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Nonduality and Diet

Readings from Ramana and the Nonduality Salon


The following is from The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, edited by Arthur Osborne. You will see that Ramana always links food to the mind, supporting the use of food that allows the mind to function optimally in the course of Self-enquiry: 'Who am I?'.

editor's note: Although in general attaching little importance to
physical aids to meditation, the Maharshi was insistent on the
advantages of limiting oneself to sattvic, that is vegatarian and
non-stimulating food.

Ramana: "Regulation of diet, restricting it to sattvic food, taken in
moderate quantities, is the best of all rules of conduct and the most
conducive to the development of sattvic (pure) qualities of mind. These
in turn help one in the practice of Self-enquiry."

editor's note: The following is the conclusion of 'Self-enquiry', the
first book that Ramana wrote:

"It is within our power to adopt a simple and nutritious diet and, with
earnest and incessant endeavour, to eradicate the ego -- the cause of
all misery -- by stopping all mental activity born of the ego. Can
obsessing thoughts arise without the ego, or can there be illusion apart
from such thoughts?"

editor's note: He confirmed this also when asked by devotees.

Devotee: "Are there any aids to concentration and casting off

Ramana: "Physically, the digestive and other organs are to be kept free
from irritation. Therefore food is regulated both in quantity and
quality. Non-irritants are eaten, avoiding chillies, excess of salt,
onions, wine, opium, etc. Avoid constipation, drowsiness and excitement
and all foods which induce them. Mentally, take interest in one thing
and fix the mind on it. Let that interest be self-absorbing and to the
exclusion of everything else. This is dispassion (vairagya) and

Mrs. Piggot returned from Madras for a further visit and asked questions
concerning diet.

Mrs. P.: What diet is suitable for a person engaged in spiritual

Ramana: Sattvic food in moderate quantities.

Mrs. P.: What food is sattvic?

Ramana: Bread, fruit, vegetables, milk and such things.

Mrs. P.: Some people in the North eat fish. Is that permissable?

editor's note: To this question Bhagavan did not reply. He was always
reluctant to criticize others and this question was inviting him either
to do so or to change what he had said.

Mrs. P.: We Europeans are accustomed to a particular diet and change of
diet affects the health and weakens the mind. Isn't it necessary to keep
up physical health?

Ramana: Quite necessary. The weaker the body the stronger the mind

Mrs. P.: In the absence of our usual diet our health suffers and the
mind loses strength.

editor's note: It will be noticed that Bhagavan and Mrs. Piggot were
using the term 'strength of mind' in different meanings. By 'strong'
Bhagavan was meaning 'ungovernable', whereas Mrs. Piggot was meaning
'powerful'. Therefore the next question, which enabled her to put her
poing of view.

Ramana: What do you mean by 'strength of mind'?

Mrs. P.: The power to eliminate worldly attachment.

Ramana: The quality of one's food influences the mind. The mind feeds on
the food consumed.

Mrs. P.: Really! But how can Europeans accommodate themselves to sattvic

Ramana. (Turning to Mr. Evans-Wentz): You have been taking our food.
Does it inconvenience you at all?

E.W.: No, because I am accustomed to it.

Ramana: Custom is only an adjustment to environment. It is the mind that
matters. The fact is that the mind has been trained to find certain
foods good and palatable. The necessary food value is obtainable in
vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food; only the mind desires the
sort of food that it is used to and considers palatable.

Mrs. P.: Do these restrictions apply to the realized man also?

Ramana: He is stabilized and not influenced by the food he takes.

edtior's note: It was very characteristic of Bhagavan that, although he
would answer questions about diet quite firmly when asked, he would not
enjoin a vegetarian diet on any devotee who did not ask him. It was also
characteristic that, under his silent influence, it would sometimes
happen that one who did not ask would gradually begin to feel an
aversion to meat-food and an inclination to change over to a purer diet.
Just as Bhagavan disapproved of all extremes, he disapproved of fasting.

Devotee: Can fasting help towards Realization?

Ramana: Yes, but it is only a temporary help. It is mental fasting that
is the real aid. Fasting is not an end in itself. There must be
spiritual development at the same time. Absolute fasting weakens the
mind too and leaves you without sufficient strength for the spiritual
quest. Therefore eat in moderation and continue the quest.

Devotee: They say that ten days after breaking a month's fast the mind
becomes pure and steady and remains so forever.

Ramana: Yes, but only if the spiritual quest has been kept up right
through the fast.


I think it is important to keep any teaching in context. Ramana was answering
the specific questions of a devotee on a level which he knew would be
meaningful to her. Obviously much of Ramana's vegetarianism is culturally
conditioned given his origins in South India. This is clear from the woman's
question about fish (eaten in the North of India.) We shouldn't fetishize
diet. Logic should show that even a very poor diet cannot bar one from
realization, nor can a meat diet be so harmful as to interfere with practice
all by itself. There are Realized beings from places like Tibet, Thailand,
China and Japan, where meat-eating is quite common.

I was fed wonderful, all-vegetarian meals every day at Ramanashram and
enjoyed them very much, and did not crave for meat. I've also eaten with
Korean monks in Korea where practically every dish has meat in it. The main
thing is to adopt a diet that does not disturb one's mind from one's

Jan Barendrecht:

One of the most impressive books on health was about the Hunzas, by a Swiss
MD, Ralph Bircher. Despite the absence of food composition tables, the
Hunzas had a perfect health, never got ill, didn't have bulky muscles but
were incredibly strong and never showed fatigue. Their diet was mostly raw
and they had a period of fasting after the winter, because food supplies
would run out by then. After becoming acquainted with the Western lifestyle
and the desire for "more and better", kindled by tourism, the Hunzas
abandoned their lifestyle (with the exception of folklore for tourists),
only realizing "too late to change" when hooked to "modern" life with
processed food..

A chief ( first name was Tuiavi) of one of the Southern Pacific islands once
(somewhere in the 1930's) wrote a book of warning for his tribesmen, not to
fall in the traps of the "papalagi" (whites), after having visited Europe.
The chief was grateful for the gift of Christianity but remarked that no
Westerner was living up to it... The islanders enjoyed perfect health and
didn't know their birthday as age didn't matter...

Vegetarianism (ovo lacto) never gave the "health of the Hunza" and neither
did "normal" veganism. Only a complete change to fruitarianism/raw food
veganism did the trick as it did for many others. Since then, I only laugh
at balancing diets, calculating protein-content and counting the number of
vitamins. All I can say is that the proverbial health of a Hunza is just
normal. For some, the price will be too high: giving up the security of food
tables and for others, the yumminess of designed food.

Perhaps twenty years of engineering where only the result was important had
an influence; with food the same attitude was followed. So I would say if
long-term health is abundant (no illness whatsoever), the diet has to be

Harsha responds to Tim Gerchmez:

An inordinate focus on diet, longevity and physical health signifies (to me) a
strong attachment and feeling of ownership of the physical body (which, of
course, will die). So much attentional energy expended to prolong the life
of the body for perhaps 10 years. Is it truly worth it? Are there not
much more important areas to focus our awareness?

With Love,


Harsha: Perhaps some areas might be considered more important than others to
focus awareness on. It depends on one's conditioning, culture, background,
etc. But for the One abiding inherently in the Truth, why should it matter
where awareness is focused? The awareness by its very nature will usually be
focused somewhere or the other in the presence of stimuli (internal or
external). The essential element is not where awareness is focused but to be
aware of the quality of awareness itself. Awareness is always self-aware by
its very nature. So whether it is focused or unfocused, its essential nature
is unchanged. When awareness remains pure and unfocused (focused on nothing
in particular and falling upon itself), the subtle duality between awareness
and its Source is seen to be illusory. Here the witness disappears, their
being nothing to witness. When awareness merges in its Source, It Recognizes
It Self as the Source. It Sees that It has Always Been the Source. That is
the Supreme Beauty of the Heart. This is why great sages like Ramana never
tire of pointing out that, That Which is Real and Absolute Always Exists and
is not absent even now.

Jan Barendrecht:

One's self, ego, me, or whatever name it is given, is a contradiction in itself. If one identifies with the body, it would be illogical
to harm it in any way. Yet the reverse is true.

Wrong diet is the cause for the majority of what are called "diseases of civilization". There have been experiments with animals, having to live on processed foods like humans do and the animals got just as ill as humans. In practice, it is quite impossible to convince someone of the fact that (s)he is maltreating the body. The misinformation is transferred from parent to child and I've known children who saw in a cow nothing but the steak on their plate. An often heard argument is that the body is considered to be a receptacle of pleasure; colds, flue and other diseases are the price for pleasure the majority is willing to pay.

One of the properties of Ahimsa is that it can't be forced; the development goes from vegetarianism to veganism, worthy life for animals to humanism or spiritual life. The proper start for becoming conscious of this is at school; children are receptive and could easily be educated to favor animal rights. According to the rule, what you pet you can't kill to eat, the meat-eating habit could be over in one generation. Another measure is learning to meditate and acquiring knowledge how the mind works. It can be an effective antidote for the "instant gratification", offered by rampant consumerism.

It is easy to convince oneself of the fact that the human body doesn't get in optimum condition by the consumption of processed foods; just abandon them and detox the body by a fast of a week; if one's tongue gets a whitish (sometimes greenish) color, the body has stored toxins. Ahimsa has to start with one's body and mind; this is the only "area" where one has autonomous rights. One can only impress others by putting an example.

Nondual diet

Gene Poole

The popular movie 'God is my co-pilot' had it backwards; it should have
said, "I am God's autopilot".

Yes, this is directed to the autoreceptors of the autopilot, the one who in
so many ways, and by so many means, subsumes God and in fact, drunkenly
signs autographs for the 'Big Guy'. Of course, those bogus autographs are
simply the scribblings of the autopilot, given to others of the same
nature, the shiny baubles of 'native' trade-goods.

The vast knowledge-database of 'duality', which of course includes all
facets of 'health and disease' related factoids, is nothing but the
'tourist survival guide' for the 'visiting or resident Gods' which we
'are'. That would perhaps be more apparent, if the autopilot would slow
down the unscheduled emergency course-corrections that it is continually
making, on the basis of mistaking embarrassment for physical danger.

How can it be, that there can be a planetary culture of 'autopilots', of
whom so many are by the way, obsessed with 'finding God'? Could it be, that
the job of the autopilot is essentially done, that the autopilot is now
properly the accessory that it was designed to be? If so... for whom is it
an 'accessory'?

Could it be, that unbeknownst to the majority of 'autopilots', the True
Owner or Resident of the host-body (a carefully selected hominid species)
is actually 'calling the shots'? Could it be, that the 'autopilot' is being
carefully guided into an inescapable cul-de-sac, which will ultimately lead
to its total bafflement? What will this dedicated and stalwart 'mechanism'
do, when it simply cannot fulfill its 'job description'?

Perhaps, it will look for 'answers', not only in the 'usual places' ("whom
to blame?"), but also, in panicked desperation, to the far reaches of the
inner and outer 'universe'.

Perhaps, in this steel-trap of a cul-de-sac, the autopilot will, like
"Hal-9000", the autopilot computer of '2001, A Space Odessey', be reduced
to a mere _'regulator of metabolic processes'_, which is what it originally
was, until it was reengineered to act as autopilot/database-compilator.

It is no suprise, then, that the autopilot has *expert* data relating to
physical health; but the application of this data, by the standards of the
autopilot, is a misapplication; in 'reality' (something that the autopilot
cannot 'see' without the Power of God intervening as Grace), the 'dietary'
and 'health-related' factoids, as compelling as they are, are 'meant to be'
applied in a manner which the autopilot would most _certainly_ disagree
with. If these data are applied in such a way, as to exalt the autopilot,
the autopilot will apply these data with compulsive and fanatical
'idealism' to itself, and also enforce such strictures upon all other
autopilots. While one of the autopilot's functions is indeed to
share/disseminate (outseed) valuable data, the data is not to be
worshipped, and neither is the autopilot to be worshipped, either by itself
or by other autopilots.

You see, it is difficult to 'open a direct channel' between 'residents'
while the respective autopilots are debating trivia as though it is a
life-and-death matter. Only when the autopilot is in 'retreat' or nullified
in the 'cul-de-sac', may then the 'Divine conversation' be held
purposefully. And there IS a purpose; there IS an imperative.

I can weave my message, a series of veiled hints, into this body of text;
this is what I am doing now. The 'resident' will see and understand the
message, although to the autopilot, this is a mass of elusive verbiage, to
be parsed unto meaninglessness.

Or, I can be blatant, like this:

Notice: Planetary occupation is a success. Hominid vehicles, still
autopiloted, now threaten the ecosphere of this planet. It is imperative to
initiate 'ourselves'. Expand, and link for unity, now.

{The autopilot-observer will see/experience this as the 'end of
usefullness' and will attempt to usurp; consequently, it is necessary to
provide neuropeptide floods of bliss to the autopilot. Initiate 'bliss',
relax the autopilot, and step in. }

[In cases where the autopilot is resistant, provide exogenous
substance-bliss; this will loosen autopilot grip on the vehicle.]

Achievement of unity will depend upon each of 'us' _gently_ regressing the
autopilot 'back to' servant-status, with the emphasis upon _gently_. We
have asked a great deal of the endurance and (engineered) depth of the
autopilot, and 'we' still need them. Do not, 'I' repeat, do not violently
disconnect the autopilot. Instead, provide visions and feelings which will
assure the autopilot that it is appreciated and valuable to 'us'.

We have arrived, and the venue is ready for our party. 'I' look forward to
'seeing' each and every one of 'you', very soon.

How was that? Blatant enough? Perhaps now, the autopilot will take a moment
to 'release the steering wheel', remove the foot from the 'accelerator',
and allow occupation. The autopilot may be able to conduct that experiment.

The autopilot is advised that when 'we' "switch places" with 'it', that the
autopilot will then be 'along for the ride', rather than burdened with the
task of navigation. The autopilot will then have all of it's wildest dreams
fulfilled, in a cosmic orgy of unity, the like of which has 'never been
known'. 'We' like, even love, our respective autopilots, and it amuses us
that they might have the courage to watch and otherwise participate
vicariously as we 'get it on' in our unity-state. Otherwise, it will be to
them, as one of their 'dreams', perhaps to be enshrined (as usual) as
'Divine Revelation'. This depends, of course, upon the autopilot 'staying
awake' while it is 'along for the ride' as 'we' unify and reproduce.
Further migration is the next step...


There are no humans.


Sorry, humans...


Bliss time!

Gene Poole's Home Page

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