Vanity thought #917. Fighting temptations – tongue and belly

There are two ways in which we should control the tongue – as used for speaking and as used for tasting food. Speaking is easy – just talk about Kṛṣṇa. Apart from discussing Kṛṣṇa conscious topics we also have japa. If we manage to control our minds then control of our speaking comes automatically.

What interests me today is controlling the tongue as it is used for eating. This function is connected not to the mind but to the stomach, if we are full and satisfied we don’t crave for tasty food and if we are hungry then everything suddenly becomes delicious.

So, just as control of the mind is the underlying principle for control of speaking, control of hunger is the underlying principle for control of eating. The solution seems to be very obvious then – just keep your stomach full and that’s it. If only it was so easy.

In the purport to the first verse of Nectar of Instruction Śrila Prabhupāda dedicated only one paragraph to this issue (NoI 1):

    As for the urges of the tongue, we all experience that the tongue wants to eat palatable dishes. Generally we should not allow the tongue to eat according to its choice, but should control the tongue by supplying prasāda. The devotee’s attitude is that he will eat only when Kṛṣṇa gives him prasāda. That is the way to control the urge of the tongue. One should take prasāda at scheduled times and should not eat in restaurants or sweetmeat shops simply to satisfy the whims of the tongue or belly. If we stick to the principle of taking only prasāda, the urges of the belly and tongue can be controlled.

If only it was that easy.

Well, taking only prasāda is relatively easy, everyone can do it, it just needs a little food preparation management so we don’t have to eat outside at all. This, however, doesn’t lead to actual control of the tongue as fast as we hope. We still eat because we want to, not because it’s a service, as honoring prasādam should be.

In a way, it’s not us who should be eating prasāda, it’s prasāda that should be eating us. Being non-different form the Lord prasāda accepts our service and so it’s the Lord who is the enjoyer here, not us, so while we say “take prasāda” or “accept prasāda” what we actually hope to achieve is that the Lord accepts our service, not the other way around.

Another important point about honoring prasāda is that it shouldn’t be done to satisfy our own senses, either taste or hunger, or it will become ordinary sense gratification, just a tad better because of the spiritual value in prasāda. This value will never go away but our relationships with Kṛṣṇa will be affected – we should not be leeches seeking enjoyment from the Lord but His servants, seeking His pleasure first and foremost. That’s what bhakti is, otherwise it’s just karma-kanda.

With this in mind I’ve decided to tackle hunger head on. If hunger shouldn’t be the reason for us to eat, then I simply won’t eat because I’m hungry. The easiest way to achieve it is not eat at all, ie fast.

There’s a warning given in Bhagavad Gīta (BG 6.16):

    There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogī if one eats too little

This is pretty clear – fasting is not recommended. What to do? Well, what is too little? At what point eating less becomes fasting? We know that it’s all about maintaining body in good condition, so it’s not so much about fasting, which means taking no food at all and often only water, but about not starving ourselves.

Starving is not easy to inflict, however, if we mean actual physical condition and not an excuse for a midnight trip to refrigerator. So, I figured, a few days without food wouldn’t be starving and it won’t cause my body any serious trouble, yet it’s enough time to observe the power of hunger and learn to deal with it.

Today is the second day of my fast.

People ask me what my objective is but they mean it in terms they can understand. Do I want to lose weight? Do I want to detox? Am I doing juicing? Neither of those, and therefore I don’t have any particular rules, I just don’t eat.

This is not entirely true, though, I take fruit once a day, and I also had some yogurt, and I drink a cup of hot milk before sleep, and I have a couple of glasses of juice during the day, too. It’s nothing comparing to the usual amount of food, though, and so I won’t be able to sustain myself on this diet for very long. Until weekend, however, should be fine.

My main objective is to learn hunger – my enemy. So far it’s been elusive, however, and the way it’s going it might never show up itself at all. This is quite unexpected. I thought I’d have to struggle with thoughts of food, memory of smells and tastes, but nothing like that happened so far. I’m just indifferent, even when I eat whatever little I allow myself.

It doesn’t mean that there is no difference in how I feel myself but what troubles me most is side effects of fasting, particularly headache. Dizziness, nausea, weakness – I haven’t experienced those yet, only in very limited dozes, but headache has been a real PITA, pun not intended.

I’ve learned that headache is practically unavoidable and should be simply tolerated but I was never that much into tolerating pain. Some say that it’s okay to take medicine while others warn against taking it on an empty stomach so I just patiently suffer and wait until headache goes away on its own.

When there’s not fresh food to digest the body starts drawing on the fat deposits and mine must have gone bad, past their expiry date. I mean all this fat I carry around is not even refrigerated. Seriously, though, headache inducing toxins come not from fat but from bits and pieces still floating around the digestive system. One recommended cure is enema – just wash your bowels and no headache causing toxins will be sucked into your blood. I’m not pumping my ass full of water, though, it’s not that bad yet and if it becomes intolerable I’ll simply stop fasting.

Fighting headaches is not what I had in mind and, perhaps, I’ve already got the point about hunger – it’s not as bad as people think. ATM I think it’s pretty much like lust – if you don’t stoke it you won’t feel it. It’s like keeping brahmacarī vows – as long as you stay away from women it’s easy, you won’t even remember that sex exists.

I think I’ll fast for a few more days, however, there’s a lot to learn about body reaction to the lack of food, plus there should be a surge of energy coming soon, and I also want to try a two-three week fast to reach the stage of amazing mental clarity, so I must train my body on shorter periods first. More importantly, however, is that I need to find the best “maintenance point”, the one where I would eat not too much, not too little, as per Kṛṣṇa’s instructions.


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