Question: I seem to be creating lots of karma by overeating. Can you help me understand this problem from a spiritual level? This is a difficult trap of mine.
Answer: Your attachment to food puts you in good company! As a young monk, Swami Kriyananda asked his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda: “Please help me overcome my attachment to good food.”
The master replied, “Don’t worry too much about these little things. When ecstasy comes, everything else goes!”
We have to eat. And to prefer food that is pleasing doesn’t rank high on the list of things that bind us to delusion.
(Cartoon: “King Food Greed” Yogananda called the obsession with taste. With the guru’s compassionate help, we can learn to eat in ways that satisfy us and help lift our awareness from the material plane.)
I remember Swamiji saying that the body digests better when you give it healthy food that it enjoys.
We need not be fanatical. Swamiji and Master both cautioned against extreme diets. Yogananda used to say that he preferred “proper eatarianism.”
“Find a simple diet that works for you,” he said, “and then forget about it.” He recommended including lots of healthy, fresh, raw fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diet. But he reminded his disciples that a pure heart, not a pure stomach, is what opens the doors to the divine consciousness.
Of course, if your desire for food tempts you toward wanton disregard of health principles, you would do well to reflect on making some changes to avoid later suffering.
To eat wrongly all the time – consuming too much sugar, fat, red meats, and starches – will quickly begin to jeopardize your health.
It takes a long time, when we enter each new incarnation, to grow up, find our path, and begin to make spiritual progress. At that point, it would be unfortunate to knock the legs from under the body, which gives us energy to pursue our spiritual practices.
You could lose years of this life struggling against pain, low energy, and serious illness. It might become impossible to meditate, serve, and work to realize God.
Yes, illness can spur us to make a greater spiritual effort. But the body – any body! – is a sufficient obstacle, without health woes. Why make it worse?!
At the same time, we need to be realistic. We spend a long time getting into these delusions, and it takes a comparable effort to get out of them. Few of us can simply dismiss our karma with a wave of the hand.
The critical question is, “Why do we act against our happiness?”
In his book, God Is For Everyone, Swamiji explains a fact of life that is true for everyone. Beneath the endless variety of our desires, we all have just two basic motivations: to experience happiness, and to escape from suffering.
When we’re tempted to follow the road that leads away from happiness, we need to pause and ask ourselves: “What happiness do I expect to gain by acting this way, or what sorrow do I expect to avoid?
Let me recommend that you try to answer that simple question at the highest level. If you realize that your passion for ice cream, for example, is an expression of a deeper longing to find sweetness and comfort in God’s arms, it may motivate you to fling yourself into those loving arms in meditation, and ask for the power and wisdom to overcome your weakness. As Yogananda said, God is forever willing to help us; it is only our prayers that are lacking.
Whatever you decide, remember to be completely sincere in your thoughts and prayers, and to link them intimately to your true feelings.
It doesn’t work to glue nice-sounding spiritual sayings over our real-life problems, or to pretend that our motives are purer than they are. Even if your deepest motivation seems embarrassingly superficial before the Infinite Presence God, it is not superficial to you. The Divine Mother understands every one of your feelings, and She is eager to help. “I am not the slightest bit interested in your faults,” She says. “I am interested only in your continual improvement!”
Here is another way to overcome this tendency. In meditation, once you have entered a peaceful state, center yourself, without resistance, in the fact of your tendency to eat wrongly.
Then lift your consciousness to the spiritual eye. At that point, feel as deeply as you can the vibration of God and Guru, and the freedom of Spirit. Merge your vibrations into the guru’s love, bringing your wrong tendencies as an offering to him.
You will find that in his presence your negative tendency will simply dissolve. You can’t be with him and also hold to that vibration. Do this repeatedly, and you will find a great change coming into your consciousness.