Food For Thought

But from the point of view of the philosophy of Yoga, of Vedanta, the mind is no more real than matter, nor is matter more real than mind. Both are phenomenal, empirical creations of energy, that creative energy of nature called 'prakriti' in the classics. The reality is ultimately something other than both matter and mind: it is the spiritual consciousness in which both live, move and have their being. This spiritual reality, called theologically 'Brahman or God', is not something apart from the world, neither is it the same as the world. It is the substratum of the appearances of the world. The world has an empirical, phenomenal existence, but the reality behind that appearance is Brahman, the Absolute.

Just as the world of energy transcends the world of matter and yet encompasses it; just as the evolution of science, from Newton's view to Einstein's, the world of material atoms was found to be contained and evolved within a subtler world made up of electro-magnetic energy (because, as you know, in the Einsteinian universe the ultimate reality is not matter existing in a solid framework of absolute time, space and causation, as it was in Newton's picture of the universe, but electro-magnetic energy, which we know as light, existing as waves in a relative world in which the time-space continuum has only a relative validity, and a framework whose appearance is not fixed for everyone, but depends entirely upon the position of the observer); so this world too, this world of energy, the Einsteinian universe of relativity, is transcended by the world of forms and ideas, which are the appearances of structure seen in sense experience and in the mental images to which sense experience gives rise.

The eighth century Vedantin, Sureshvara, points out that if you see smoke rising from a fire, it does not have to push apart the empty space in the sky in order to make its way upwards through it, because the space in the sky is untouched and unaffected whether the smoke rises through it or not; space is subtler, it is a more refined principle. It may seem otherwise: if they were on the same level of reality, then it would be either smoke or space, you could not have both, and the space would have to get out of the way in order to allow the smoke to ascend; but it is not like that. The space is something subtler than the things which it contains, and so it exists on another level of reality. In the same way as the space is subtler than the universe of matter, or smoke, so the mental reality - the universe of thoughts and ideas and sensations and experiences - is a subtler reality than the physical reality; but it is still only a relative reality. Transcending the mind, transcending the physical universe and transcending also this subtler universe of the mind (the mental consciousness), is absolute reality. And the clue to this reality is man's real self, the Self hidden in the mind.

Our being functions on all these planes, and on all these planes it requires food. The food of the body is physical food. The food of vitality - of life - is energy. The food of the emotions is love and the feeling of unity (and a man is starved indeed if he does not satisfy the feeling for love or unity). The food for the intellect is knowledge, and the food for the spirit is illumination; it is wisdom, or spiritual enlightenment.

But as well as starving, or being malnourished, we can also eat the wrong food. If we eat the wrong physical food, as we all know, we grow physically unhealthy and suffer from the many diseases which arise from errors of diet. If we eat the wrong emotional food, seeking satisfaction in sensuality or sensationalism, or sentimental nonsense of one kind or another, then we will grow emotionally unhealthy. The human heart needs the right kind of affection and friendly relationship, as much as it needs food and water. Only an enlightened man, say the yogis, only a jnani, can live independently of others, because only he has a true feeling of oneness with others, whatever their behaviour towards him may be. But we need the right kind of love; we need love of the highest, and the best thing is to offer our love either to the Lord or to a saint or to a perfect man or to a spiritual guide.

As the Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita:

He is supremely dear to Me whose devotion to Me is single-minded. I am supremely dear to him and he is dear to Me. (7.17)

The wise worship Me, endowed with meditation. (10.8)

Their thoughts are fixed on Me, their lives are wholly given up to Me. They are contented and rejoicing in Me. To those who are in constant union with Me and worship Me with love, I grant the power of understanding by which they come to Me. (10.9-10)

This, then, is the greatest and the best emotional food for man's emotional being.

Much of what we are offered today as food is 'ersatz' - and this is just as true of the spiritual food as it is of physical food. It has the right name but it is not the real thing, and it does not nourish properly. Chicken in my youth was one thing: chicken as it is today is a very different thing. It is still called chicken, but it is only a label; in fact one might legitimately call it a libel. The official legal definition some time ago, of processed green peas was 'yellow dried peas, reconstituted by soaking and dyed green'! 'Full fruit standard' used to be the legal name for something containing fifteen per cent of the fruit named, and the rest made up from pulped turnip, or whatnot. What's in a name? It is no different with the contemporary mental and spiritual foods which are offered to man. The so-called 'Zen Buddhism' offered by the beat poets, or the 'Yoga' peddled by hippies, has the name of something genuine but none of the power of nourishment for the soul which the genuine article contains. Man, awakening to wisdom, has to discover the real food which will nourish his soul, and that food is the spiritual teachings which lead the soul to a knowledge of the non-dual principle within his own being and within the universe as a whole. When he has realised this oneness with all on the highest plane, then his realisation is expressed in the ecstatic utterance which Swami Rama Tirtha quotes in his essay on worship, Upasana:

Whatever grain is eaten, is eaten by Me;
Whosoever sees and breathes, does so by Me;
Whatever is heard or said, it is by Me.
Those who do not know Me as abiding in all, as the inner controller,
They perish in the world for want of knowledge of Me.
O lightning! I proclaim Brahman, who is achieved by faith and endeavour.

A.M. Halliday, Freedom through Self-Realisation
A Shanti Sadan Publication - London, UK, Pgs. 58-61