Eating disorders and obesity are reaching epidemic levels in today’s society. In the US some 11 million have anorexia or bulimia, while 25 million suffer from binge eating. Here in the UK obesity causes 30,000 deaths a year and is estimated to cost as much as seven and a half billion pounds each year.
There is no medical cure for these problems although plenty of supposed treatments are touted by those hoping to make a fast buck. Millions are spent on largely useless diet pills, slimming drinks and even hypnosis, as expanding numbers of people grapple with their ever expanding waistlines. As a last resort for those with the cash there is the more drastic recourse of liposuction, another burgeoning industry cashing in on our desire to have the perfect form.
Although for the most part remedies promising rapid weight loss serve to lighten only your pocket, it seems something has arrived that actually works. No, it does not involve wiring up your mouth, stapling your stomach, or receiving a powerful electric shock every time you reach for the pies. Indeed no suffering is required. Called the Mandometer, this clever little device measures the type and amount of different foods you require and, by means of a friendly electronic voice, let’s you know when you are eating too fast and exceeding those amounts. Its makers claim a seventy five percent success rate.
Good news for those of us addicted to food, which tends to be a darned difficult addiction to kick. Food is often sought as comfort amid the stresses and strains of modern life, and these are not about to vanish anytime soon. Or we may binge due to the impulsion of traumas inflicted on us in childhood, which again are difficult to shift.
Many of us occasionally glut out on food, of course, whether or not we have a recognized disorder. Western society has an abundance of edibles to which pretty much everyone has ready access. Eating is one of life’s pleasures that we all enjoy, but Vedic wisdom tells us that it is a material attachment. Dysfunctional or not, the pleasure of eating helps to keep us in what is called the bodily concept of life, an awkward condition that lies at the root of all our problems.
Although we are spiritual beings, when we forget this fact we identify with the material body. As we wish to enjoy and be happy we naturally feel that pleasing the body is the way to go, it being who we think we are. But by grasping its pleasures, immersing ourselves in bodily feelings, we also have to accept the pains that inevitably afflict all material bodies. The consequences of overeating are but a small example of those.
Vedic sages therefore recommend detachment from the body and its attendant pleasures. But of course, we are back to our original little puzzle, how to stop doing something you really enjoy? Or that is providing solace in a harsh age of suffering. To this the sages respond by suggesting that there is a far greater pleasure to be had than anything offered by worldly enjoyments.
That great contemporary sage, Srila Prabhupada, writes in his Srimad Bhagavatam that we are “misrepresented by material hunger.” He goes on to say, “The whole material world is full of hungry living beings. The hunger is not for good food, shelter or sense gratification. The hunger is for the spiritual atmosphere.”
In other words, as spiritual beings it is only spiritual pleasure that can truly satisfy us. Material hunger, whether for food or anything else, is only a symptom of the deeper longing of the soul. This hankering is for the unlimited ecstasy that is found when we unite with the Supreme. In Vedic parlance this sublime and ever-increasing pleasure is known as the “higher taste”. One who has tasted this sees all material enjoyment as pale by comparison. No matter how much bliss we may get from a chocolate cake we have to admit that it has its limits, as indeed does the amount of it we are able to imbibe without incurring seriously painful side effects.
Spiritual enjoyment, on the other hand, has no downside and goes on forever. It is an experience beyond the body and even the material mind; the pure spirit connecting in love with the ocean of divine bliss that is God. And it is cheaper even than a chocolate cake. Free in fact. We need only chant God’s name, especially the Hare Krishna mantra, and we start approaching that ocean.
Try it today and watch every addiction, dysfunction, stress and misery gradually start to melt away. And the mandometer? Well, maybe it can be reprogrammed to remind us, in its charming robotic way, who we really are.
|Krishna Dharma began his writing career with a retelling of the ancient saga Ramayana (1998, Torchlight Publishing). Lauded as "a spellbinding adventure and a work of profound philosophy, offering answers to life’s deepest questions," Ramayana is also a beautiful tale of romance and high adventure.
His novelisation of the great spiritual epic Mahabharata followed in 1999, receiving high praise from literary critics everywhere. Called "very readable" by Library Journal. and "a well-wrought saga that will be appreciated by Western readers ”¦ Highly recommended" by Midwest Book Review, while The Guardian described it as, "a marriage of Barbara Taylor Bradford and Arthur Hailey."
|Mahabharata introduces the rich cultural, spiritual, and historic legacy of India. It contains the great spiritual treatise, Bhagavad-gita, whose profound instructions are read daily by millions of people around the world.
Krishna Dharma has now condensed his nearly 1000-page Mahabharata into a convenient 288-page edition, rendering it even more accessible to busy Western readers.
He has just released a retelling of the Panchatantra, India’s famous book of fables, and later this year will have another book published entitled "Beauty Power and Grace: Many Faces of the Goddess."
A prolific writer, he is now working on a novelised version of the Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) which he hopes to see published some time in 2009.