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Mind Beyond Mind: [18] Ahara and Anahara

Published: 01.06.2007
Updated: 02.07.2015


The human body is the basis of all the activities of life. Food keeps the human body living. Thinking, speaking and breathing depend on food. Ahara or the in taking of materials needed for the preservation of life is needed before we begin any kind of activity. We are doing this every moment. Ahara means in taking of food materials from outside the body.

Gautama asked Mahavira, 'Can a spiritually developed monk produce copies of his own body—Vaikriya Sarira - without Ahara or external Pudgalas or material particles?' Mahavira replied, 'No, he cannot, however developed he may be, without taking in external Pudgalas.'

Ahara does not mean eating external materials by mouth only. The amount of energy we get by eating materials by mouth is a very small amount. There are materials other than food, which give us much more energy. Ahara means to take, to draw, and to take possession of. Normally we eat things by mouth only twice a day or may be several times a day. This is a gross statement of things. The fact is that we take Ahara every moment and cannot live without doing so. This continuous in taking is called Roma Ahara in the Jain discipline. That which is taken by mouth is called Kavala Ahara (morsels of food). Roma Ahara is taken by every pore of the hair on the body. As a matter of fact Roma Ahara is the basis food we consume. We cannot live without it. You can easily pass thirty, forty or fifty days without taking anything by mouth.

The third method of consuming food is called Mano Ahara. This Ahara does not require the service of the mouth, nor that of the pores at the root of the hair. The mere idea of taking something nutritious provides the body with nutrition.

Our traditional notions about food are illusory. We have several wrong notions about dieting and these have produced difficulties for us. We have taken it for granted that food can be taken by mouth only and that such food is enough for us. This is a wrong view. The term 'balanced diet' has become a popular jargon these days. It means food, which contains all the elements necessary for health and longevity. The science of Yoga has a different opinion in this matter. According to this opinion, a balanced diet must contain four elements: foodstuff, oil, air, and light. Ordinarily a balanced diet implies foodstuff and oil. In my opinion a diet, which does not contain air and light cannot be an ideal diet. You may naturally ask as to why air should be the essential elements in diet, because ordinary foodstuffs and oil can quench hunger. If light and air could quench hunger, one of the major problems mankind is facing may be easily solved.

Let us take light of the rays of the sun first. The human body needs Vitamin D. The rays of the sun give us the best kind of this Vitamin. They produce Vitamin D in stuff close to the inner parts of the skin of the body. They produce calcium and phosphorus also which the body needs. Naturopaths advise us to retire into the forest for some time, strip the body naked and to bathe in the rays of the sun. This sunbath makes up many a deficiency of the body. Ancient Sadhana prescribed this treatment of the body also. Keeping the body naked is much more effective in Sadhana than anything else. According to the Uttaradhyayana Sutra nudity produces lightness of the body, removes infatuation, and enables us to control the sense organs and to acquire the fruits of Tapa (penance). The rays of the sun when they fall on the body make up the deficiency produced by malnutrition. They are supplementary food for us. One who takes sunbath needs a smaller quantity of food. Jain literature gives a lot of information on Atapana (sun bath) than any other literature. Experts on dietetics have now come to say that one, who avoids the sun and air, exposes himself to many an ailment. Unfortunately we know very little about Atapana. One who wants to regain health should go to a secluded place, strip himself naked and lie down on the ground to have a prolonged sun bath. If the rays of the sun are too hot to bear, the body may be covered with a thin cloth. This is the process of Atapana. It is wrong to confuse it with the practice of Hatha Yoga.

What we eat becomes less valuable if it is not mixed with Prana Vayu. The lesser the intake of oxygen, the more the quantity of foodstuffs we need. One who takes in sufficient oxygen needs a lesser quantity of food.

The human body is composed chiefly of four elements, earth, water, fire, and air. The body needs them. We also need to make up the deficiency of these elements in the body. We also need minerals like lead, iron, silver, gold etc. in the body. Milk contains mica. Mother's milk contains silver. Vegetables contain several mineral substances. We take ash of burnt gold, silver, and iron. The body cannot absorb these substances completely. Therefore, it has been suggested that we should take minerals in their natural state alone. Even the mineral contents of vegetables cannot be completely absorbed by us. I therefore, suggest that we should try to procure nutritious substances through Mano Ahara. For this purpose we will have to develop our imagination to such an extent that it may supply the needs of the body in matters of food. Otherwise the easiest way would be to meet the needs with the help of air.

According to the Bhagavati Sutra (a Jain Scripture), human beings procure Ahara from six directions: from the north, the south, the east, and the west, from above and from below. Such views have now become historical curiosities in the absence of experiments on them. Do not take Ahara through the feet? We certainly do. It has been recommended that for maintaining or regaining health we should walk on the ground with bare feet. This enables the feet to extract Ahara from the earth. We may employ our heads also for this purpose. We get all the substances, which sustain our body from the solar system. That is why ancient lore and custom have prescribed which direction we should keep our heads when we sleep. This is not superstition, but a belief, which has been experimentally verified. In France patients are given treatment by alternately keeping their heads in different directions while they lie on their beds. The fact behind this kind of treatment is that the currents of electricity emanating from the solar system influence the head of the patient. The substances contained in the solar currents enter into the head and provide a treatment for the diseases from which the patients suffer.

All the sustenance we get from vegetables and fruits are available from the air because the airfields contain all the nutritive substances.

There are two more things to be noted in this connection. They are fasting and a cheerful mood of the mind. The sustenance, which we normally procure, becomes meaningless in the absence of these two things. Eating without intervals of fasting creates difficulties. We eat in order to satisfy hunger, but this creates many difficulties for us. Fasting solves these difficulties. Fasting not only means not eating, it also means eating less.

A cheerful mind is necessary for the smooth working of the digestive system. By cheerfulness I do not mean an emotion, but the purity of the mind. A mind free from all kinds of emotions is a cheerful mind. It implies the elimination of the fleeting moods of the mind.


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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahara
  2. Atapana
  3. Bhagavati Sutra
  4. Body
  5. Discipline
  6. Fasting
  7. Gautama
  8. Hatha Yoga
  9. Mahavira
  10. Prana
  11. Sadhana
  12. Sarira
  13. Science
  14. Sutra
  15. Tapa
  16. Uttaradhyayana
  17. Uttaradhyayana Sutra
  18. Vaikriya Sarira
  19. Yoga
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