Friday, December 9, 2011

Sri Sivananda: Parable of the Jack Fruit

Swami Sivananda Saraswati most likely was not a raw foodist. However, he was aware of the benefits of a raw diet, and even recommended spending some time periods eating only fruit. A medical doctor turned wandering ascetic, Sivananda believed that proper diet was key to a healthy body and a healthy yoga practice. He was a prolific writer, writing 296 books on yoga and diet during his lifetime. His natural hygienic approach toward disease and emphasis on diet may have been a source of inspiration to the most well-known raw food Swami, Sri Kailashananda, who was his disciple for some years at his Nature Cure Center in Rishikesh.

Sivananda Saraswati (1887-1963)

Verily, the animals are thy own Self. Thou alone art residing in these animals as the individual souls and thou alone art manifest in the form of the material bodies in which these souls reside. Hence, wake up; stop meat-eating and butchering the animals. Develop love for them and promote oneness.
- Sri Sivananda On Vegetarian Diet,

Although not a raw foodist, Sivananda thought the diet a useful tool in the pursuit of meditation and yoga. He was definitely aware of the importance of a simple diet in stilling the mind, although he believed that dietary restrictions that are useful in the beginning of ones' yoga practice become unnecessary once the practitioner has reached a certain level of self-awareness. In his book, "Yoga in Daily Life" (which you can read for free here), he writes; "Food plays a very important role in exciting the senses and passions. An aspirant should be very careful in the selection of articles of diet of Sattvic nature in the beginning of his Sadhana period. Later on drastic dietetic restrictions can be removed" (3). He encouraged the eating of fruits and vegetables, and emphasized the importance of Sattvic diet, i.e. one that excludes onions, garlic, salt, and most spices. A vehement vegetarian, Sivananda found the avoidance of these particular foods to be even more important than the exclusion of meat. While he states that "A meat-eater cannot become a philosopher and sage", he also writes that eating onions is even worse than eating meat.
 As far as raw vs cooked, Sivananda recommended a high raw diet for the practice of yoga. In a short article titled "The Yogic Diet", Sivananda writes; "Raw foods are more vitalizing, make better blood and build better bodies. They should therefore make up at least 80% of the diet."  This advice may be what influenced his disciple Kailashananda, also known as Yogi Gupta in the United States, to encourage his own students to adhere to a living foods diet. But whereas Kailashananda emphasized sprouting, Sivananda seems to have emphasized the importance of eating fruit.

Like most of the Ayurvedic persuasion, Sivananda thought that milk was one of the most perfect foods for Yogins, with fruit a close second. Of fruit he writes: "A fruit diet exercises a benign, soothing influence on the constitution and is very desirable diet for Yogins. This is a natural form of diet".  He even encourages yogis experiment with eating only fruit for short time periods. In "The Yogic Diet", Sivananda writes; "Occasionally live on juicy fruits for a week. This will help greatly towards the elimination of impurities from the system". Living in India, Sivananda would have had many opportunities to experiment with fruit diets himself, and must have felt that they were beneficial to his own health and practice.

Whether or not Sivananda prescribed to a raw diet, he seems to have had an immense appreciation for fruit and an understanding of to what lengths a person will go to obtain a delicious fruit; an appreciation that is evinced in his use of the jackfruit and other fruits as objects of desire (and the trap of women and family) in this story. 

A big jack-tree in a man's courtyard was laden with fruits. From the very bottom of the trunk up to the topmost branch it was dotted with fruits. As though one possessed with an evil spirit, the man rushes out towards the fruit several times. He touches the jack-fruit, but the surface is uninviting. He abandons it in disgust. 

Far away from home he had seen one palm tree. Walking in the hot sun several miles, he stands near the tree. His craving had reached its zenith. The few small fruits that hung on the top of the tree tempt him. He rushes forward. He falls on the bush of prickly pears and gets injured by the thorns all over the body. Not discouraged by this he tries to climb the tree. The scales that cover the trunk are hard and knife-like. They hurt him. But he does not mind. As he climbs, a swarm of poisonous ants that sting like devils, sting him all over the body. He has somehow managed to reach the top; such is his mad passion for the little fruits. The fruits are surrounded by hundreds of bees. When he lays his hands upon them, the bees angrily sting him. In spite of this, he tries to grab the fruits. Then and there he drops more than half the catch. With the remainder, he tries to climb down. Several fruits drop off his hand before he reaches the ground. 

maybe these?
He sits himself down to enjoy the few fruits left with him. 
To his horror he discovers that the major portion of these little fruits is hard nut; and then even the skin has to be thrown away. There is little pulp in the fruit. In disgust he throws the fruits away. Instantly he comes back to his senses, and begins to suffer with agony. The pain of the thorns, the bites of the poisonous ants, the stings of the bees, and the cuts produced on his body by the sharp scales of the tree - these seem to torment him all at once.

It is now past several days since he left home. With his tattered clothes and bleeding body, he runs home .... to find that his father had been waiting for him with the delicious jack-fruit. The young man stumbles into the house and falls at the father's feet. Without asking a question, the father gives him new clothes, pulls out the thorns from his body, dresses up the wounds, all the time feeding him with the honey-like jack-fruit. The young man's happiness is now complete. Peacefully he sleeps on his father's lap. 

Similarly, man ignores the fountain of Eternal Bliss that is within the core of his own heart. He is frightened away by the apparent initial difficulties in Sadhana. He does not care to cut open this rough exterior and enjoy the highest bliss. He is hungry. He runs away from home and from this tree that yields the best fruit. Over the burning sands of Samsara he runs hither and thither. Here he falls into the thorny bush of dishonour; there he knocks against the rock of failure. He falls in love with a woman. How many sacrifices-of a care-free life, of freedom from worry and anxiety-he has to make before he approaches her! Lured by illusory pleasure he succumbs to passion. 

As he tries to go up this tree of wedded life, a thousand worries about feeding the children, finding money for his wife's sarees and jewels bite him all over the body. Even then he pursues the evil goal. He is intent on the little fruit of sensual pleasure. As he grabs it, several fell diseases prey upon him. He becomes sick of it all and, writhing with pain and disease, he realizes that the world would not allow him to enjoy even the little pleasure which he thought was within his grip. He looks for a way-out.
While ascending this tree of family life, and even while descending, the sharp knife-edges of the demands of creditors and relatives tear his clothes and bruise him all over. He is now left with tattered clothes and a body which had been bled at a hundred places, and depleted of all energy. Tired, he sits down for a while and examines the fruits that have caused him all the trouble. Much of it is hard nut (the impenetrable heart of a woman, that gives her love the magic of magnitude, without the least real substance in it!) and part of it is mere skin. When these two are thrown away, there is practically nothing left-except the cuts and bruises, the stings and bites, the torn clothes and tired body. With supreme disgust, the man throws away the illusory fruit and runs home. 

There the Guru is waiting for him, with the delicious fruit of wisdom, all cut and ready to serve. He wipes his tears, heals his wounds and supplies the new clothes of renunciation and devotion. The young man falls at the Guru's feet, and rests securely on his lap. With the supreme love and compassion that can flow only from a Guru's heart, the Guru feeds the disciple with the sweet honey of wisdom, of Atma-Jnana. Awakened in his innermost Self, man sleeps to the affairs of the world and enjoys the great sleepless Sleep of Samadhi. 

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