One should follow certain rules before consuming food so as to derive appropriate benefits at physical, psychological and spiritual level. This article elicits do’s and don’ts before having meals and the meal timings.
1. Do not have a meal before bathing
विना स्नानेन न भुज्जीत ।
Meaning : One should not have a meal before bathing.
Due to the presence of Raja-Tama-predominant impurity on the body before bathing, eating food results in transfer of Raja-Tama-predominant waves into the body
Bathing imparts purity to the body. It means complete cleanliness from within as well as outside. Bathing while chanting God’s Name helps attain such purity. Chanting brings about internal purification, while a bath brings about external purification. Due to the Raja-Tama-predominant impurity on the body before a bath, eating food in an impure state of the body amounts to being responsible for transfer of Raja-Tama- predominant waves into the body. Under the influence of such Raja-Tama-predominant waves, the body may get affected by negative energies distress and hence, it is said that we should not eat before bathing.
2. Eat only after the food
eaten earlier has been digested
2 A. Eat after the food eaten earlier has been digested, meaning, when you feel hungry, upon getting a clear belch, when the body feels lighter. Consequently, ailments like indigestion will not take place and the seven tissues (Lymph, blood, muscle, fat, bones, nervous tissue & reproductive tissues) will develop appropriately.
2 B. The evening meal should be lighter than that had in the afternoon. There is no harm in having light food in the evening even if the afternoon food does not seem to have been digested; however, if the dinner has not been digested, the lunch next day should be skipped.
2 C. Do not eat immediately after defecation; wait for half-an- hour. This is good for health.
3. Why should one not eat during solar or lunar eclipse?
3 A. From the perspective of health
Moon and Sun are Deities that nurture nutritional juices in food. During eclipse, their power reduces and hence, food intake is prohibited in this period.
3 B. From spiritual perspective
Eclipse is looked upon only at the physical level by modern science, meaning, it is thought of as a planetary occurrence. However, our Saints and Sages have given consideration even to the subtle-effects of eclipse, meaning the harmful effects that take place at the spiritual level. During eclipse, the environment is charged with Raja-Tama-predominant (Distressing) waves. Influence of disease-causing germs and negative energies is also greater during the eclipse. If any Raja-Tama-predominant activity such as eating, sleeping is performed during this period, negative energies can cause us distress through the medium of these activities. Scriptures say that ‘eating during eclipse causes acidity’. Conversely, if we perform aspects such as chanting God’s Name or reciting stotras, that is, if we perform spiritual practice during eclipse, a protective sheath is created around us and we are protected from the inauspicious effects of the eclipse.
The point to be noted here is that only Hindu Dharma explains the subtle spiritual science underlying even physical scientific phenomena.
4. Offering Naivedya before eating
4 A. Why offer Naivedya to Deities, serve
food to a cow and place kakabali before eating ?
In the earlier times, food used to be eaten only after offering Naivedya to the Deities, serving food to a cow on a banana leaf & serving kakabali to ancestors outside the house. Thus, food related expectations of the Deities, ancestors and negative energies would be taken care of and debt unto the Deities and ancestors would be repaid.
4 B. Why offer Naivedya to the Mula-purush ?
The ancestor from whom a lineage has begun is termed the Mula-purush of the family. This ancestor should be remembered and Naivedya should be offered to him. When Naivedya is offered to him, he too becomes contented and helps us.
4 C. Why should Deities, Sages, humans and
ancestors be satisfied before family members eat food?
All the rituals mentioned in the scriptures and that associated with Deities, Sages, humans, ancestors and Deities worshipped in the house (according to family traditions) should be performed by the couple in the family. They should be satisfied by offering food and only then the couple should eat from what remains. Once they are pleased, the couple receives blessings at the level of Ichha-lahari (Waves of desire), Kriya-lahari (Waves of action) and Dnyan-lahari (Waves of knowledge) from them.
- Pitar (Ancestors) and humans (Blessings in the form of Ichha-lahari, success) : The blessings received from the ancestors and humans in the form of Ichha-lahari are responsible for bestowing success to the individual at the level of action.
- Deities worshipped in the house (Blessings in the form of Kriya-lahari, help in performing karma) : Blessings in the form of Kriya-lahari that an individual receives from the Deities worshipped in the house help the individual in the karma it performs.
- Deities and Sages (Blessings in the form of Dnyan-lahari, karma becoming akarma) : Blessings received from Deities and Sages in the form of Dnyan-lahari make every karma of the individual an akarma, thus liberating it from all the three debts (Debt unto the society, ancestors and Deities) one day. Therefore, Dharma (Righteousness) advises that the couple in the family should satisfy all the beings mentioned above, seek their blessings and only then have their food.
5. Gap between the meals
5 A. According to the Jain sect, meals should not be had after sunset and before sunrise.
5 B. Preferably, have only two major meals a day.
5 C. If the afternoon meal is heavy, do not eat at night. Generally, adults should not eat for three hours after a meal, while those performing hard manual work should not remain without food for more than 6 hours.
6. Meal timings
6A. Do’s and Don’ts regarding meal timings
1. Meal timings should be fixed.
2. Have a meal within 3 hours of sunset. Do not eat at sunrise, sunset, at 12 noon and at midnight.
3. Whenever possible, have lunch before 12 noon and dinner before 9 p.m.
It is very hot between 12 and 4 p.m. If food is eaten during this period, there is a likelihood of physical distress because of the high intensity of jatharagni in this period. Similarly, after 9 p.m., movement of negative energies increases in the environment. Having dinner during this period increases the likelihood of attacks by negative energies. If food attacked by negative energies is eaten, there is a likelihood of distress due to negative energies. Therefore, whenever possible, have lunch before 12 noon and dinner before 9 p.m.
Importance of lunch and dinner
Lunch provides Kriya-lahari necessary for day-to- day activities, while dinner provides urja-lahari (Energy waves) to fight the rising Raja-Tama components during the night time. Additionally, a meal also prevents development of covering around the praṇa, because food provides Chaitanya (Divine consciousness) to the praṇa.
6 B. Harm caused upon not eating food on time
The body and mind are related. Besides, physical health and psychological well-being are complementary to each other. Not eating food on time can be harmful for physical, psychological and spiritual health.
1. Harm caused at the physical and psychological levels
- Not eating food on time adversely affects health.
- So long as we do not eat or drink water, thoughts that ‘I have to eat, I have to drink water’ keep coming to the mind. It unnecessarily expends energy of the mind. (Similar harm can also take place if urine and stool are not passed on time.)’
2. Harm caused at the physical, psychological and spiritual levels
- Negative energies find it easier to store distressing energies in the void of the stomach, created as a result of not eating food on time : Negative energies find it easier to store distressing energies in the void of the stomach, created as a result of not eating food on time. Consequently, the individual suffers from ailments such as indigestion, stomach disorders, rheumatism etc.
- Food supplies energy to the annamaya-kosha and praṇamaya-kosha of an individual. Praṇamaya-kosha affects the manomaya-kosha (Mental sheath). If food is not eaten on time, the body does not get adequate supply of energy obtained from food. Thus, energy in the cells reduces and the praṇamaya-kosha becomes weak. The physical body too becomes weak and as a result, functioning of the mind is affected. All these factors adversely affect the functional ability of the body.
- In the earlier Yugas, the environment was very sattvik and therefore, energy of the physical body needed for fighting Raja-Tama components in the environment would be saved. Dormant energy in the body would be activated and utilised because of spiritual practice. Performing spiritual practice regularly would reduce the proportion of Raja-Tama components in the body and make the body sattvik. Body cells would be automatically nourished because of the activation of superior gas in the body.
Reference: Sanatan’s Holy Text “Basic conducts before meals”