Sometimes the longer upanishads branch off from the central subject and explore a byway or two. This happened in the preceding dialogue between Uddalaka and Svetaketu. Uddalaka began expounding the origin of various components of the human being, including the mind, the manas, which is the sensory mind, the field of energy which conveys the impressions of the sensory impulses of the brain. It is part of our astral bodies, but since it consists of the grossest of astral substance, it is integrated, even interlaced, with the material body and brain. According to Uddalaka the energy of the mind is derived from the physical body. Here are his words:
“Food, when eaten, becomes divided into three parts. What is its grossest ingredient, that becomes feces; what is the middling ingredient, that becomes flesh; and what is the subtlest ingredient, that becomes mind” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.5.1,2). From this we see how important diet is, for the very substance of the mind is the essential energy of the food we eat. For that reason we must be careful both as to what we eat and what its vibration might be. For example, we should avoid meat, fish, eggs, alcohol, nicotine, and mind-influencing drugs–that should be obvious to the yogi. But we must also be careful about the vibration of acceptable food, for if it is a vehicle of negative vibrations it will be poisonous to the mind. When food is cooked or handled, the vibrations of the cook and the handler enter into it, for cooked food is very receptive to vibrations. Usually a prayer or blessing will neutralize any negative energies attached to food, but not always, especially if the cook or handler were mentally disturbed. Food in a restaurant that serves meat can be a problem for that reason, and also because the food may be cooked in the same oil in which meat has been cooked, or may have been touched by meat in some way in the restaurant kitchen.
Prana, the subtle life force in the yogi’s body, must also be kept pure, as it affects everything in the physical and astral bodies, and has a major influence on meditation, during which the pranas must be as pure and subtle as possible, since the mental energies and the prana interact with one another intimately. About the prana, Uddalaka says: “Water, when drunk, becomes divided into three parts. What is its grossest ingredient, that becomes urine; what is the middling ingredient, that becomes blood; and what is the subtlest ingredient, that becomes Prana” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.5.1,2). What is said about water stands for any liquid, and we must be as careful about that as about our food.
“Hence, mind is made up of food, Prana is made up of water” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.5.4). Then he repeats this, giving examples.
“Of the curd [yogurt] that is being churned that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes butter. So also, of the food that is eaten that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes the mind. Of the water that is drunk that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes Prana.…Hence, mind is made up of food, Prana is made up of water” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.6.1-3,4).
This is extremely valuable knowledge for everyone, but especially for the yogi, as we see that food and drink have a direct effect on the mind and the vital force within.
Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: Narada