Invitation To Health: 41 ►Balanced Diet

Published: 08.05.2017
Updated: 09.05.2017

Balanced Diet

Immediately after using the word 'balanced diet' our attention goes to modern method of balanced diet. Today government and health department publish tables of balanced diet. The contemporary meaning of balanced diet is that in which all types of elements are present. Carbohydrate, fat, salt, alkali, vitamins, proteins, when all these are present that is regarded as balanced diet. It is natural that our attention will go to this as per modern belief, but the balanced diet which is being talked of here is different. A balanced diet is that by which balance among vāta, pitta and kapha is maintained and there is no excess of any one.

Question is that of vāta, pitta and kapha

According to Ayurveda all substances have some quantity of vāta, pitta and kapha. There is not a single substance which produces only vāta, and not pitta and kapha. In other words, in some quantity in all substances sattva, rajas and tamas or pañcabhūtas are present. There are elements of agni (fire), jala (water), and vāyu (air). These three are present in all. If we think in terms of purity then there is not a single substance in which there is no mixture of these four (including earth, pthivī) of pañcamahābhūtas or of sattva, rajas and tamas. When we decide that this is a person of vāta nature, or of pitta nature or of kapha nature that is done on the basis of preponderance. Is it that one who has vāta nature, does not have pitta or kapha nature? Or, one who has pitta nature does not have vāta and kapha nature? Vāta, pitta and kapha are there in every individual. But naming is due to preponderance.

Right from birth some people are of vāta nature, some of pitta nature and some are of kapha nature. We should not believe that a person is of one nature only and he does not have another nature. Whenever we discuss this matter we should keep in mind this truth that we are using this naming on the basis of preponderance.

No substance is free from defects

The problem is that in all substances all elements are present but mainly some increases vāta, some pitta and some kapha. Question is then what shall human being eat in such a situation?

Five friends went for a picnic party. Everyone divided the work. There was one vaidya (physician) among them. He was responsible for bringing vegetables. He went to bazaar. He looks at the vegetables one by one but is not able to purchase. He saw brinjal, it produces vāta. He saw bitter gourd, it affects pitta. Like this he went on analyzing the qualities and properties of each and every vegetable. He could not buy anything and returned home empty-handed. On the way there was a neem tree. Its leaves had fallen down. He filled the bag with them. Friends asked, 'What have you brought?' He turned over the bag. Friends said, 'What is this?' The vaidya said, 'In the bazaar nothing defects- less vegetable was available. This neem is tridośanaśaka (destroyer of three types of defects caused by excess of vāta, pitta and kapha).

It is symbiosis of the three

Nothing is completely defects-less. We say there is acidity, there is disease of pitta (rashes on the skin), disease of kapha, or gas trouble. This we say on the basis of predominance. In secondary form, all are together. Where there is vāyu there are pitta and kapha as well. Where there is pitta there are vāyu and kapha. And where there is kapha there are vāta and pitta. In the acceleration of the problem some part is played by everyone. That is why in the Ayurveda it is said, "Naikadoṣastato roga"

Vāta, pitta and kapha have influence on mind, but so long as there is no knowledge of the elements which increase them, how can there be escape from them? That is why there should be sufficient knowledge of both food, and stay and movement. In stay and movement all our activities like sleeping, sitting, moving etc. are included. It is a principle of Ayurveda that to sleep during day is to increase vāyu. To sleep in rainy season or winter season is to aggravate gas trouble. It is prescribed that if during day sleep is to be taken it should be by sitting and not by lying down. To sleep two-three hours in day is to invite disease. Only in summer sleeping for some time during day is permissible.

Context of food

Let us take the case of food. Dry food increases vāyu. There is a reference in Ācarāgasūtra. Bhagavāna Mahāvīra toured Santhal paragana. People of that place gave him lot of troubles, tortured him very much, and created many difficulties. Very easily they will be angry. Curnikāra has made it clear that there til (sesame) did not grow there and therefore there was no oil available. There were no cows and therefore ghee was not available. Neither ghee nor oil was there and they had no means to import. From where would aboriginal people bring ghee-oil? They used to take dry food and that is why in them anger was fierce. In Vyākarana (Grammar) there is an example, "Vātaghnam tailam, pittaghnam ghtam, kaphaghnam madhu". Oil subdues vāta, ghee subdues pitta and honey subdues kapha. In Sanskrit grammar, also we find this indication.

Definition of balanced diet

The Jain Acharya’s (preceptors) have placed great emphasis on balanced diet. These days very few people know about this and even if they know they seldom attend to it. There was a fixed and definite definition of balanced diet. It was asked as to what a muni should eat? The answer was that it should not be dry always and it should not be oily always. It should not always be cooked food and should not be dry always. The reason pointed out for this is that if he takes dry food he will have to get up again and again for paragana and there will be obstacle in daily study (svādhyāya). If he takes only dry food, then anger will increase and that is why in penance there is excessive anger coming up. People used to fear of recluses undertaking penance lest they should give curse out of anger. Dry food is needed for control on senses and oily food is needed so that there is energy for svādhyāya, and for meditation. If pranita food is not taken, oily food is not taken then intellect will also become weak. For sharpening of intellectual power oily food is regarded as essential. If such food is not available, then one becomes mere fool and knowledge-meditation will not be possible. For increase of knowledge-meditation balanced diet is needed and for sense control dry diet is also needed. If both are balanced, then there will be no problem. This is a very important viewpoint of balanced diet.

Sweet juice

Not only in food but in every walk of life balance is required. The problem is that how can an ordinary person acquire all this knowledge. How can every person know this much? If he can know then decision making will be difficult. When there is deficiency in everything then the question is what to eat? A simple way out of this was found. Know merits and demerits of all eatables. But it is difficult to know merits and demerits of so many things. Another simple device was suggested to choose diet per rasas (juices). Rasas also affect mind. Sweet rasa increases kapha and subdues vāta. We ourselves feel that on the day we take more sugar we feel body and mind heavy. We should keep balance in taking sweet rasa and keep a gap of two-three days in eating sweet things. If today sweets are taken, then for next two-three days no sweet should be eaten. By this balance will be maintained. There will be two benefits accruing together, one of sacrifice and the other of health. If an individual can develop this much of discrimination and accept these small things, then he gathers meaningful means for mental health. These are no doubt,small matters but they are very much useful in life. A person desirous of healthy life has to have this much of restraint.

Sour juice (āmla rasa)

Sour juice or āmla rasa increases pitta, increases kapha, but subdues vāta. The problem is that without the sour taste of lemon, mango piece or powder etc. there is no joy in food. Sour things are to some extent beneficial for women, but for male persons they are very much harmful. According to today's scientific belief it is absolutely prohibitory to take sour things along with food. According to olden belief after meals sour tablet or some such thing has to be taken but according to the modern scientific experiments along with meals or immediately after meals if sour things are taken this will upset the digestion. We should keep balance of this as well. There should be determination that sour juice is not to be taken daily or in excess or repeatedly. We have not to be lop-sided that we shall not take sweet or sour juices. This is balancing of rasas, limitation of rasas. If we have this discrimination that we shall not take them more that this much quantity then two benefits will accrue together. By that discrimination food restraint will be strengthened and mind also will be healthy.

Element of salt

The third element is salt. It also increases pitta. According to doctors normally one or two grams of salt are sufficient for a person. Throughout the day whatever we eat on that basis it can be inferred as to how much of salt we consume. When we take extra salt, pitta will increase. That is why there should be limit in taking salt. Those who renounce salt they advance mental health. CI shall not add salt to cooked food.' this is a good sacrifice. The sacrifice should be of this thing as well that 'throughout the day I shall not take more than these salty things. If vegetable is taken then I shall not eat pāpad, and if papad is taken then I shall not eat kacori-pakoi.

Maintain balance among rasas

One rasa is bitter. Bitter rasa also increases vāyu and pitta. There is balance in bitter rasa because it is less palatable. Two more rasas are left. They are pungent and astringent. These rasas also are taken less. Both increase vāya. Pungent means spicy. Bitter, pungent and astringent these three rasas are more used in the Ayurvedic preparation of medicine. Sweet, sour and salty rasas are used more in food preparation. So far as balancing is concerned a little quantity of astringent should be consumed. We should attend to sweet, sour and salt rasas and maintain balance. They are not to be used in excess or daily. Even if we use them daily the quantity should be small. If this balance is there then there will be balance of vāta, pitta and kapha also.

Meaningfulness of Ayurveda

This is a brief account of balanced diet. Vāta, pitta and kapha influence our mind. Their increase or decrease is on the basis of rasas, on the basis of substances. By balancing of rasas all these three are balanced. When they are in balance, our body is also healthy, mind is also healthy. This is a brief description on the ancient method of keeping body and mind healthy. Today's age is not that of vāta, pitta and kapha, but that of virus and germs. Doctors attend only these two things, and they do not have much knowledge about vāta, pitta and kapha. Sometimes I have heard and I was surprised that some doctors give very little allopathic medicines to their family members. They get their treatment through Ayurvedic or homeopathic methods. From this it is clear that the principles of Ayurveda, which are formulated in the context of body and mind, are not meaningless. It is necessary to understand their utility in modern age also. If after understanding these things these two methods are used, then it will be beneficial both from physical and mental points of view.

Title: Invitation To Health
Author: Acharya Mahaprajna
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
HN4U Digital Edition: Ratna & Amit Kumar Jain

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Anger
  3. Ayurveda
  4. Ayurvedic
  5. Bhagavāna Mahāvīra
  6. Body
  7. Fear
  8. Ghee
  9. Mahāvīra
  10. Meditation
  11. Muni
  12. Neem
  13. Rajas
  14. Rasa
  15. Sanskrit
  16. Sattva
  17. Svādhyāya
  18. Tamas
  19. Vaidya
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