The Ill Effects Of Non-Vaisnava Foods
By Kesava Krsna Dasa
We all know about avoiding prohibited foods, but may not know why, or what effects they produce. Becoming aware of such bad effects will cause us to think extra before eating more “delicious” sin.
We understand that there are difficulties faced by certain householders, especially if both husband and wife work, or are being surrounded by indifferent family members. Whatever the situation, it is worth trying to place oneself in an advantageous eating situation with what “little time” we have.
“Let’s not get fanatical now!” One may protest. “Not all of us are living in the temple, and have the luxury of daily maha-prasadam or temple prasada. Eating out is a necessity sometimes, even if I do not like to do so. At least I choose the places I buy from carefully.”
We usually hear arguments like, “I am eating or buying from a “mode of goodness” outlet.” Such places are deemed “spiritual,” “trustworthy,” or “favourable.” With further analysis on this, we could be in for a rude awakening. These “beneficial” outlets can be more dangerous than we ever thought.
Quite often certain spiritual practitioners think that “paying” the price for certain foodstuffs will “purify” the food items brought, even if the food was cooked by non-devotees. Is this true? Others will reason that, “My dear Lord Krishna will understand.”
In the 3rd chapter of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is we should have learned that when people in general eat foods not first offered to the demigods or Krishna, it is an act of theft. One eats only sin. The paying to purify argument has little validity here, because first of all, one will be buying food items not intended for Krishna’s pleasure. One will purchase only stolen goods.
Can we offer the same stolen goods back to Krishna again? Was there any love and devotion used during the food preparations? Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to (BG 9.26); “Without the basic principle of Bhakti, nothing can induce the Lord to agree to accept anything from anyone.”
Considering that one may be very hungry, and hoping for the Lord’s understanding, will Krishna still accept one’s offering of Bhakti in offering stolen goods? Then we have to see how essential this offering was. Was there ever a little time to prepare and make something beforehand the proper way, before having to buy sinful food? All these ifs and buts weigh up in our overall mood of offering sinful foods.
Since sin means to oppose the will and desires of the Lord, we can only imagine to what extent the sellers of sinful foodstuffs are infested with all of its corollaries. However delicious or wholesome their foods are, they are still infected with, “Wow” jiva-aparadhas, “Far out” nama-aparadhas, “Delightful” lust, “You gotta try this” anger, and “Sublime” greed.
The effects on the consciousness can be immediate or delayed. But habitual eating of bhoga can complicate matters for any devotee, even to the point of deciding whether Krishna consciousness is the goal in life. “…their every mouthful is simply deepening their involvement in the complexities of material nature.” (BG 9.26 purport)
TRUSTWORTHY AND SATTVIC SOURCES
We may have our friendly contacts, and concerned, loving family members that have our best interests at heart. Relying on them for our meals we think nothing of any ill-intent towards us. If invited for a “vegetarian dinner,” we’ll go and visit. After all, we hate to offend our hosts by declining their welcome. We’ll also buy the usual “pure vegetarian” take-aways from sattvic outlets.
The effects of eating food cooked or prepared by well-meaning people could be more subtle and dangerous than eating grossly sinful foods. Many of these “mode of goodness” people harbour insidious, impersonalist or mayavadi concepts. During their own preparations they will probably offer the food to some human being they consider as the source of all avataras – svayam-bhagavan, or they will impose their nihilistic or “God has no senses” thoughts, all for our benefit, of course.
These people are sometimes affiliated with a parampara that goes back perhaps one or two hundred years, founded by someone who has since assumed God status. Though very popular, their offerings certainly pollute the consciousness of aspiring Bhaktas. Their “all paths lead to one” sentiments are ingrained with Nama-aparadhas. Belonging to a New-age group can express fanciful blends of home-made faiths.
For instance, we sometimes see calendars with a God human founder in the centre, surrounded by various incarnations of Krishna. By seeing such calendars one looks at the 2nd offence to the holy name. Let alone Demigods not being equated with or being greater than God, but mere humans are depicted with a greatest role – that of God Himself. Will their foods not affect us? “…therefore, on principle one should not accept charity from the mayavadis and atheists.” (NOI text 4 purport)
By accepting or buying foods from such people based on intimate trust, is discouraged: “…for by such intimate intermingling we may become affected by their atheistic mentality…” (NOI text 4 purport) And since such people are generally indifferent, and see Bhakti as just another pious deed, they are also guilty of another offence to the holy name.
THE INSIDIOUS EFFECTS
The word insidious is used because we cannot always tell what “hit” or affects us when we are trying to chant japa, or to concentrate while reading and hearing. Sometimes our power of recollecting essential scriptural information when preaching or memorising, is compromised. But we can categorise the effects as gross and subtle.
Those who are not accustomed to eating “karmi” food will notice some immediate effects. One will notice the bland and emptiness of the contents; nothing compares with Sri Krishna prasadam made with love and devotion. On eating such food, a feeling of nausea can arise, and a general “yucky!” feeling.
Common reports of bad dreams, and other certain symptoms practitioners are embarrassed to reveal, are the lusty desires that come unsought. These symptoms should remain distinct from cases where, living in a temple and subsisting on prasadam alone, one entertains lusty desires by wilful desire.
“Sri Chaitanya has also warned…”By eating food prepared by worldly people, one’s mind becomes wicked.” (NOI text 4 purport) When the mind is infested with dirtiness, this will likely slow our devotional tempo: “At the present moment people are manda, very slow. They do not take this Krishna consciousness movement very seriously…” (Teachings Of Lord Kapila, Ch. 10) Srila Prabhupada writes this in context of the word “bhoga,” which means, sense gratification.
Referring to the Bhagavad-Gita verse 2.44, we read this: “Those who are overly attached to opulence and sense gratification cannot understand spiritual life; they are very slow to take to it.” (TLK Ch. 10) Perhaps if we are taking Krishna consciousness casually, despite the onset of old-age, our intake of bhoga is the cause. This has the ability to downgrade the importance, or urgency of spreading Krishna consciousness. In fact, bhoga can bewilder us.
This casual attitude can be compared to being concealed with the smoke of partial Krishna consciousness. (BG 3.38) But, “Bhakti is never casual.” Srila Prabhupada states: “It is direct activity in service to the Absolute Truth.” (BG 9.26 purport) Here is further evidence: “One who eats sin…cannot execute perfect yoga.” (BG 6.16 purport) We all know that yoga is Bhakti-yoga.
Whereas a devotee will feel certain immediate effects of consuming bhoga, a casual attitude will less likely feel or experience many symptoms, because persistent eating of wicked food does not help to distinguish very clearly. Eating prohibited food clouds our thinking and dulls the brain. It is not just hot milk that helps build finer brain tissue for understanding transcendental subject matter.
The main substance that enables clear thinking must be spiritual – prasadam. Because it is free from duality there is less interference with our desired concentration and determination. “But preparing nice, simple vegetable dishes, offering them to the picture or deity of Lord Krishna, and bowing down and praying for Him to accept such a humble offering enables one to advance steadily in life, to purify the body, and to create fine brain tissue which will lead to clear thinking.” (BG 9.26 purport)
With clear thinking we should be able to understand more by becoming clearer recipients of mercy, without the dirt of wickedness blocking the way. Moderation is still required to appreciate the value of prasada. Indeed our bodies and minds need not just foodstuff, but living food. Only prasada can be said to be alive. “The purpose of food is to…purify the mind,” (BG 17.10 purport) and to, “Purify one’s existence.” (BG 17.8) After all, Krishna is, “In living beings I am the living force.” (BG 10.22)
Feeling infected one may seek some solutions, like attending a japa workshop. If the fire of the experience dampens the taste for “karmi” food then it is worthwhile. If one returns to eating the old favourites then it is like dousing the fizzling flames with the ice-cream of dark-night withdrawal. It might sound harsh, but our implication in this theft, or loving aparadhas, will always check our real devotional happiness and progress.
If for some reason or other we always wonder why we cannot seem to attain a state of blissfulness, or genuine relish in Bhakti, it could simply be the food we are eating. “…Bhakti or devotional service is the only means to approach Krishna. No other condition, such as becoming a brahmana, a learned scholar, a very rich man or a great philosopher, can induce Krishna to accept some offering.” (BG 9.26 purport)
Here is a list of some effects of eating bhoga:
(1)Makes the mind wicked.
(3)Destroys clear thinking.
(5)Dampens the enthusiasm for devotional service.
(6)Creates material desires.
(8)Creates impersonal or mayavadi thoughts.
(9)Causes one to commit vaisnava aparadha.
(10)Causes one to commit Nama-aparadha.
(11)Cause indifference to Bhakti.
(12)Causes one to be inattentive while chanting.
(13)Clouds fine memory.
(14)Dulls the brain.
(15)Breaks our concentration.
(16)Makes one less serious in devotion.
(17)Causes loss of faith.
(18)Makes one casual in the matter of devotion.
With a list as long as this we can see how the dangers of eating the wrong foods cannot be underestimated.
Your servant, Kesava Krsna Dasa – GRS.