for ISKCON News on Jan. 27, 2012
The YOGA of EATING - becoming a FOOD YOGI is now available as an eBook and softcover from LULU. The 320 page book by Director of Food for Life Global, Paul Rodney Turner (Priyavrata das) is the result of many years of research and crafting while teaching the art and science of food yoga around the world at vegetarian conferences.
The inspiration behind Food for Life, Srila Prabhupada, famously wrote that "everyone should get a chance to take prasadam." For years I wondered how this would be physically possible, considering the limited number of Food for Life volunteers and resources. However, it then dawned on me that all we needed to do was to teach the knowledge of prasadam to others, thus empowering them to do their own prasadam distribution. Sort of like the "teach a man to fish" concept. Thus was born the idea of food yoga. The challenge then was taking this very esoteric science and making is accessible to a wide audience without losing the essence. My hope is that in The YOGA of EATING - Becoming a FOOD YOGI, I have achieved that. Covering a wide array of subjects, the book gradually leads the reader on a journey of rediscovering food and its importance in our spiritual evolution, culminating in the Food Offering Meditation.
The following is an excerpt:
WHAT IS FOOD YOGA?
Rooted in Hindu tradition, the spiritual dimension of food yoga has meaning for people of all faiths. In Hinduism, all food is first offered to God – the very source of that food’s creation. Such offerings can be elaborate rituals conducted with great fanfare using expensive paraphernalia and food ingredients, while other offerings may be humble gestures consisting of no more than fresh fruits and water. In all cases, however, it is the intention or the devotion of the aspirant that is foremost. Such offered food is considered pure, karma-free, and spiritually nourishing. Hindus call this food prasadam, or the mercy of God.
Hinduism is a complex and varied belief system that accepts many gods and goddesses as emanating from a single source, Brahman, which is understood either as an impersonal, formless energy, as in the Advaita tradition, or as a dual (male/female) god in the form of Lakshmi-Vishnu, Radha-Krishna, or Shiva-Shakti, as in Dvaita traditions.
To the naturalist, the Goddess is simply “Mother Earth.” After all, all food comes from the earth. Some currents of Neopaganism, in particular Wicca, have a concept of a single goddess and a single god who represent a united whole, glorified as the Lord and Lady (Frey and Freya, literally translated), with the Lord representing abundance and fertility and the Lady representing peace and love as well as vast powers of magic.
Whatever your belief, the fact that you are reading this book tells me that you may be open to accepting a higher power, and in your own unique way, you honor that higher presence.
My goal here is not to explore the entire subject of foodism, but rather to focus on its more divine aspects, beginning with an acceptance of a benevolent presence in our lives and evolving to appreciating that presence through the offering of pure food, much the same as when you honor a friend in your home. Giving food is the most fundamental act of kindness a human can do, and eating food is one of the few things all humans have in common.
Food yoga springs from the belief that the kind of food we eat affects our consciousness and subsequent behaviors. According to the Bhagavad Gita, foods in the mode of goodness—vegetables, fruits, milk, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes—can be energetically purified by being offered in devotion, thereby raising one’s consciousness. For this reason, food yogis avoid foods saturated with fear and suffering, such as meat and fish, in favor of plant-based meals prepared with loving intention and made with fresh, organic ingredients. Moreover, if the food you eat is prepared by people with a polluted consciousness (e.g., disgruntled employees working in a dirty restaurant kitchen), you are sure to absorb negative psychic energies.
That food should be prepared and served in its purest possible form is central to the belief and practice of Food for Life Global, a worldwide network of plant-based relief projects. Without adherence to this single principle, Food for Life Global would be no different than any other food relief agency. In fact, the non-profit, sees itself more as a social change organization, with pure food as its preferred medium of expression.
At the root of all purity is an adherence to honesty and cleanliness, and both of these attributes can easily be applied to the food industry. The purest food for consumption is food that is energetically pure in every phase of its life cycle. When you look beyond the immediate gratification food offers and see food for what it truly is—energy—you tap into one of the greatest wonders of life and open the door to higher awareness.
All the world’s great spiritual traditions have elaborate food offering rituals carefully designed to expand consciousness. From the Holy Eucharist to Passover to Diwali, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even the mushroom ceremonies of the Shamanic traditions—all use food as a means to represent or please the Divine and to expand the consciousness of their followers.
Food yoga is, in essence, a discipline that honors all spiritual paths by embracing their core teaching – that food in its most pure form is divine and therefore an excellent medium for spiritual purification.
Food yoga is both an art form and a science.
ART: The individual expression of love and devotion using food as the medium;
SCIENCE: An appreciation for the beauty and interconnectedness of all things, coupled with an unceasing awareness of the Energetic Source from which all things emanate.
HOW DOES A FOOD YOGI ACT?
Food Yogis respect their own body, which they treat as a blessing or a “temple of God.” Indeed, they live their entire life in full awareness of their interdependence and interconnectedness to all things. Such a spiritual and all embracing perspective is the foundation of India’s Vedic culture of hospitality—a culture that is based on the principle of sama darshana or spiritual equality.
The Food Yogi fully embraces a socially responsible and environmentally respectful lifestyle. This applies to your choice of food, clothing, cosmetics, cleaning materials and habitat. All should be chosen carefully so that the least amount of harm is inflicted upon your environment and other living things.
This journey in raising consciousness begins with and ends with the tongue. Never underestimate the power of the plate or the power of the spoken word. What you put on your plate is as much a political statement as it is a mirror of who you really are. You can tell much about a person by what comes out of his mouth when he speaks and what he consumes as food. Food for Life founder Swami Prabhupada often gave the example of a dog on a throne. “If you throw a shoe, then the dog will leave his throne to chew the shoe,” he chuckled. Similarly, although an individual may claim to be enlightened or a great moralist, actions speak louder than words, and soon enough those actions will always reveal their true nature.
The Bible says: “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
The tongue will always lead the other senses either to purity and thus liberation, or to debauchery and thus perpetual entanglement in sin.
In this spirit, The Yoga of Eating provides a Food Offering Meditation that encapsulates the core lessons learned along the journey, while also respecting the need for the individual to be able to use this meditation within the context of their preferred spiritual tradition. The Yoga of Eating aims to do this by teaching universally accepted principles of science and spirituality and not dogma.
In The Yoga of Eating, I also share my personal experiences as a young monk and student of India’s Vedic culture of hospitality, while also drawing from numerous scientific and religious sources to provide a believable framework to elevate the act of eating from the shackles of the mundane to the liberating embrace of the transcendental.
eBOOK (PDF) $9.95