The food we eat is a means of maintaining health and vitality, providing we eat in harmony with our human condition and with nature. What we eat is also a means of expressing our free will, and we have used this and the previous issue of Yoga to outline an attitude to diet that can release us from our present food prejudice and guide us to freedom.

Generally we choose our food in accordance with the following factors:

  • Appetite. Hunger is the basic factor; without an appetite we cannot live and enjoy life.
  • Taste. We use elaborate cooking techniques, flavourings and spices to satisfy the demands of our senses.
  • Sentiment. Giving and taking food have strong emotional overtones, and many of our preferences are established in childhood. We tend to eat in the tradition of our parents, hence national or ethnic dishes.
  • Nutrition. Far from uppermost is the intellectual consideration of the nutritional value of our food. Increased consumption of refined and synthetic foods leads to a preoccupation with the micro nutrients in food (vitamins, minerals etc.). On the other hand, eating whole, unprocessed foods leads to an interest in holistic nutrition, including such concerns as the principles of how we cook and eat, the natural seasonal changes, and diet as related to human evolution.
  • Ecology-Economics. This factor relates to our concern for how to feed people most economically, while interfering with nature as little as possible.
  • Religion. The regard for a universal principle or ideology influences our eating patterns. Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed all presented views of dietetics which were integral to their teachings.
  • Freedom. Our strongest motivation is to eat and enjoy everything and anything. At this stage we have no dualism about good-bad, healthy-unhealthy foods. Eating as a free person implies a total embracing of all foods.

Enjoyment of food is not contrary to the spirit of yoga. Rather, attachment to food - the greed and eagerness that give food such an important place in our lives - this is what we are trying to overcome through yoga. Such an attachment is a limitation on our freedom.

Tantra-yoga does not ask us to suppress taste or pleasure, but we should not give food the power to govern our lives and feelings. To be overjoyed just because we get food we like, to be sorry and discontented when we do not have it - then food is master of our being. We should not neglect the body because it is the tool for sadhana, but we must purify and tame the body without giving it too much emphasis.

In yoga you don't have to give up any of your present habits, they give you up and this comes about in two ways. The first is through detachment, learning to look at food as a physical necessity only, and regarding satisfaction of stomach and palate as of little importance. The other way is to take, without insistence or seeking, any food given, and to find enjoyment in it despite previous taste preferences.

There is actually nothing that should create fear or slavery in our eating habits. If our mentality is strong and our direction clear, all eating is really for our freedom.