05/09/2016 4:59 PM IST | Updated 08/09/2016 10:22 AM IST

Soul Food: Spirituality And The Enjoyment Of Eating


Gautama Buddha, it is said, gained enlightenment when a village girl, Sujata, offered him kheer (rice pudding). After eating it he realized the noble middle path. The kheer gave energy to his brain and solace to his tortured soul.

Spirituality cannot take place on an empty stomach. At the same time, enlightenment cannot be obtained on an excessively full stomach. There has to be a middle path. This is what Buddha found out.

Spirituality cannot take place on an empty stomach.

Great food not only gives energy for the body, but the taste and aroma provide balm for the soul. Body and soul are both nourished with great food.

The whole basis of life is food. Food provides energy for survival, making it the cornerstone of life and ultimately spirituality.


Enjoyment of food is like yoga. If one really enjoys the taste and aroma of food while eating it, one is able to focus one's whole attention on the eating experience and is like a meditation. But for that, the food has to be eaten slowly with proper chewing and should be relished. Both these things help in producing lots of saliva, which not only helps in digestion but also stimulates the vagus nerve.

Following the ancient Indian tradition of chewing every morsel 32 or 64 times not only helps in proper digestion and reducing weight, but the aroma of food can go directly to the brain and stimulate various centres depending on what we are eating. The stomach filling and the provision of energy to the body comes later on. Probably that is the reason why the mouth is closer to the brain than to the stomach! That may also be a reason for the saying, "You are what you eat"!

Also, food should be eaten silently... you should be immersed in the experience. Talking, arguing and thinking of worries while partaking of food is unhealthy.

With fast modern life we tend to gulp down food to fill our stomach, like animals. In contrast, the enjoyment of rich aromatic food allows the other senses to kick in and provides a wholeness of experience. Thus, one of the exercises in mindfulness yoga is to be immersed in the food experience.

Not only is eating great food is enjoyable but preparing it is therapeutic since it allows the mind to focus on a single thought of cooking.

Vivekananda the great Indian yogi used to be very fond of food and to him enjoyment in cooking and eating biryani was similar to what he experienced through deep meditation.