Diet plays a prominent part in maintaining brahmacharya. Purity of food brings in purity of mind. That power which connects the body and the mind is present in the food that we take. Various kinds of food have varying effects on the mind. There are certain kinds of food that make the mind and the body very strong and steady. So it is absolutely essential that we should take pure and sattwic food. Food has a very close connection with brahmacharya. If proper attention is given to the purity of the food that we take, brahmacharya becomes quite easy.
The influence of foodstuffs on the brain cells, emotion and passion is remarkable. There are different compartments in the brain and each food produces its own effect on each compartment and on the general system. Meat, fish and eggs stimulate passion. Mark how elephants and cows that live on grass are quiet and peaceful and how tigers and other carnivorous animals that live on meat are turbulent and ferocious. Instinct or the voice from within will guide you in the selection of articles of diet that are conducive to the keeping up of brahmacharya. You can also consult some elderly and experienced sadhakas.
Grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts are all sattwic articles of food and very useful for spiritual aspirants. They are ideal food for yogins and brahmacharins, sattwic articles for keeping up brahmacharya.
Mitahara or moderation in diet
Mitahara is moderation in food. Brahmacharins should always observe this. They should be very careful about their night diet. They should never overload the stomach at night. Overloading is the direct cause for nocturnal emissions.
A glutton can never dream of becoming a brahmachari. Control of tongue is a sine qua non if you want to control lust, if you want to observe the vow of brahmacharya. The tongue must be controlled first. Then it will be easy to control the passion. There is intimate connection between the tongue and the organ of generation. Tongue is an organ of knowledge. It is born of the sattwic portion of the water tanmatra. The organ of generation is an organ of action. It is born of the rajasic portion of the water tanmatra. They are sister organs as the source is the same. If the tongue is stimulated with rajasic food, at once the reproductive organ also gets excited. There should be selection and restriction in diet. The food of a brahmachari must be simple, non-irritating and non-stimulating. Moderation in food is very necessary. Stuffing the stomach is highly deleterious. Fruits are highly beneficial. You should take food only when you are really hungry. The stomach will deceive you sometimes. You may have false hunger. When you sit for taking meals, you will have no appetite and no relish. Dietetic restrictions and fasting are very useful auxiliaries in controlling the camel mind and in the attainment of brahmacharya. You should not ignore them or make light of them on any account.
Fasting–a purificatory exercise
Fasting controls passion. Fasting destroys sexual excitement. It calms the emotions. It controls the indriyas also. Passionate young men and ladies should take recourse to occasional fasting. It will prove highly beneficial. Fasting is a great tapas. It purifies the mind. It destroys a great multitude of sins. Shastras prescribe fasting for the purification of the mind. Fasting controls particularly the tongue, which is your deadly enemy. Fasting overhauls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. It destroys all the impurities of the body and all sorts of poisons. It eliminates uric acid deposits. Just as impure gold is rendered pure by melting it in the crucible again and again, so also, the impure mind is rendered purer and purer by fasting again and again. Young, robust brahmacharins should observe fasting whenever passion troubles them. You will have very good meditation during fasting, as the mind is calm. The chief object in fasting is to practice dhyana diligently during that period as all the indriyas are calm. You will have to withdraw all the indriyas and fix the mind on God. Pray to God for guiding you and throwing a flood of light on the path. Say with bhav: “O God! Guide me, guide me. Protect me protect me. I am Thine, my Lord!” You will gain purity, light, strength and knowledge. Fasting is one of the ten canons of yoga.
Avoid excessive fasting. It will produce weakness. Use your common sense. Those who are not able to observe a full fast can fast for nine or twelve hours and only take liquids at night.
During fasting, the internal digestive organs such as the stomach, the liver and the pancreas take a rest. Epicureans, gluttons and those who are tireless eaters do not allow rest for these organs even for a few minutes. Hence, these organs get diseased soon. Diabetes, albuminuria, dyspepsia and hepatitis are all due to overeating. After all, man needs very little on this earth. Ninety per cent of the people in this world take more food than is absolutely necessary for the body. Overeating has become their habit. All diseases take their origin in overeating. An occasional complete fast is a great desideratum for all to keep up good health, relieve the internal organs and maintain brahmacharya. Diseases that are pronounced incurable by allopaths and homoeopaths are cured by fasting. Fasting develops will-power. It increases the power of endurance. Manu, the Hindu law-giver, prescribes in his code the remedy of fasting for removal of the five capital sins also.
It is better to drink a large quantity of water, either tepid or cold, according to temperament and inclination, during fasting. It will flush out the kidneys and remove the poison and all sorts of impurities in the body. In Hatha Yoga it is termed as Gata-Shuddhi or purification of the flesh-pot, the physical body. You can add half a teaspoonful of soda bicarbonate to the water. Those who fast for two or three days should not break their fast with any solid food. They should take some kind of juice. They should sip the juice slowly.
Fast for a day to start with. Then slowly increase the number of days according to your strength and capacity. In the beginning you may feel a slight weakness. The first day may be very tiring. You will feel real Ananda, bliss, on the second or the third day. The body will be very, very light. You can turn out more mental work during fasting. Those who are in the habit of fasting will rejoice. On the first day, the mind will tempt you in a variety of ways to eat something or the other. Stand firm. Be bold. Curb the mind at once when it hisses or raises its hood. Do more japa and meditation during fasting. Fasting is more a spiritual kriya than a physical kriya from the viewpoint of health. You will have to utilize the fasting days for higher spiritual purposes and in the contemplation of God. Always entertain thoughts of God. Dive deep into the problems of life such as the why and the wherefore of the universe. Enquire: “Who am I? What is this Atman or Brahman? What are the ways and means to attain Knowledge of God? How to approach Him?” Then realize your Nijananda state and rest in purity for ever and ever.