I never expected Vedanta to benefit me in so many ways in my practical life, even physical health. My weight loss journey had been a pendulum game for a number of years now. I would lose some, and it would gradually find its way back. The battle of the bulge seemed never-ending, and a win seemed almost impossible! This was until I started attending Gautamji’s weekly Vedanta classes. What does a Vedanta class have to do with losing weight, one might wonder. Here, I learnt about raga (likes) and dvesa (dislikes) and how they reside not in the sense objects of the world but in my own mind. My battle with weight loss was really nothing but a battle with my own mind.
The nature of the mind is to constantly collect ‘likes’ and discard ‘dislikes’. Both the body and the mind are constantly demanding and seeking sensual and emotional pleasures. These could be in the form of pleasant sights, melodious sounds, fragrant smells, comforting touch and tasty food. When one desire is met, there is temporary relief just until another desire engulfs the mind. When this desire is well fed, the thoughts in this direction thicken and then develop into greed. This process continues from birth to death, and we are helplessly trapped in it.
The key is a moderate and conscious eating habit and not just catering to the likes and dislikes of the mind. But how does one reign in the ragas and dvesas of the mind to develop that habit? This is where the knowledge of Vedanta comes in handy. A lesson oft repeated by pre-eminent philosopher Swami A. Parthasarathy’ eLearning lectures and Gautamji is the role of the Intellect.
Humans are uniquely composed of three attributes – Body, Mind and Intellect. The body is the grossest of the three. The mind is subtler than the body, and the intellect is the subtlest. The body acts and is driven by likes, dislikes, emotions and feelings which are the domain of the mind. Most of the time the mind is chaotic, undisciplined and runs amok. This is where the intellect should kick in. The intellect, being the most subtle, should always govern and guide the mind.
A diabetic’s mind craves sweets, while his intellect understands that he is forbidden to eat them. If his intellect is stronger than the mind, he directs the body to abstain from it. If his intellect is weaker than the mind, he indulges and suffers the consequences. The mind keeps doing what it likes to do and avoids what it dislikes. To live at the mercy of likes and dislikes is not healthy living and is in fact detrimental to yourself. As Gautamji explains – most people suffer from undisciplined eating habits. Some overeat, or eat the wrong type of food, or observe grueling fasts in the name of religion or merely for shaping their physical body.
As we explore and reflect on all our actions and the motivation behind them, this uncontrolled behavior of the mind, is the root cause of not only the way we consume food but also the driver of all our sensual and emotional pursuits. Color and form are food for the eyes, as sound is for the ears and touch is for the skin. At an emotional level, the intake of feelings and emotion should be regulated. At an intellectual level, incessant thoughts and ideas should be regulated.
By following a middle path between indiscriminate indulgence and total abstinence, I learned to control my food intake. A regulated diet with moderate portion sizes – three times a day, with no snacking between meals, worked wonders. A simple lifestyle change inspired by Vedantic principles helped me win a lifetime battle with the bulge. I achieved my target weight and stayed there, unlike in the past when it would find its way back. I am learning to stand tall like an oak tree instead of being a creeper constantly attached to sense gratification.
To find out more about how Vedanta can be applied in your daily life, tune in to Gautamji’s online classes on Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita.
“The blog above are thoughts of a student of the online weekly lectures”
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