In Sanatan Dharma everyone is a spiritual aspirant and the last 1/4th of the lifespan is called the Sanyasashram, ie is dedicated to the Self. And this Sanyasashram can realised in the real sense only if you have been taking care of your physical body and your mind throughout your life, ie keeping yourself as Satvik as possible.
And even if you are not really interested in the Vedanta and just want to learn Jyotish, even then, do try to consciously increase the Satvagun within you. You will be better able to focus on your studies and your readings and your predictions will be accurate.
A Satvik lifestyle means basically paying attention to the food that you eat, the physical exercise that you do, the books you read, the life philosophy you cultivate and the control over your mind that you achieve in your lifetime.
Here are a few tips which you can incorporate in your daily life.
First, the physical body.
Eating satvik food helps in so many ways on the physical as well as on the energy levels. You should continue eating whatever foods you are having now, but try to add some of the following items to your diet. If you have medical issues, do consult your medical professional first. Do use your common sense, adequate food and a balanced diet is necessary, do not starve yourself.
- Barnyard millet (called jhangoora, shama, vari, mordhan etc) – there are several recipes, but the easiest is the Marathi ‘Bhagar’ preparation. Barnyard millet can also be ground and used in the flour form. Ideally try to have one dish made of barnyard millet daily. Also add the other types of millets to your diet depending on their availability in your locality.
- Tapioca sago pearls (called sabudana) – There are several recipes for these sago pearls, eg ‘khichadi’. They can also be ground and made into a flour.
- Makhana (lotus seed popcorn) – very nutritious and several recipes are possible. You can also grind it and use it as a flour.
- Amaranth seeds (called Rajgira) – these are available as a roasted ’popcorn’ which you can use in several ways or grind into a flour. Laddos of Rajgira and jaggery are an absolute favourite.
- Water chestnut (called Shingada) – it is available in the fruit and the flour form, highly nutritious and can be made into several recipes. You can eat the Shingada fruits directly after boiling them in water but they are cold in nature, so if you eat too many at once, you might actually catch a cold.
- Buckwheat (called kattu) – it is available as the seed and also as a flour and is highly nutritious. Several recipes are possible.
- (Flours of all these above mentioned items can be combined with curd and made into a preparation called ‘thalipith’ in Marathi)
- Buttermilk, from which the butter has been separated, but only before noon. If you have curd products after midday they will create mucus in the body.
- Lots of fresh fruit – most of the fruit we buy is stale, preserved in cold storage and upto a year old. So try to buy fruits from your local farmers markets. Ideally fruits should be eaten as soon as they are plucked from the trees, and this is not possible for 99% of us today.
- Coconut – dry or wet coconut is an important part of the diet. You can make chutney or at least add the ground coconut to your food preparations.
- Drink adequate water – at least 4 – 5lit/ day.
- Reduce food preparations made in refined oil. Cold pressed or unrefined oils are a better option. And ghee made of desi cow milk is the best option.
- (These above items are allowed for Upwas vrat, ie you can eat them while observing fasts. In addition, generally only two vegetables, potato and cucumber, are allowed when fasting.)
- Green gram (Moong Dal) – this is the easiest to digest protein so add it to your regular diet.
- Lots of vegetables – try to buy fresh produce rather than vegetables from the cold storage. Fresh stuff has more pran and more ability to nourish.
- You can add Jowar (summer) and Bajra (winter) to your diet but only if you can digest these grains.
Avoid the following as much as possible. Once in a while is fine but these are not advisable on a regular basis.
- Wheat and wheat products.
- Rice and rice products
- Desi cow milk – Direct milk should be consumed by children below 10yrs of age and by elderly people beyond 60yrs of age or if prescribed by a doctor or for medicinal purposes. People in the age group of 10-60yrs should avoid drinking direct milk regularly, instead should consume curd, yogurt, buttermilk etc. First buy the milk of a desi cow, make the curd at home and then consume it.
- Non vegetarian food – Only fish, ie Phylum Pisces, is acceptable in case you have to eat it for balancing your diet. Other types of animal meats are high in Tamogun and make the body and mind dull.
And never starve yourself. Always try to eat a balanced diet. You are doing two things at the same time, ie working in the society as a Gruhast/ householder as well as doing your sadhana. You need energy, so do use your common sense regarding food intake, eat as much as you need to function. Never keep your stomach so empty that you feel faint with hunger, unenthusiastic or tired. And never overeat, you should not eat so much that you feel overfull and uncomfortable.
In addition, try to eat food high in positive energy, ie it should have high levels of pran/ vital energy and must be prepared by someone who has positive intentions towards you, or you can cook your own food. If you can manage this energy part, you will feel lighter, more energetic, your body will reach its ideal weight etc. (I have written several posts on the energy of food and water, do refer to the index.)
Fasting – there is a practice where people ‘fast’ or ‘keep a upvas vrat’, ie do not eat regular food on specific days, specific tithi/lunar days, ie Chaturthi, Ashtami, Ekadashi, Trayodashi, Purnima, Amavasya etc. Or on days linked to their adored deities eg Monday for Bhagwan Shankar. Such fasts are advisable if you eat the above mentioned satvik items and drink lots of water throughout your fasting time. Do not binge on fried and fatty food on your upwas days! Generally you will see people eating oily and fried items which are heavy to digest during the ‘fast’ and after they break their fasts, they overeat and have sweets/mithai and other fatty and sugary foods, which is harmful.
(There are special fasts where people do neither eat nor drink water for upto 24hrs, but these fasts are not advisable for Gruhast people who are supposed to work, go to office, take care of the family etc.)
Now the physical ‘exercise’ part.
You have to keep your physical body healthy by doing Yogasan regularly. Even 12 reps of Suryanamaskar done daily for a lifetime will keep your body fit and charge you with Satva gun. But if you have never done Suryanamaskar even once in your life do not start with 12 reps on day one. It is not as simple as it looks. Start with the easier Asans and then slowly, over time, build your strength. If you have medical conditions then find a professional teacher and consult your medical professional before attempting this.
Remember to consciously add the mantra along with the Asan, else the activity will become Tamasic. Mantra also help you keep your mind balanced and fit.
Next is mental fitness.
This will come with time as you regularly read the Upanishad/ Vedant or the Bhagwat Gita etc. If you find these to be too complicated then read books by the Atmajnyani Mahapurush. Several Jivanmukt Gurus have taken birth in all the states of Bharat and written books in the local languages, composed Bhajans, Abhangs, Stotra etc. Choose one such book in the language you are comfortable in and keep reading, rereading, this one book for a lifetime.
And equally important is your daily practice. Choose one routine activity and do it daily, 10mins in the morning and 10mins in the evening. Take up one mantra/ shloka /stotra and recite it for a lifetime. Choose something linked to your Ishtadevata or Kuldevata so that you have an emotional connect with what you are reciting. If you cannot manage a Sanskrit stotra then choose a bhajan in your favourite language. Give Arghya to the Surya. Offer water to the Tulasi plant. Do Dhyan. Do whatever you can do easily, but stick to it for a lifetime. This routine is the single most important habit that you will cultivate in your life.
Finally you have to add Satva gun to everything you do, ie to make everything you do even more Satvik.
You convert every small action of yours into ‘Dharma’ by reciting a mantra as you do it. There are specific mantra for every action you do, but they might be difficult to learn for beginners. And spiritual practice should be easy, natural, spontaneous, never a burden. And what is the easiest activity you perform? Breathing ie the Ajapa manta, ‘Soham’. The Soham mantra is the easiest and the most natural Ajapa mantra that you are always unconsciously mentally reciting with your breath, ‘So’ as you inhale, ‘ham’ as you exhale. So now onwards as you perform any activity, eg as you wake up in the morning, as you sit down to eat, as you open your water bottle to drink, as you open your laptop to work, open your schoolbook to study, as you lie down to sleep etc, take just one deep breath consciously recite ‘Soham’ once in your mind and then start. This Soham, this one breath, converts your simple action into Dharma, into a Yajnya. Every action you take will now fuel your own personal spiritual evolution.
(There were a few questions which I have answered through this post)