“He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.17)
It was midafternoon. After having waited for a while, John heard that everyone was finally ready. He quickly changed out of his lounging clothes and into ones more appropriate for public viewing. This was an opportunity to wear that new shirt he received as a gift for Christmas. With everyone in the family changed and ready, he went downstairs, where he ran into his nephew Frankie, who was particularly excited.
“Uncle, we’re going on a picnic,” he said.
“Oh, really? Where?” John asked.
“To the restaurant. Everyone is going. Come on, let’s go.”
John’s brother Howard, their mother and father, and the excited young Frankie all huddled up in the car. Frankie was Howard’s son and they were visiting the family that week during the Christmas holiday. Where Howard lived there weren’t very many good pizza restaurants. Therefore he made it a point during his stay with his parents to go out to eat at their favorite pizza place at least one time.
While at the restaurant, which was dubbed an “indoor picnic” to keep Frankie excited, John noticed some interesting behavior in his nephew. The young child had no interest whatsoever in eating. After taking their orders, the waitress brought over a few sheets of paper and crayons. This kept Frankie occupied and interested, while the rest of the family conversed as per usual.
When the food finally came, Frankie continued to play. Though everyone else happily dug into the piping hot pizza, Frankie was not enticed enough. It was only at the cajoling of his grandfather that Frankie began to eat anything.
“Grandpa, I don’t want any.”
“Just have a little bit, you’ll like it.”
“But I want to play.”
The grandfather was very clever. Taking little pieces of the pizza and breadsticks every few minutes, he found a way to feed the young Frankie. John was a little astonished by this, but then his brother Howard filled him in that this was not out of the ordinary.
“Oh, he hates eating. That’s why he’s so skinny. The other kids in his class in school are all more plump than he is. You have to trick him into having anything. He’s always interested in what’s on television, the book he’s reading, or the cars he’s got in his hands. Mom was complaining that he’s not eating enough, so we have to keep finding new ways to get him to take his meals.”
The proverbial “hard drive” immediately went to work in John. He got to thinking how strange it was that the same person when they grow up and become more mature will put so much stock in eating. Howard noticed the smile on his brother’s face.
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s just interesting,” replied John. “One time I heard a recorded lecture from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that seems applicable to this situation.”
“Oh yeah? What was he saying?”
“Basically that any type of regulation on eating and sex life found in scriptural texts, regardless of the tradition, has a specific purpose in mind. We don’t really need to be taught how to eat, sleep, mate or defend. Therefore all the regulations are there to restrict only.”
“Hmm, that’s interesting.”
“Yeah, and so in seeing Frankie here today, I immediately thought of how we, as adults, put so much value on eating, such as where to eat and how much. We’re always worried about diet and exercise and also how to improve the quality of our sleep. The fact of the matter is that these things aren’t so important. Frankie doesn’t care at all about eating, and he seems to be just fine.”
Howard was in agreement. He had often wondered the same thing.
“I’ve noticed that too. On days when I have a lot of work to do, I don’t really care what I eat or how much. Sometimes I’ll even forget to eat.”
Hearing this reminded John of the brothers Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis.
“Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the two famous brothers who were disciples of Lord Chaitanya. They were so immersed in bhakti-yoga that they forgot to eat and sleep. They would maybe sleep a few hours each night, and that underneath a tree outside. It is said that Sanatana Gosvami, the elder brother, would beg for a little bit of flour each day from a village home. He would then walk to the Yamuna River, take some if its water and mix it with the flour, and then bake the compound in a makeshift oven. After offering it to his Krishna deity, he would honor the prasadam. This was all he would eat on a given day.”
While the brothers were immersed in this pleasing conversation, the indoor picnic was drawing to a close. When the bill was paid, they all happily got in the car and returned home. John then took the impetus to make an offering to the Supreme Lord. Instead of considering what was important to him to taste, he remembered the verse from the Bhagavad-gita, where Shri Krishna says that even a little water or some fruit is sufficient to satisfy Him, if the offering is made with love and devotion.
“I may not be able to have full control over my eating, but I’ll at least try to satisfy God with my work,” John thought to himself. “This devotional service really is powerful. I see the glory of the teachings of His Divine Grace more and more each day. Only bhakti-yoga could turn an adult back into a child, matching enthusiasm with real intelligence. All glories to the Vaishnavas, and all glories to their beloved Krishna.”
Since always engaged in play,
“I’m not hungry” child will say.
Why not in adult the same to find?
Why thoughts of eating to consume the mind?
To eat enough to survive is the teaching,
And not to point of dullness reaching.
Like Sanatana, loving offerings to Krishna give,
And in this way with controlled eating live.