Chapter XVII: 7-10
|The food also which is dear
to each is threefold, as also sacrifice, austerity and almsgiving. Hear thou the
distinction of these.
The foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness, which are savory and oleaginous, substantial and agreeable, are dear to the sattvika people.
The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, pungent, dry and burning, are liked by the rajasa and are productive of pain, grief and disease.
That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten and impure refuse, is the food liked by the tamasa.
The classification of food is clear enough to need no comment.
There are two important points in these four verses that should not go unnoticed. The first is: Krishna mentions that certain foods "increase life" - which makes one wonder by what standard the life span is fixed. Krishna seems to have forestalled the modern biologist by recognizing the "biological age" and by formulating rules that will decelerate the speed with which death overtakes the living organism. This is the most effective answer to anyone who thinks we are fatalists.
The second is the assertion that only the tamasa or dull-witted, stupid people will like "stale" food (literally, "food cooked over three hours previously"). The refrigerator does the mischief here. While it arrests decay, it is unable to preserve the life-giving freshness of even fruits. It is worse with flesh (not that we encourage flesh eating!) which develops toxic qualities. Furthermore it prevents charity! While the ancient villager distributed the surplus to poor people and animals, the modern housewife preserves it in the refrigerator.
Krishna does not condemn any, but he merely points out who likes what! It is for you to choose. If you choose the tamasa, you are at liberty to; but know where it leads you.
Web Editor's Notes