible—but here also it must depend on some abnormal condition which cannot be brought at will. 
It would be a hundred times more effective to never waste food than to cut down one meal as a show and to eat more before and after. 
But it is quite natural. Exercise is always supposed to increase the appetite as the body needs more food to restore the extra expense of energy put out. Normally the more physical work the body has to do the more food it needs. On the other hand mental work requires no increase of food—that has been ascertained scientifically by experiment. Hunger may increase by other causes, but when it coincides with the taking up of play or physical exercise of a strenuous character, that is sufficient to explain it. 
If the [stomach] pains are strong, you can abstain from work for a day or two till they have subsided. Of course if you feel that you suffer from anything else but liquid food, that settles the question—you can take liquid food only and if you take liquid food only then you will not be strong enough to work. But usually the thought takes a big part in determining these things—the mind has the impression that any solid food will hurt and the body follows—so naturally as a result any solid food does begin to hurt. 
It is better to be careful in these matters of food etc., as in the stage through which your sadhana is passing there is a considerable sensitiveness in the vital physical part of the being and it may be easily disturbed by a wrong impact or a wrong movement like overfeeding. 
I must ask you to remember what I told you about sadhana. If you want to do the sadhana here, you must sleep well and eat well. If you try to stop sleeping or eating or unduly diminish sleep and food, you will weaken the body and excite the vital and wrong and excited and exaggerated movements will come into you. Remember this in future. 
The first thing I tell people when they want not to eat or sleep is that no Yoga can be done without sufficient food and sleep (see the Gita on this point). This is not Gandhi's asram or a miracle-shop. Fasting and sleeplessness make the nerves morbid and excited and weaken the brain and lead to delusions and fantasies. The Gita says Yoga is not for one who eats too much or sleeps too much, neither is it for one who does not eat or does not sleep, but if one eats and sleeps suitably—yuktāhārī yuktanidraḥ—then one can do it best. It is the same with everything else. How often have I said that excessive retirement was suspect to me and that to do nothing but meditate was a lopsided and therefore unsound sadhana. 
The normal allowance of sleep is said to be 7 to 8 hours except in advanced age when it is said to be less. If one takes less (5 to 6 for instance) the body accommodates itself somehow, but if the control is taken off it immediately wants to make up for its lost arrears of the normal 8 hours. So often when one has tried to live on too little food, if one relaxes, the body becomes enormously rapacious for food until it has set right the credit and loss account. At least it often happens like that. 
Sleep cannot be replaced, but it can be changed; for you can become conscious in sleep. If you are thus conscious, then the night can be utilised for a higher working—provided the body gets its due rest; for the object of sleep is the body's rest and the renewal of the vital-physical force. It is a mistake to deny to the body food and sleep, as some from an ascetic idea or impulse want to do—that only wears out the physical support and, although either the Yogic or the vital energy can long keep at work an overstrained or declining physical system, a time comes when this drawing is no longer so easy nor perhaps possible. The body should be given what it needs for its own efficient working. Moderate but sufficient food (without greed or desire), sufficient sleep, but not of the heavy tamasic kind, this should be the rule. 
‘Q: Beloved Mother, do You grant that it is possible to do without food?’
‘A: For food to be no longer necessary, the body would have to be completely transformed and no longer subject to any of the laws governing it at present. I don't see why people should feel guilty because they are hungry. If food is prepared, it is for eating.’ ‘Evidently, this creates an atmosphere in which food predominates; this is not very conducive to spiritual life.’ 
Impact of Fasting or Reduction in Intake of Food
It is because usually the vital being is very closely concentrated on the body and when the body is well fed it takes its strength from the food, its energy from the food, and it is one way... it is obviously almost the only way; not the only one, but the most important in the present conditions of life... but it is a very tamasic way of absorbing energy. 
If you think about it, you see, it is the vital energy which is in either plants or animals, that is, logically it is of an inferior quality to the vital energy which should be in man, who is a slightly higher being in the gradation of the species. So if you draw from below you draw at the same time the inconscience that is below. It is impossible to eat without absorbing a considerable amount of inconscience; this makes you heavy, coarsens you; and then if you eat much, a large amount of your consciousness is absorbed in digesting and assimilating what you have eaten. So already, if you don't take food, you don't have all this inconscience to assimilate and transform inside you; it sets free the energies. And then, as there is an instinct in the being to recuperate the energies spent, if you don't take them from food, that is, from below, you instinctively make an effort to take them through union with the universal vital forces which are free, and if one knows how to assimilate them one does so directly and then there is no limit. 
It is not like your stomach which can digest only a certain amount of food, and therefore you can't take in more than that; and even the food you take liberates only a little bit, a very small quantity of vital energy. And so what can remain with you after all the work of swallowing, digesting, etc.? Not much, you see. But if you learn... and this indeed is a kind of instinct, one learns instinctively to draw towards himself the universal energies which move freely in the universe and are unlimited in quantity... as much of these as you are capable of drawing towards you, you can absorb—so instinctively when there is no support from below which comes from food, you make the necessary movement to recuperate the energies from outside, and absorb as much of them as you are capable of doing, and sometimes more. So this puts you in a kind of state of excitement, and if your body is very strong and can bear being without food for a certain length of time, then you keep your balance and can use these energies for all kinds of things, as for example, to progress, to become more conscious and transform your nature. But if your physical body doesn't have much in reserve and grows considerably weak from not eating, then this creates an imbalance between the intensity of the energies you absorb and the capacity of the body to hold them, and then this causes disturbances. You lose your balance, and all the balance of forces is destroyed, and anything at all may happen to you. In any case, you lose much control over yourself and become usually very excited, and you take this excitement for a higher state. But often it is simply an inner imbalance, nothing more. It sharpens the receptivity very much. For example, precisely when one fasts and no longer takes the energies from below, well, if you breathe in the odour of a flower it nourishes you, the perfume nourishes you, it gives you a great deal of energy; but otherwise you do not notice it. 
There are certain faculties which get intensified, and so one takes that for a spiritual effect. It has very little to do with the spiritual life except that there are people who eat much, think much about their food, are very deeply absorbed in it, and then when they have eaten well—and as I say, they must digest it, and so all their energies are concentrated on their digestion—these people are dull in mind, and this pulls them down very much towards matter; so if they stop eating and stop thinking about food—because there is one thing, that if one fasts and thinks all the time that he is hungry and would like to eat, then it is ten times worse than eating—and can truly fast because they think of something else and are occupied with something else and are not interested in food—then that can help one to climb to a slightly higher degree of consciousness, to free himself from the slavery to material needs. But fasting is above all good for those who believe in it—as everything. When you have the faith that this will make you progress, is going to purify you, it does you good. If you don't believe in it, it doesn't do much, except that it makes you thin. 
I have myself fasted first for 10 days and then 23 days just to see what it was like and how far one could live without food, and certain things like that. I found that it was no good. To take with equanimity whatever comes (or does not come) seemed to me more the thing than any violent exercises like that. 
I think it is not safe to admit any suggestion of not eating—sometimes it opens the door for the non-eating force to take hold of the mind and there is trouble. That comes easily because the inner being of course does not need any food and this non-need is attempted to be thrown by some forces on the body also which is not under the same happy law. It is better to allow the condition [of peaceful concentration] to grow in intensity until it can last even through the meal and after. I suppose it is not really the meal that disturbs but the coming out into the outer consciousness which is a little difficult to avoid when one goes to eat; but that can be overcome in time. 
You must not let that movement [of reducing food] go too far. It is one of the dangers of the sadhana, because of the ascetic turn of Yoga in the past that as experiences come the suggestion comes that food or sleep etc. are not necessary and also there may come an inclination in the body not to eat or not to sleep. But if that is accepted the results are often disastrous. It is no more to be accepted than the inertia itself. 
To make your sadhana depend upon not eating is to make a great mistake. When people fast like that, they get into an abnormal condition and can easily mistake imaginations and delusions for true experiences. Much fasting in the end weakens the nervous system. So you must drop this habit of not eating for days together. For Yoga it is a mistake to eat too much but a mistake also to eat nothing or too little. If you eat too much, you become heavy and tamasic; if you fast or eat too little, you excite the vital energies and finally overexcite them, but at the same time you weaken the body and the nerves; both are bad for sadhana. You should eat regularly a moderate but sufficient amount of food; it is only if there is illness or disturbance of digestion that a low diet or not eating sometimes becomes necessary, but fasting even for the purpose of resting the stomach should not last more than a day. 
There is no harm in fasting from time to time for a day or two or in reducing the food taken to a small but sufficient modicum; but entire abstinence for a long period is not advisable. 
The idea of giving up food is a wrong inspiration. You can go on with a small quantity of food, but not without food altogether, except for a comparatively short time. Remember what the Gita says, "Yoga is not for one who eats in excess nor for one who abstains from eating altogether." Vital energy is one thing—of that one can draw a great amount without food and often it increases with fasting; but physical substance, without which life loses its support, is of a different order. If at any time it became possible to renew the body without food and that proved necessary for the Yoga, the Mother and I would be the first to do it. So keep to your established diet and do not get impatient with Nature. 
Right Attitude to Take Food
There are some scrupulous people who set problems to themselves and find it very difficult to solve them, because they state the problem wrongly. I knew a young woman who was a theosophist and was trying to practise; she told me, “We are taught that the divine Will must prevail in all that we do, but in the morning when I have my breakfast, how can I know whether God wants me to put two lumps of sugar in my coffee or only one?”… And it was quite touching, you know, and I had some trouble explaining to her that the spirit in which she drank her coffee, the attitude she had towards her food, was much more important than the number of lumps of sugar she put into it. 
By the Spirit of Consecration
When we eat, we should be conscious that we are giving our food to that Presence in us…When I try to take this attitude, the food tastes better and the atmosphere becomes quieter. 
Q: Sweet Mother, what is the right spirit and the right consciousness in which one should take food?
A.: It is the spirit of consecration…
It is the consciousness that’s turned exclusively to the Divine, and wants the divine realisation and nothing else; and the right spirit is the spirit of consecration to the Divine which wants only the transformation and nothing else, that is, something which does not try to seek its own satisfaction in the fulfilment of the aspiration… There is always, as soon as there’s an aspiration… it may be very sincere and spontaneous but immediately the mind and vital are there, watching like robbers behind the door; and if a force answers they rush upon it for their own satisfaction. So there one must take very, very, very great care, because though the aspiration might be sincere, the call absolutely spontaneous and sincere and very pure, as soon as the answer comes the two brigands are there, trying to take possession of what comes for their own satisfaction. And what comes is very good but they immediately pervert it, they use it for personal ends, for the satisfaction of their desires or ambitions, and they spoil everything. And naturally, not only do they spoil everything but they stop the experience. So unless one takes good care, one is stuck there, and cannot move forward. If some Grace is above you, when the Grace sees this it automatically gives you a terrible blow to recall you to the reality, to your senses; it gives you a good knock on the head or in the stomach or the heart or anywhere else so that all of a sudden you say, “Oh, that won’t do any more.” 
We were speaking of the kinds of consciousness absorbed with food, but there is also the Inconscience that's absorbed with food—quite a deal of it. And that is why in many yogas there was the advice to offer to the Divine what one was going to eat before eating it (Mother makes a gesture of offering, hands joined, palms open). It consists in calling the Divine down into the food before eating it. One offers it to Him—that is, one puts it in contact with the Divine, so that it may be under the divine influence when one eats it. It is very useful, it is very good. If one knows how to do it, it is very useful, it considerably reduces the work of inner transformations which has to be done. But, you see, in the world as it is, we are all interdependent. You cannot take in the air without taking in the vibrations, the countless vibrations produced by all kinds of movements and all kinds of people, and you must—if you want to remain intact—you must constantly act like a filter, as I was saying. That is to say, nothing that is undesirable should be allowed to enter, as when one goes to infected areas, one wears a mask over the face so that the air may be purified before one breathes it in. Well, something similar has to be done. One must have around oneself so intense an atmosphere in a total surrender to the Divine, so intensified around oneself that everything that passes through is automatically filtered. Anyhow, it is very useful in life, for there are—we spoke about this too—there are bad thoughts, bad wills, people who wish you ill, who make formations. There are all kinds of absolutely undesirable things in the atmosphere. And so, if one must always be on the watch, looking around on all sides, one would think only of one thing, how to protect oneself. First of all, it is tiresome, and then, you see, it makes you waste much time. If you are well enveloped in this way, with this light, the light of a perfectly glad, totally sincere surrender, when you are enveloped with that, it serves you as a marvellous filter. Nothing that is altogether undesirable, nothing that has ill-will can pass through. So, automatically, these things return where they came from. If there is a conscious ill-will against you, it comes, but cannot pass; the door is closed, for it is open only to divine things, it is not open to anything else. So it returns very quietly to the source from where it came. 
Suppose that you want to make a progress regarding attachment to food, for example; well, almost constantly there will come to you thoughts particularly interested in food, about what should be taken, what should not be taken, how it should be taken, how it should not be taken; and these ideas will come to you, they will seem quite natural to you. And the more you say within yourself, "Oh! how I would like to be free from all that, what a hindrance to my progress are all these preoccupations", the more will they come, quietly, until the progress is truly made within and you have risen to a level of consciousness where you can see all these things from above and put them in their place―which is not a very big place in the universe! And so on, for all things. Therefore, your occupations and affinities are going to put you almost contradictorily into contact not only with ideas having an affinity and relation with your way of being, but with the opposite. And if you don't take care from the beginning to keep an attitude of discernment, you will be turned into a mental battlefield. (The Mother, 27 June 1956) 
As for Sannyasis and food, Sannyasis put a compulsion on their desires in this and other matters—they take ascetic food as a principle; but this does not necessarily kill the greed for food, it remains compressed and, if the compulsion or principle is removed, it can come up again stronger than before—for compression without removal often increases the force of these things instead of destroying them. 
The attachment to good food must be given up as also the personal attachment to position and service; but it is not indispensably necessary for that purpose to take to an ascetic diet or to give up all means of action such as money and service. The Yogin has to become niḥsva in this sense that he feels that nothing belongs to him but all to the Divine and he must be ready at any time to give up all to the Divine. But there is no meaning in throwing away everything in order to be externally niḥsva without any imperative cause. 
As regards the progress you have made, I do not think you have given us an exaggerated impression of it; it seems to be quite real. It is no part of this Yoga to suppress taste, rasa altogether; so, if you found the ice-cream pleasant, that does not by itself invalidate the completeness of your progress. What is to be got rid of is vital desire and attachment, the greed of food, being overjoyed at getting the food you like, sorry and discontented when you do not have it, giving an undue importance to it, etc. If one wants to be a Yogin, it will not do to be like the ordinary man to whom food, sex and gain are nine-tenths of life or even to keep in any of these things the reactions to which vital human nature is prone. Equality is here the test as in so many other matters. If you can take the Ashram food with satisfaction or at least without dissatisfaction, that is already a sign that attachment and predilection are losing their old place in the nature. (Sri Aurobindo) 
In this Yoga the aim is not only the union with the higher consciousness but the transformation (by its power) of the lower including the physical nature. It is not necessary to have desire or greed of food in order to eat. The Yogi eats not out of desire, but to maintain the body. That [disgust for eating] is rather an excessive feeling. One should eat for maintenance of the body without attaching any other importance, but without repulsion. 
About food, tea etc. the aim of Yoga is to have no hankerings, no slavery either to the stomach or the palate. How to get to that point is another matter—it depends often on the individual. With a thing like tea, the strongest and easiest way is to stop it. As to food the best way usually is to take the food given you, practise non-attachment and follow no fancies. That would mean giving up the Sunday indulgence. The rest must be done by an inner change of consciousness and not by external means. 
The vital of most people is of this kind [too weak to restrain its desires for pleasure], except in a few who are indifferent to sex or to food desire or to both, by temperament and nature. There is always something in the lower vital which is recalcitrant and takes a pleasure in following its own way and disregarding the higher dictate, and there are always external forces hostile to the Yoga which try to take advantage of its obscurities, revolts and weaknesses. Neither neglect this turn of the nature (food desire) nor make too much of it; it has to be dealt with, purified and mastered but without giving it too much importance. There are two ways of conquering it—one of detachment, learning to regard food as only a physical necessity and the vital satisfaction of the stomach and the palate as a thing of little or no importance; the other is to be able to take without insistence or seeking any food given and to find in it (whether pronounced good or bad by others) the equal rasa, not of the food for its own sake, but of the universal Ananda. But the latter comes usually only when one can live in the cosmic consciousness or rise into the Overmind—and for this you are not yet ready. So the first way is the one you should keep in view. 
It is not by abstaining from food that you can make a spiritual progress. It is by being free, not only from all attachment and all desire and preoccupation with food, but even from all need for it; by being in the state in which all these things are so foreign to your consciousness that they have no place there. Only then, as a spontaneous, natural result, can one usefully stop eating. It could be said that the essential condition is to forget to eat—forget, because all the energies of the being and all its concentration are turned towards a more total, more true inner realisation, towards this constant, imperative preoccupation with the union of the whole being, including the bodily cells, with the vibration of the divine forces, with the supramental force which is manifesting, so that this may be the true life: not only the purpose of life, but the essence of life, not only an imperative need of life, but all its joy and all its raison d'être. 
By Taking the Attitude of Indifference
The ordinary life is a round of various desires and greeds. As long as one is preoccupied with them, there can be no lasting progress. A way out of the round must be discovered. Take, as an instance, that commonest preoccupation of ordinary life—the constant thinking by people of what they will eat and when they will eat and whether they are eating enough. To conquer the greed for food an equanimity in the being must be developed such that you are perfectly indifferent towards food. If food is given you, you eat it; if not, it does not worry you in the least; above all, you do not keep thinking about food. And the thinking must not be negative, either. To be absorbed in devising methods and means of abstinence as the sannyasis do is to be almost as preoccupied with food as to be absorbed in dreaming of it greedily. Have an attitude of indifference towards it: that is the main thing. Get the idea of food out of your consciousness, do not attach the slightest importance to it. 
By Controlling the Desire for Food
Q. Kindly suggest some simple way by which one can slowly diminish one's abject dependence on ordinary material food and open oneself more and more to the universal vital energy.
A: There is no easy way to get over physical animality and vital greed. It is only an obstinate perseverance that can succeed. 
It is very difficult to find the borderland between a true need and a desire (the yogic ideal, of course, is never to have any need, and therefore not to want anything), but this essay is written for all men of goodwill who try to know themselves and control themselves. And there we really face a problem which compels an extraordinary sincerity, for the very first way in which the vital meets life is through desire—and yet, there are necessities. But how to know if things are really necessary, not desired?...For that you must observe yourself very, very attentively, and if there is anything in you which produces something like a small intense vibration, then you may be sure that there lies a desire. For example, you say, "This food is necessary for me"—you believe, you imagine, you think that you need such and such a thing and you find the necessary means to obtain the thing. To know if it is a need or a desire, you must look at yourself very closely and ask yourself, "What will happen if I cannot get the thing?" Then if the immediate answer is, "Oh, it will be very bad", you may be sure that it is a matter of desire. It is the same for everything. For every problem you draw back, look at yourself and ask, "Let us see, am I going to have the thing?" If at that moment something in you jumps up with joy, you may be certain there is a desire. On the other hand, if something tells you, "Oh, I am not going to get it", and you feel very depressed, then again it is a desire. 
When you have a desire you are governed by the thing you desire, it takes possession of your mind and your life, and you become a slave. If you have greed for food you are no more the master of food, it is the food that masters you. 
If these [practices of self-control] are done as moral virtues, they need not bring a spiritual state. It is only when they are observed as a spiritual discipline that they help—most of them, at least. A man may eat little and have no spirituality—but if he practises it as a means of self-mastery to get rid of the greed of food, then it helps. 
These things [persistent desires] still rise in you because they have been for so long prominent difficulties and, as far as the first is concerned, because you gave it much justification from the mind at one time. But if the inner consciousness is growing like that they are sure to go. Only if they rise, don't give them harbourage. Perhaps with regard to the greed for food, your attitude has not been quite correct. Greed for food has to be overcome, but it has not to be given too much thought. The proper attitude to food is a certain equality. Food is for the maintenance of the body and one should take enough for that—what the body needs; if one gives less the body feels the need and hankers; if you give more, then that is indulging the vital. As for particular foods the palate likes, the attitude of the mind and vital should be, "If I get, I take; if I don't get, I shall not mind." One should not think too much of food either to indulge or unduly to repress—that is the best. One does not need to get a hatred for food in order to get rid of the greed for food. On the other hand, to develop dislike for certain things may help to reject them—but that too is not always the cure, for they may remain in spite of the dislike. 
It is the attachment to food, the greed and eagerness for it, making it an unduly important thing in the life, that is contrary to the spirit of Yoga. To be aware that something is pleasant to the palate is not wrong; only one must have no desire nor hankering for it, no exultation in getting it, no displeasure or regret at not getting it. One must be calm and equal, not getting upset or dissatisfied when the food is not tasty or not in abundance—eating the fixed amount that is necessary, not less or more. There should be neither eagerness nor repugnance. 
As to taking tea or food there [at a friend's place], you must always remember that to be governed by these desires is not at all an ideal condition. But if you have the impulse and are not able easily and naturally to reject it, you can take on condition you scrupulously inform the Mother both of the act and of the movement and state of mind accompanying it. Also often the desire may not be yours, but may come on you from outside, imposed on you silently or otherwise by suggestion by the others; you must learn to see when it is like that and then you must reject it. Your aspiration must be for an inner change so that there will be no longer any need to indulge the desires, because they will no longer have a hold on you. 
You must learn to unite what you call your individual self with your true psychic individuality. Your present individuality is a very mixed thing, a series of changes which yet preserves a certain continuity, a certain sameness or identity of vibration in the midst of all flux. It is almost like a river which is never the same and yet has a certain definiteness and persistence of its own. Your normal self is merely a shadow of your true individuality which you will realise only when this normal individual which is differently poised at different times, now in the mental, then in the vital, at other times in the physical, gets into contact with the psychic and feels it as its real being. Then you will be one, nothing will shake or disturb you, you will make steady and lasting progress and be above such petty things as greed for food. 
How to Stop Thinking About Food?
Of course there are people who prepare food for themselves and for others, and who are obliged to think about it, but just a very little. One can prepare food while thinking about more interesting things. But in any case, the less one thinks about it the better; and when one is not concerned with it, either mentally or vitally, the body becomes a very good indicator. When it is hungry it will tell you, when it needs to take in something, it will tell you; when it has finished, when it doesn't need any more, it will tell you; and when it doesn't need food, it doesn't think about it, it thinks of something else. It is only the head which creates all the trouble. In fact it is always the head which creates the trouble, because one doesn't know how to use it. If one knew how to use it, it could also create harmony. But it is something very strange that people always use their imagination for something bad, and it is very very rarely that they use their imagination for the good. Instead of thinking of happy things which would help to keep them in balance and harmony, they always think of all the possible catastrophes, and so naturally they disturb the balance of their being, and into the bargain, if they are unfortunate enough to be afraid, they attract the catastrophes they fear. 
To be always thinking about food and troubling the mind is quite the wrong way of getting rid of the food-desire. Put the food element in the right place in the life, in a small corner, and don't concentrate on it but on other things. 
‘Q.: What is to be done to reduce (if not eliminate) the desire for food? (2) What is to be done to reduce (if not eliminate) the desire for sex?’
‘A: One answer to both: busy yourself with something more interesting—otherwise there are hundreds of ways from the most material to the most spiritual. Blessings. 
Whatever you do, never forget the goal which you have set before you. There is nothing great or small once you have set out on this great discovery; all things are equally important and can either hasten or delay its success. Thus before you eat, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the food you are about to eat may bring your body the substance it needs to serve as a solid basis for your effort towards the great discovery, and give it the energy for persistence and perseverance in the effort. 
And then you must try and must persevere, continue trying. What I have just told you is a very good means. Yet there are others also. You sit quietly, to begin with; and then, instead of thinking of fifty things, you begin saying to yourself, "Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, calm, peace!" You imagine peace and calm. You aspire, ask that it may come: "Peace, peace, calm." And then, when something comes and touches you and acts, say quietly, like this, "Peace, peace, peace." Do not look at the thoughts, do not listen to the thoughts, you understand. You must not pay attention to everything that comes. You know, when someone bothers you a great deal and you want to get rid of him, you don't listen to him, do you? Good! You turn your head away (gesture) and think of something else. Well, you must do that: when thoughts come, you must not look at them, must not listen to them, must not pay any attention at all, you must behave as though they did not exist, you see! And then, repeat all the time like a kind of—how shall I put it?—as an idiot does, who repeats the same thing always. Well, you must do the same thing; you must repeat, "Peace, peace, peace." So you try this for a few minutes and then do what you have to do; and then, another time, you begin again; sit down again and then try. Do this on getting up in the morning, do this in the evening when going to bed. You can do this... look, if you want to digest your food properly, you can do this for a few minutes before eating. You can't imagine how much this helps your digestion! Before beginning to eat you sit quietly for a while and say, "Peace, peace, peace!" and everything becomes calm. It seems as though all the noises were going far, far, far away (Mother stretches out her arms on both sides) and then you must continue; and there comes a time when you no longer need to sit down, and no matter what you are doing, no matter what you are saying, it is always "Peace, peace, peace." Everything remain here, like this, it does not enter (gesture in front of the forehead), it remain like this. And then one is always in a perfect peace... after some years. (The Mother, 8 September 1954) 
This is the surest result: if one doesn't eat one grows thin; so if one is too fat and wants to grow thin, it is a good means. But on condition that one doesn't pass the day thinking of food, because then, as soon as one stops his fast, he dashes for it and eats so much that he gets back all that he has lost. In fact, the best thing is not to think about it but to regulate one's life automatically enough not to need to think of eating. You eat at fixed hours, eat reasonably, you don't even need to think of the food when you are taking it; you must eat calmly, that's all, quietly, with concentration, and when you do not eat you must never think about it. You must not eat too much, because then you will have to think about your digestion, and it will be very unpleasant for you and will make you waste much time. You must eat just... you must put an end to all desire, all attraction, all movements of the vital, because when you eat simply because the body needs to eat, the body will tell you absolutely precisely and exactly when it has had enough; you see, when one is not moved by a vital desire or mental ideas, one grasps this with surety. "Now it is enough," says the body, "I don't want any more." So one stops. As soon as one has ideas or else desires in the vital, and there is, for instance, something that you like particularly, because you like it particularly you eat three times too much of it... In fact, this may cure you to a certain extent, because if you don't have a very strong stomach, you get indigestion, and then after that you have a disgust for the thing which has given you indigestion. Still, these are rather drastic means. One can make progress without having recourse to such means. The best is not to think about it. 
The all-absorbing interest which nearly all human beings, even the most intellectual, have in food, its preparation and its consumption, should be replaced by an almost chemical knowledge of the needs of the body and a very scientific austerity in satisfying them. Another austerity must be added to that of food, the austerity of sleep. It does not consist in going without sleep but in knowing how to sleep. Sleep must not be a fall into unconsciousness which makes the body heavy instead of refreshing it. Eating with moderation and abstaining from all excess greatly reduces the need to spend many hours in sleep; however, the quality of sleep is much more important than its quantity. In order to have a truly effective rest and relaxation during sleep, it is good as a rule to drink something before going to bed, a cup of milk or soup or fruit-juice, for instance. Light food brings a quiet sleep. One should, however, abstain from all copious meals, for then the sleep becomes agitated and is disturbed by nightmares, or else is dense, heavy and dulling. But the most important thing of all is to make the mind clear, to quieten the emotions and calm the effervescence of desires and the preoccupations which accompany them. If before retiring to bed one has talked a lot or had a lively discussion, if one has read an exciting or intensely interesting book, one should rest a little without sleeping in order to quieten the mental activity, so that the brain does not engage in disorderly movements while the other parts of the body alone are asleep. Those who practise meditation will do well to concentrate for a few minutes on a lofty and restful idea, in an aspiration towards a higher and vaster consciousness. Their sleep will benefit greatly from this and they will largely be spared the risk of falling into unconsciousness while they sleep. 
‘Q: I don’t know why, but I am unable to eat as much as I need. If I eat a lot, I get a heavy stomach.’
‘A.: You are probably eating too quickly—you must be swallowing without chewing. You must chew the food thoroughly and eat calmly. Then one can eat more and the stomach does not get heavy.’ ref>http://incarnateword.in/cwm/17/14-september-1936#p2</ref>
In the kitchen, cleanliness is the most indispensable thing. To avoid hair falling in the cooking, it is better to cover the head while cooking. Special care must be taken to prevent insects from falling into the pans. 
If you do not like the atmosphere created by taking food with others I do not see why you should do it. 
All quarrels in the place where food is prepared make food indigestible. The cooking must be done in silence and harmony. 
The body in its normal state, that is to say, when there is no intervention of mental notions or vital impulses, also knows very well what is good and necessary for it; but for this to be effective in practice, one must educate the child with care and teach him to distinguish his desires from his needs. He should be helped to develop a taste for food that is simple and healthy, substantial and appetising, but free from any useless complications. In his daily food, all that merely stuffs and causes heaviness should be avoided; and above all, he must be taught to eat according to his hunger, neither more nor less, and not to make his meals an occasion to satisfy his greed or gluttony. From one's very childhood, one should know that one eats in order to give strength and health to the body and not to enjoy the pleasures of the palate. Children should be given food that suits their temperament, prepared in a way that ensures hygiene and cleanliness, that is pleasant to the taste and yet very simple. This food should be chosen and apportioned according to the age of the child and his regular activities. It should contain all the chemical and dynamic elements that are necessary for his development and the balanced growth of every part of his body. Since the child will be given only the food that helps to keep him healthy and provide him with the energy he needs, one must be very careful not to use food as a means of coercion and punishment. The practice of telling a child, "You have not been a good boy, you won't get any dessert," etc., is most harmful. In this way you create in his little consciousness the impression that food is given to him chiefly to satisfy his greed and not because it is indispensable for the proper functioning of his body. 
More on Food
Avoiding Uneasiness Due to Smell of Food
This [reaction of uneasiness after smelling food] is due to an acute consciousness and sensitiveness of the physical being, especially the vital physical. The sense of being fed by smell has become thereby very acute—the feeding by smell is a well known thing, and there is the Sanskrit proverb, ghrāṇam ardhabhojanam, "smell is a half eating". But this by itself would not produce the uneasiness, which must be due to an acute physical sensitiveness to the mass of ordinary human reactions concentrated about the food, greed etc. which fill the atmosphere. It does not look as if more than a very few of the sadhaks were free (even they mainly, not wholly) from these reactions; most seem to accept them as quite normal and proper in a life of Yoga!! 
Accepting or Refusing Someone’s Invitation for Food
Q: Sweet Mother, I have again received an invitation for dinner. One cannot refuse if one is invited, can one?’
A: No, unless there are serious reasons for doing so. I am not speaking of the outward act—whether one eats here or there comes to the same thing—I am speaking of the inner attitude, of the excessive importance one gives to food, and of greediness. 
Donation of Food to the Poor
Give food to the poor?—You can feed millions of them. That will not be a solution, this problem will remain the same. Give new and better living conditions to men?—The Divine is in them, how is it that things don't change? The Divine must know better than you the condition of humanity. What are you? You represent only a little bit of consciousness and a little bit of matter, it is that you call "myself". If you want to help humanity, the world or the universe, the only thing to do is to give that little bit entirely to the Divine. Why is the world not divine?... It is evident that the world is not in order. So the only solution to the problem is to give what belongs to you. Give it totally, entirely to the Divine; not only for yourself but for humanity, for the universe. There is no better solution. How do you want to help humanity? You don't even know what it needs. Perhaps you know still less what power you are serving. How can you change anything without indeed having changed yourself? 
Wastage of Food
‘Q: The Prime Minister has asked the country to have dinnerless Mondays. The hotels etc. are being asked to cooperate. Are we expected to do something in this connection?’
‘A: It would be a hundred times more effective to never waste food than to cut down one meal as a show and to eat more before and after. A strong, ardent, sincere campaign against the waste of food is essential and full-heartedly I approve of it. Let the inmates of the Ashram show their goodwill and collaboration in never eating more than they can digest and never asking for more than they can eat.’ 
You know that I am not enthusiastic about servants handling the food—but many people seem to like it, through laziness I suppose!! 
Nothing was told to me about the aluminum vessels of which I do not approve because aluminium is not good for cooking. I am speaking of my own experience. 
A childish question: Do animals and birds get the taste of food as we do?
Yes, but they do not think about it as we do. ref>http://incarnateword.in/cwm/15/cooking-and-eating#p19</ref>