“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)
“A new study shows that eating tomatoes is good for you. It has the important ingredient known as lycopene. This is an antioxidant, which means its stops oxidation within the bloodstream. This oxidation of free radicals is what causes cancer, so antioxidants can thus prevent cancer from occurring. Green tea, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and so many fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. We don’t eat enough of these, but doing so will be good for us.”
“Exercise is good for you. Rather than sit around like a lazy bum all the time, get up every now and then to get the blood flowing. Go for a walk on a regular basis. Join a gym and use one of the cardiovascular fitness machines a few times a week. Play a sport, like tennis, basketball, or swimming. In this way avoid obesity, which is known to cause so many diseases.”
“Read the newspaper every day. This will be good for you. You’ll stay up to date with current events. When you meet with other people, you will know what they are discussing. You will seem more intelligent, and who wouldn’t want that? If they bring up something important to you, you won’t be left saying, ‘Oh, sorry. I don’t know anything about that.’ Reading this way will broaden your horizons. You’ll be forced to escape the narrow viewpoint of the world you’ve developed through living in your tight circle for so many years.”
We get recommendations for activities and habits all the time. The selling point is that these various things are “good for us.” And who doesn’t want to do something good? We don’t intentionally desire to be hung over from drinking. We don’t intentionally want to get fat, where we can’t fit into our clothes and we get tired from walking up a single flight of stairs. Yet these things happen anyway, as we are driven by our sense urges. The things that are “good for us” go against these urges. They also apparently eradicate some of the common problems we see in life.
From famous philosophical texts, when understood in the proper light, we learn that one way of life is the best thing for us. This discipline comes at us from all angles: spiritual, physical and mental. It accounts for exercise, eating, and knowledge. Interestingly enough, this philosophy is as old as time itself. Its principles apply to any person living within any time period because they address the core of the individual: the soul.
This philosophy says that one should neither eat too little nor eat too much. If you think about it, this is at the core of any weight loss regimen. One of the big problems with diets is that they work while one is on them but then stop working once one goes off them. In this sense the diet does nothing to cure the problem. It fixes it for a while, but then is needed again later on. All diets work as advertised, provided one follows them. They all involve some kind of control on eating, so why wouldn’t they work? If afterwards, however, that same control gets tossed aside, how is the weight supposed to be kept in check?
When one controls their eating all the time, their weight is controlled as well. This philosophy also recommends a control in sleeping. In this way the body is never weakened. There are no “all-nighters.” There are no long periods of lack of sleep. There is no day when the person sleeps for eighteen hours. At least none of these extremes occurs regularly. The body is thus kept fit. It knows what to expect and is not overextended. Good health is a natural byproduct of this.
This philosophy recommends hearing and chanting. These account for knowledge and the need for exercise. Knowledge comes from hearing. When we read the newspaper, we’re actually hearing the words spoken by someone else. Those words come over in our mind’s voice, but we’re still hearing. Chanting is an activity of the gross body. It can be done to oneself in what is known as japa or it can be done with others out loud in what is known as sankirtana. Sankirtana can be accompanied by musical instruments, which require physical attention to play. The arena rock bands always speak of getting in shape before going out on tour. They do nothing more than play instruments on a stage, but this actually takes a lot out of them. There is physical exertion in holding a guitar and walking around for a few hours. The drummer gets an intense workout playing on the set for the same period of time. Even if the singer doesn’t play an instrument, the intensity of the performance causes him to sweat a lot.
This philosophy recommends many other things as well, but there is one specific thing that ties everything together. The control on eating and sleeping is done for yoga, or the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The hearing and chanting are done with respect to the Supreme Soul. Don’t hear about just anything. I can hear about what a famous liar did and that won’t really advance my intelligence. It’s like monitoring a first grade classroom and seeing how all the children will behave. It may be entertaining, but in doing this on a daily basis what do we really learn?
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (Lord Chaitanya)
Chanting about the Supreme Soul will be blissful to the ears and it will ensure that the chanting will continue. Chanting out loud actually accounts for the hearing as well. If you sleep and eat just the right amount, you’ll have the perfect energy level necessary for chanting all the time. One of the most famous proponents of this philosophy in recent times gave the instruction of kirtaniyah sada harih, which means “always chant the names of God.” “Always” is the goal, but “a lot” will suffice as well. In order to do something a lot, you need to shift your priorities. You need to sleep on time in order to get up for work or school the next morning. You need to eat right beforehand if you want enough energy to run the race.
In the same way, if you want to chant all the time, you need to adjust your life accordingly. For this and so many other reasons, chanting can be considered the best thing for us. Even if we have no taste for it in the beginning, if we bring some dedication to it, all good things will come to us in the end. The benefit is there immediately as well, as the sound of God represents Him fully. Chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is like hanging out with the coolest person in the world. He is all-attractive, so Krishna is a great name for Him. He is full of transcendental pleasure, so Rama works as well. He enjoys with His wonderful energy, which can be addressed as Hare. The name Hari refers to how He takes away the unwanted things from His devotees.
Something is good for us if it is healthy. But healthy doesn’t mean just having a body fit for sense gratification. I can live a long time and have a “healthy” body, but this doesn’t mean that I’m doing anything worthwhile with my time. The thing that is most good for us is having a body that is fit for devotion, as devotion is our constitutional engagement. It is what every single person is most happiest doing, though they may not realize it. Chanting is the most beneficial for us, as it allows us to create a body that is fit for always thinking of God, which is devotional service, the philosophy known as bhakti-yoga. This is the philosophy taught in ancient works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, and it is explained by those who have the eternally fit spiritual bodies that allow for the constant chanting of the holy names.
Benefits of exercise understood,
Because effect on health is good.
Read newspaper folded at crease.
For your knowledge daily to increase.
Yoga actually for you is the best,
Accounts for good habits the rest.
Everything at a moderate level keep,
Not too much food nor too much sleep.
Yoga of hearing and chanting take,
And a body fit for devotion make.