What We Eat
BY: SUN STAFF
Jan 30, CANADA (SUN) How food costs correlate with a balanced, healthy vegetarian diet.
As devotees know, Krsna prasadam is perfect food and engaging the tongue in prasada-seva is the perfect method for cultivating spiritual health. It's easy to blur the line between our efforts at creating spiritual health and our efforts to maintain a healthy material body. These two are not synonymous, and we are instructed to not put inordinate focus on keeping the material body healthy. At the same time, being healthy and fit is clearly important, since good health influences and supports our energetic preaching. So the trick is balance, and Krsna prasadam perfectly embodies that balance by ensuring that our food intake is directly tied to our devotional activities.
As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. Devotees are vegetarians, but not simply because a vegetarian lifestyle is the healthiest choice. Rather, we are vegetarian because we only take Krsna prasadam, and Krsna Himself is vegetarian.
"So our business is, so far we are concerned, Krsna conscious people, we are not advocates of vegetarian and nonvegetarian. Of course, vegetarianism is very good, even for health's sake. But we do not take vegetables even if it is not offered to Krsna. That is our principle. If Krsna said that "You give Me nonvegetarian diet," then we can eat also. But Krsna does not say. Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati. So we are preparing so many nice foodstuffs with this patram puspam phalam toyam. We can prepare many, many hundreds of preparation of this patram puspam phalam toyam, and we can offer Krsna and then take prasadam. That is all right. The human life is not meant for sense gratification. Sense gratification--my food is Krsna prasadam. Why shall I go to restaurant? And this is tapasya. Eating is not stopped, but don't eat anything which is not krsna-prasadam. That is Krsna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam Lecture, 11-14-73, Delhi
While our aim is Krsna consciousness, not vegetarianism, we can easily understand why Krsna Himself prefers fresh fruits, vegetables and grains to eating the flesh of poor unfortunate animals. Aside from the issues of dharma and karma, foods in the mode of goodness are simply more attractive and more palatable than foods in the mode of passion or ignorance. In his introduction to Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada writes:
"In this world man is not meant to toil like hogs. He must be intelligent to realize the importance of human life and refuse to act like an ordinary animal. A human being should realize the aim of his life, and this direction is given in all Vedic literatures, and the essence is given in Bhagavad-gita. Vedic literature is meant for human beings, not for animals. Animals can kill other living animals, and there is no question of sin on their part, but if a man kills an animal for the satisfaction of his uncontrolled taste, he must be responsible for breaking the laws of nature. In the Bhagavad-gita it is clearly explained that there are three kinds of activities according to the different modes of nature: the activities of goodness, of passion and of ignorance. Similarly, there are three kinds of eatables also: eatables in goodness, passion and ignorance."
And in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.5.9, he writes:
"By nature's law, or the arrangement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one kind of living entity is eatable by other living entities. As mentioned herein, dvi-padam ca catus-padah: the four-legged animals (catus-padah), as well as food grains, are eatables for human beings (dvi-padam). These four-legged animals are those such as deer and goats, not cows, which are meant to be protected. Generally the men of the higher classes of society--the brahmanas, ksatriyas and vaisyas--do not eat meat. Sometimes ksatriyas go to the forest to kill animals like deer because they have to learn the art of killing, and sometimes they eat the animals also. Sudras, too, eat animals such as goats. Cows, however, are never meant to be killed or eaten by human beings. In every sastra, cow killing is vehemently condemned. Indeed, one who kills a cow must suffer for as many years as there are hairs on the body of a cow. Manu-samhita says, pravrttir esa bhutanam nivrttis tu maha-phala: we have many tendencies in this material world, but in human life one is meant to learn how to curb those tendencies. Those who desire to eat meat may satisfy the demands of their tongues by eating lower animals, but they should never kill cows, who are actually accepted as the mothers of human society because they supply milk. The sastra especially recommends, krsi-go-raksya: the vaisya section of humanity should arrange for the food of the entire society through agricultural activities and should give full protection to the cows, which are the most useful animals because they supply milk to human society."
By looking at the world around us, we can clearly see these sastric principles in action. The characteristics of an individual, a family, a village, a nation -- a whole civilization - are reflected in the foods they eat. To a significant degree, the quality of one's life is determined by how nicely one maintains a mode of goodness diet, and the benefits are evident in spiritual consciousness, healthfulness, and food economy.
In the following collection of photos, we are given a fascinating glimpse into the diets of families from various parts of the world. The images are ordered by the cost of food, with the most expensive family food budget at the top. It's interesting to see how food costs correlate to a healthy diet. As the trend shows, those spending the most are qualitatively eating the worst, while those spending less tend to eat much more balanced, healthy diets.
In general, the families depicted in these pictures are relatively well off, on the high side of "middle class" in their respective societies. We can also see that in large part, the economics of food are driven by the society's placement in the overall sphere of global development. What westerners think of as the poor, undeveloped nations tend to eat the healthiest diets, in large part because they still live in agrarian societies and they have not been as contaminated by the bad influence of western consumerism as those in the "developed" nations.
It would be wonderful to add to this photo collection a devotee family photograph showing an array of a week's worth of bhoga to be prepared and offered to Krsna. Perhaps one of our Sun readers will be inspired to orchestrate such a photo shoot. Because they're so interesting, this series of pictures is getting wide distribution on the Net. Adding a representative photo from the Vaisnava community would make this an interesting preaching tool. Please open your pantries, gather together your brood, and send us your own photo contribution to the "What We Eat" collection. In return, we'll do our best to push the Krsna conscious version back out, across the Net.
Sri Krsna Prasadam, ki jai!
What We Eat -- Regional Diets and Food Budgets
One Week of Groceries for Families Around the World
GERMANY: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros ($500.07 USD)
UNITED STATES: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98 USD
ITALY: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros ($260.11 USD)
MEXICO: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos ($189.09 USD)
POLAND: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys ($151.27 USD)
EGYPT: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds ($68.53 USD)
ECUADOR: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55 USD
BHUTAN: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum ($5.03 USD)
CHAD: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs ($1.23 USD)