“Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening and palatable. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry and hot, are liked by people in the modes of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease. Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean, is food liked by people in the mode of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.8-10)
रस्याः स्निग्धाः स्थिरा हृद्या
पूति पर्युषितं च यत्
उच्छिष्टम् अपि चामेध्यं
rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛdyā
pūti paryuṣitaṁ ca yat
ucchiṣṭam api cāmedhyaṁ
Friend1: I think we come across this issue a lot: no garlic and no onions.
Friend2: They will consider you to be of a particular faith and not necessarily following a way of life intended for meeting a higher purpose.
Friend1: Yeah, it would be like someone asking, “Your religion doesn’t allow you to eat onions and garlic?”
Friend2: When the reality is that religion has nothing to do with it. Being allowed to or not, we have freedom in this world. It is a choice. A conscious one. No fear of eternal damnation. Not worried about an angry God who is supposedly looking down at me disapprovingly, with his long, white beard.
Friend1: It is a voluntary decision, but the question can be lumped in with the general theme of restriction. People want to know why the person following Krishna consciousness has so many restrictions on their diet.
Friend2: We follow what the Supreme Personality of Godhead says. We try to eat foods in the mode of goodness. We try to offer everything to Him first. This removes the sinful aspect of something which can easily lead the mind astray.
Friend1: Because it is sense gratification. Even though we do need to eat.
Friend2: And we need to sleep, mate and defend. You can’t get rid of the necessities; these are required for life to continue. But you can change the nature. That is how karma transforms into bhakti.
Friend1: We start with action and reaction. Contact with nature, followed by consequence.
Friend2: Pertaining to the future development of the material body.
Friend1: Bhakti is karma-free. Same activities, but without the future consequence.
Friend2: Not that eating will suddenly stop biology. The laws of science continue, but the determinations made particularly with the end of life are different.
Friend1: The conception of life while quitting determines the nature of the next birth:
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Friend2: You could say that is the purpose of the entirety of restrictions. No onions and garlic is one small component.
Friend1: Okay, but isn’t that too strict? Giving up coffee. No soda pop. Why is that necessary? Caffeine seems entirely different from alcohol. You can still operate a motor vehicle. You can still read and write and think.
Friend2: The Sanskrit word is anartha. Things that are unwanted. Unnecessary. We have evidence from the childhood years. We didn’t need intoxicants of any form and we lived just fine. In one sense, Krishna consciousness is like becoming a kid again. Limitless fun.
Friend1: How is it fun to restrict the diet so severely?
Friend2: You have stumbled upon the hidden truth. The restriction is to increase your enjoyment in the bhakti process. Remove anarthas and your consciousness will be clear to focus on the all-attractive one, who is lotus-like in several features of His transcendental body. He always remains close by, and He happily accepts the offerings of His devotees, returning them as prasadam.
Friend1: That is nice, but what would you say to someone who has trouble with the restrictions?
Friend2: Who won’t have trouble? Try giving up some of these intoxicants for a single day and you will feel nature’s wrath. The revenge in the form of lethargy and strong headaches. Giving up meat and other food outside of the mode of goodness will feel like torture.
Friend2: Have faith in the process. Try your best. Know that there is a positive impact. I know some people who used to love onions and garlic before and now they can’t stand the smell of them. If it accidentally shows up in their food, they notice immediately.
Friend1: And they don’t like it?
Friend2: Not at all. They developed a higher taste:
रस-वर्जं रसो ऽप्य् अस्य
परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते
rasa-varjaṁ raso ‘py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)
Whatever you are able to do or not do, never abandon the bhakti path. Always approach Krishna for help with issues in life, and know that only He can rescue you from the cycle of birth and death.
On diet restrictions to see,
But just too many for me.
How that intoxicant to renounce?
Addiction with headache to announce.
With food the list is long,
My will not carrying strong.
Idea that anarthas not needed,
Purification where gradually proceeded.